Innovative Engineering Systems for School: Exploring the Snegiri School Arranged as a Smart Home

The Snegiri School that opened in Moscow on September 1, 2020, stands out among all the primary schools by several parameters at once. The building is technologically advanced. And some engineering solutions were applied here for the first time in the educational environment. The school was built with the private funds, while 10-15% of the construction budget was successfully saved in the process. The school was fully built and equipped in 11 months. It was necessary to figure out how to set priorities in relation to school construction, when the deadlines are tight, the budget is not infinite and the goal is to create an innovative project.

The Snegiri School is located in a two-storey building. Its area is 3,000 m2 with a basement taking one third. The building is designed for 96 children — some preschool groups and a primary school for 1–4th grades.

The concrete structure was erected several years ago — there were plans to make a nursery school here, but they fell through. In 2019, the building was bought out for a school: it’s was vacant and in a good condition. When reconstruction works started EdDesign company became a technical customer. “A finished school — the most innovative one — was to be completed in less than 11 months. Many colleagues considered it impossible,” Elena Aralova, CEO of EdDesign notes. “But I was motivated, it was interesting to create interiors and the technology from scratch.”

Good engineering and its cost


The Snegiri School is innovative in terms of engineering systems. Fine engineering was set as a priority from the beginning — it was critical for the customer to make the school very modern and technologically advanced. That said, some solutions were used for the first time in the educational environment, so they were specifically adapted for various educational scenarios.


The house where the school is located is truly smart: all the communication system management comes down to a single KNX monitor. All the internal services — lighting, climate control, ventilation, the height of curtains, etc. — can be regulated with a few buttons.


How does it work? KNX consists of execution and system units, as well as sensors (buttons, switches, thermostats, weather stations). The best possible temperature and humidity are programmed for every room, a CO2 sensor is set up along with the parameters that define a change of these indicators. The system is measuring these indicators all the time; it can reorganize them automatically, for example, by increasing the amount of air in the room when it’s full of people.

The school features an electricity control system: the light is turned on in the class only as soon as a teacher shows up there. Putting a finger or a card to the electronic reader, the teacher ‘allows’ powering electrical sockets in the classroom. Due to this solution it was possible to locate the sockets in classrooms below the level required by standards, as a way to compensate for possible risks had been found. 

Smart engineering was not particularly expensive for the project: the cost of a KNX-based control system amounted to less than 1% of all the engineering works or 25% of the automation section, Elena Aralova says.

Another innovation applied is a translucent film for glass. The founders of the school wanted to make it open, so instead of the walls in classrooms and even in a gym there are glass partitions. To hide the classroom from prying eyes if necessary there is a special film on the glass: it allows varying the transparency of glass (it can become matted, opaque). It is also regulated from the KNX panel.

“The customer trusted us and constructors enough and delegated the right to solve specialized issues,” Aralova explains. “We conducted a comparative analysis of other solutions available in the market and proved that the suggestion was justified.” For example, the cost of the film depended on the supplier, as well as its color, amount and the manufacturing procedure (whether it was made at a plant or applied to the installed glass). It increases the glass partition budget for no more than a quarter. In the Snegiri School the film increased the cost of glass partitions by 10%. “We also assessed the cost of curtains in comparison to the film — the latter turned out 20-30% more expensive,” Elena Aralova notes.

Photo: Courtesy of EdDesign Mag 

The landmark of the school is a sound-and-light installation in the shape of balloons suspended from the 6 meter high ceiling of the vestibule. The color, intensity and music that accompanies the shimmering can be programmed even by a schoolchild using a control panel on the wall. “It’s a theatrical pop-up of sorts, a decoration that easily changes the spirit of the entire space,” Elena Aralova explains. 

Immunization against mistakes


Despite the school’s small size there are full-fledged school hall and gym, its own full cycle food unit and a canteen/cafe where parents can have breakfast with their children. It will help to form the community around the school: the parents will take part in the educational events, establishment of the educational procedures.

All the spaces were expected to be multifunctional: the canteen is united with an entrance group, so the tables can also be used as a space for studies or a place for adults to wait for their children (that said, the space can be isolated with glass partitions).

Photo: Courtesy of EdDesign Mag 

The school hall can be turned into a gym literally with a remote: there is a dismountable stage connected to the KNX system. The height of ceilings is 6 meters which allows putting a trampoline in the gym if necessary. It was the customer’s idea born in the course of construction: initially the hall was supposed to be used for theatrical and dancing performances only.


The multifunctional hall — initially just a school hall — is the only significant mistake that had to be rectified during construction. “It was designed and approved, but in the process of construction we realized that it would be more efficient for a small school to make universal spaces. The stage made of bricks and concrete had to be dismantled to design a new one instead”.

Also, we had to replace some engineering solutions, the acoustic ceiling and some decorative materials for the walls. “One of the main conclusions that can be made based on the results of construction is that more attention should be paid to the designs sparing more time (we had four months) and resources,” Elena Aralova resumes. “The better the project is done, the faster and clearer the construction will be, the most efficiently the budget will be spent.”


The cost of the school design in the structure of all the costs is quite small — 1.6%, according to Elena Aralova. EdDesign created the architectural and technological project and the design assignment for the Snegiri School engineering project which was then taken up by Sitek, a French company. The cost of engineering system design amounted to 1% of the budget.

On the virtue of competition


EdDesign doesn’t disclose the budget of construction. That said, creators of the Snegiri School managed to save a bit: they spent 85-90% of the expected funds, Aralova notes.


“The customer told us in the very beginning that we should not cut back funds when it came to basic things (e.g. engineering systems),” Elena Aralova says. The desks and chairs for schoolchildren were provided by a Finnish company. Everywhere in the school, aside from the entrance group, school hall and gym, the suspended radiators were installed, as they were cheaper than built-in ones. There are floor-to-ceiling windows in the vestibule and halls while in the classrooms they are at the height of 60 cm — hence, there is the place for suspended radiators. And the elevating mechanisms for a large suspended structure schoolchildren’s creative works and paintings would be put on was ordered via AliExpress: it was reasonable in terms of a value for money factor.


School ceilings are not expensive — the usual perforated plasterboard (for better acoustics). However, the acoustic panel used for the walls in the school hall is quite expensive (1,800 rubles for a square meter) — from natural wood veneer. It’s solid and durable plus its fire rating corresponds with the school requirements.

A high quality flooring is used in the Snegiri School — Herculan, seamless polyurethane with an acoustic padding, Elena Aralova notes. It costs about 3,600-3,800 rubles for 1 m 2 — it’s about six times as expensive as the cheapest heterogeneous linoleum or two-three times as expensive as the operational homogeneous one. However, cheap linoleum requires regular care; otherwise it starts looking worn-up after 4-5 years and it can not be restored, so it needs to be replaced completely, she explains. The polyurethane flooring does not require any care at all, it maintains all the characteristics for at least 15-20 years and can be restored easily.

“Actually, the flooring used in the Snegiri School is usually used at professional sports ground,” Aralova says. According to her, due to the polyurethane foam pad which is put under the concrete bonded screed, the floor is soft to crawl across and to fall on — it’s not traumatic. Besides, it’s anti-vandal: after several years of active use there is no damage at all. “We offered to use it for the classrooms and the customer let us take the risk.”

There was a competition list for almost all the items suggested for purchase to include at least three subcontractors for each one. EdDesign made tables for comparison with assessments of various market offers: they were looking for a reliable counteragent who would actually deliver in the context of tight deadlines and ensure the best possible price.


Photo: Courtesy of EdDesign Mag 


“There were no situations like ‘let’s take this contractor, because I worked with him five years ago’; the customer was always looking for alternatives and studying the documents,” Elena Aralova says. “Usually in the context of emergency projects no time is spent to this, so the construction progresses irregularly, it skids. The customer didn’t make any emergent or spontaneous decisions though, everything was well-though, so the project was developing gradually, in accordance with all the technological cycles.”




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