Architecture

Solar Classroom in a Box provides flat-pack education spaces in Kenya

Aleutia's Solar Classroom in a Box comes flat-packed and can be assembled in two days by local laborers
Aleutia's Solar Classroom in a Box comes flat-packed and can be assembled in two days by local laborers
View 9 Images
Aleutia's Solar Classroom in a Box comes flat-packed and can be assembled in two days by local laborers
1/9
Aleutia's Solar Classroom in a Box comes flat-packed and can be assembled in two days by local laborers
Aleutia says the Solar Classroom in a Box is Kenya's largest solar classroom roll-out to date
2/9
Aleutia says the Solar Classroom in a Box is Kenya's largest solar classroom roll-out to date
Each Solar Classroom in a Box is built with a light gauge steel frame
3/9
Each Solar Classroom in a Box is built with a light gauge steel frame
Each Solar Classroom in a Box can be built by local laborers
4/9
Each Solar Classroom in a Box can be built by local laborers
The pieces for each Solar Classroom in a Box are numbered for easy construction
5/9
The pieces for each Solar Classroom in a Box are numbered for easy construction
Each Solar Classroom in a Box has a corrugated tin roof
6/9
Each Solar Classroom in a Box has a corrugated tin roof
Each Solar Classroom in a Box can be built in two days
7/9
Each Solar Classroom in a Box can be built in two days
Each Solar Classroom in a Box has 10 computers for students and one for a teacher
8/9
Each Solar Classroom in a Box has 10 computers for students and one for a teacher
Once the structure is complete, two solar panels are screwed onto mounting rails on the roof
9/9
Once the structure is complete, two solar panels are screwed onto mounting rails on the roof

A project in Kenya is claimed to be the country's largest solar classroom roll-out to date. UK-based computer company Aleutia is building a classroom in each of Kenya’s 47 counties, which will serve over 20,000 primary school children.

Aleutia specializes in providing education and healthcare solutions to developing countries and began working on the "Solar Classroom in a Box" project back in 2013. The aim of the project is to provide everything needed for a solar classroom in one package, including energy efficient computers, cabling and solar panels. Company director Mike Rosenberg tells Gizmag that the initial idea was to retrofit or adapt old shipping containers, but that, ultimately, a different approach was required.

"The problem we discovered was that the local supply of containers was very cheap but typically rusty and retrofitting and adapting them was expensive," explains Rosenberg. "Transport costs for a flatbed truck are very high and [costs are] even higher for a crane, which is required to lower [the containers] onto a foundation. So we pivoted."

Aleutia worked with the University of Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, as well as architects in Nairobi, to develop a structure that is insulated, low cost, easily transportable and scalable. Each classroom is made of local materials, such as cinder blocks and a corrugated tin roof, with a light gauge steel frame.

Each Solar Classroom in a Box can be built in two days
Each Solar Classroom in a Box can be built in two days

The classrooms can fit on a single pallet for transportation. They can be transported using local options such as cattle trucks and up to three classrooms can fit onto such trucks.

The design of the classroom means that no crane is required for their installation. The panels are assembled onsite by local laborers and each building comes flat-packed with numbers etched onto the pieces for easy construction.

The construction process takes two days, with the basic structure assembled on day one. Once the structure is complete, two solar panels are screwed onto mounting rails on the roof and the computer equipment is unpacked and set up.

Each Solar Classroom in a Box has 10 computers for students and one for a teacher
Each Solar Classroom in a Box has 10 computers for students and one for a teacher

In total, each classroom has 10 computers for students and one for a teacher. Aleutia T1 computers are used, which are designed to be fanless, rugged and economical. Teachers' computers are loaded with an offline English language version of Wikipedia and Khan Academy.

According to Aleutia, Kenya is the eighth sub-Saharan African nation in which it has deployed its Solar Classroom in a Box, with over 240 said to be deployed in total. "For nearly all, this will be their first ever experience with a computer," says Rosenberg.

Each classroom costs US$20,000, with $10,000 for the structure itself and $10,000 for equipment. The project in Kenya begins this month.

Source: Aleutia

2 comments
Don Duncan
Do they have internet? I like Khan Academy because math is often neglected, and that is a shame because it can be self taught with Khan and it's very important. What R-value are the walls? Why use windows for light if energy is scarce? Skylights! Why do they need cinder blocks/steel frame? Isn't the cinder strong enough? Why use a tin roof with solar on top instead of the solar panels doubling as a roof? Are all these structural materials made in country? Are they as cheap as adobe? Isn't loose earth found on all sites? Just add water & emulsified asphalt & labor for rammed earth walls.
Stonehouse
These labs have been designed and built (and photographed) by Stonehouse Ltd, a Nairobi based company and the Kenya Aleutia distributor. The Safaricom 47 in 1 Project contracts Stonehouse to build 45 labs (2 others are being supplied by a tech company). They are not supplied with internet as Safaricom do not wish to incur running costs. The walls are double layered 12mm magnesium oxide board (no cinder blocks), one each side of the steel frame. Windows are as good as skylights! The corrugated iron roof is over a ceiling to provide a roof void for cooling (the whole building is elevated from the ground also for cooling purposes). All of the structure and solar is sourced in Kenya, the Aleutia computers are imported. I would be happy to respond any further questions or comments