An Off-Grid Container Complex: The Legson Kayira Community Center and Primary School in Malawi by A4AC

The Legson Kayira Community Center and Primary School, as the complex is called, is a hybrid container structure measuring 380 sq m.

Designed by the South African firm, Architecture for a Change (A4AC), the structure is very simple, comprising two classrooms and a large central courtyard. which primarily educates children, but also caters to an adult training center. The structure is also capable of operating independent of the grid, since it is equipped with a rainwater harvesting system and a solar power array.

The shipping containers used were per-fabricated off-site at A4AC’s workshop in South Africa, and then transported to Malawi. They are supported by a lightweight steel frame with some of the sides of the containers removed and replaced by louvered walls to aid natural ventilation. To insulate the containers in South Africa’s hot tropical climate, the designers opted for a covered canopy design, featuring a larger covered area that provides shade, as well as open, well-lit and well-ventilated spaces. A prominent feature is also the classroom doors which can be opened along a horizontal axis which further aids ventilation, and creates a seamless indoor outdoor feel giving much needed shade under the South African sun.



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Water is recycled via channels in the sloping roof and kept in water storage tanks, while electricity is generated via a roof-mounted solar power array, which harvests enough power to provide indoor lighting, and serve all the other power needs of the school.

The structure, which took a total of eight weeks to complete, is also unique in that more containers can be added to it, leaving room for possible expansion, as the community grows.

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