FROEBEL Australia opens revolutionary new ECEC service in heart of Uni of Melbourne’s innovation precinct
Not for profit early learning provider FROEBEL Australia has opened its new, next generation early childhood education and care (ECEC) service at Melbourne Connect, the recently established innovation precinct within the University of Melbourne.
“We are incredibly proud and excited to finally be able to open the doors of our FROEBEL Carlton Early Learning Centre in the Melbourne Connect Precinct,” Olde Lorenzen, Managing Director said.
“The project has been nearly four years in the making. We committed to it long before the beginning of the pandemic, and it is nothing short of a miracle that we managed to bring it to completion, despite several lockdowns in both Melbourne and Sydney, a complete construction shutdown in October and the impact the COVID-19 crisis has had on the early childhood sector and our organisation.”
“It would not have been possible without the support of a very significant capital works grant we received from the Victorian Department of Education and Training and Victorian School Building Authority towards the construction cost for which we are immensely grateful.”
“Since commencement we have been working day in and day out to ensure that the design and feel of the service met our expectations and importantly the expectations of the community it will serve,” Mr Lorenzen continued.
“When entering the space, we want families, children and educators to feel a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city and to create a warm atmosphere that draws you in and makes you feel calm.”
“That was our objective and given the feedback and interest in our service we are pleased to report that it has been achieved.”
More than just an ECEC centre – an early learning and wellbeing centre combined
The goal of the team at FROEBEL Australia was to redefine and reimagine what inner-city ECEC in a vertical setting could be, and to prove that just because the service is spread over different floors it did not necessarily need to look and feel corporate and institutional.
“We have pushed the boundaries from a design perspective by not only considering the children’s learning experience but our educators’ well-being too,” Mr Lorenzen shared.
“The environments actively tackle the stressors most common in an ECEC setting. They differentiate between active play zones and areas for quiet retreat, creating diverse opportunities for children and educators to engage, providing places for democratic debate, and stimulating children’s agency and self through mindful design for education.”
So often in ECEC settings, he continued the “staff room” is only an afterthought. In this most recent design FROEBEL Australia created a design brief that enabled generous and attractive spaces exclusively dedicated to early childhood educators and teachers where they can collaborate, reflect, laugh and rest.
These spaces ensure privacy and reprieve from the lively learning environments of the children and consist of a Zen room with a chaise lounge for a power nap, quiet areas for planning and a contemporary Team Lounge with kitchenette overlooking the Melbourne Connect central oculus.
Sustainability also a key focus as design focuses on the future not the past
In addition to ensuring the environment and room configurations were fit for purpose the team worked hard to establish the services eco sustainability credentials too.
“Our centre is Australia’s first service in a sustainable multi-storey cross laminated timber building with the highest 6 Star Green Star rating, 4.5 Stars NABERS and 5 Stars NABERS Energy rating with a base building design that significantly reduces the operational portable water and energy use,” Mr Lorenzen said.
Designers worked with lots of timber and high building services performance targets in the initial fit-out which features a timber “super ceiling” that grows from central joinery items in the children’s play and learning environments into the ceiling.
Consideration was also given to health and safety matters with a significant investment in brass door hardware and tapware installed throughout the service. Using brass ironmongery in communal areas can significantly reduce the risk of spreading not only the coronavirus but also other similar infectious diseases.
“Early learning centres in multi-storey buildings sometimes attract criticism for lacking natural environments,” Mr Lorenzen explained. “Creating lush, green environments for children in inner-city locations or even multi-level buildings is always an enormous challenge.”
“At Carlton, we were determined to push the structural boundaries in relation to natural landscaping also, particularly on the service’s rooftop, whilst maintaining compliance with all codes and standards.”
“The result is something very, very special and we look forward to welcoming our team and children in the near future to share our extraordinary journey with us.”
To learn more about the FROEBEL Carlton Early Learning Centre please visit the website, here.
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