Rønde, Denmark

2018 - 2022

Feldballe School

In the small rural town of Rønde, in the heart of Denmark, lies a school that has redefined our standards for sustainable construction. Though small in scale, the 250 m² (2,700 ft²) extension of Feldballe school exemplifies the potential that arises when accountability is embraced as a catalyst for design and an uncompromising material strategy is adopted.

Project details


Feldballe School




Designed for a generation coming of age with the burdens of climate change, the 250 m²/2,700 ft² extension of Feldballe School, acts as a scalable example for designing with carbon-sequestering biogenic materials.

An exciting testing ground and incredible opportunity to push our decarbonization agenda, this project allowed us to explore ways of designing a building that could truly harness the natural carbon cycle. We chose to radically rethink our choice of materials, turning to wood, seagrass, and straw. Locally sourced, natural, and bio-based, they have proven themselves viable alternatives to conventional materials.

In selecting materials that naturally absorb and store CO2 in the carbon cycle, not only did we generate immense carbon savings, but we successfully designed a structure that is composed of carbon sequestering elements. These elements are completely free of toxic chemicals, fire-safe, and once assembled, offer efficient insulation as well as – according to students and teachers – a noticeably improved indoor climate. With circularity and waste management in mind, the structure is designed for disassembly and reuse, offering flexibility, ease of repair, and making it possible to reinstall or recycle its parts in the future.

Helene Krøyer Mikkelsen, 2022
Only 3,000 people live in the town of Rønde, which is located 30km north-east of Aarhus. A total of 152 children attend the school which also includes a daycare and a kindergarden. Rasmus Hjortshøj, 2022

Accountability as a design driver

Feldballe School was shaped by our commitment to decarbonize and minimize our environmental footprint.

“With an agenda that extends beyond the site’s 2,700 square feet, our work on Feldballe School acts as a guide, not only for ourselves but for others in confronting our industry’s carbon emissions across the value chain,” says Jakob Strømann, Director of Sustainability and Innovation. “The result of this is a new aesthetic language that goes far beyond simply pleasing the eye or being grand in scale, it is lined with social and environmental responsibility.”

The typology of a school is necessarily embedded with responsibility over the next generation, and in turn responsibility for the future. In constructing a learning environment such as this, we were motivated to create a space that surpasses sustainability standards; demonstrating to the students within its walls that they are an unquestionable priority, as is the planet they are about to inherit.

Rasmus Hjortshøj, 2022

“The result of this is a new aesthetic language that goes far beyond simply pleasing the eye or being grand in scale, it is lined with social and environmental responsibility.”

Jakob Strømann-Andersen

Director, Innovation and Sustainability, Partner

Mindful material choice

Partnering with EcoCocon, a small business headquartered in Slovakia, we were able to integrate their pioneering panel system of compressed straw in wooden cassettes as the primary element within our design for Feldballe. Produced with the utmost precision, these elements form a construction system that is adaptable and applicable in a vast range of building typologies. With the surface of the straw panels covered in clay, the structure’s roof made solely of timber, and a ventilation system filter made of seagrass, the school extension is built almost entirely of locally sourced, natural, and bio-based materials.

“Thinking critically about the production line in its entirety we have shown that quality and function are not compromised by using fewer resources,” Jakob Strømann says. “Straw is a fast-growing renewable resource and a byproduct of agriculture; a great alternative to producing new materials.”

Another innovation integrated into this project was the NOTECH natural-ventilation system, made entirely of eelgrass, a common seaweed along seashores in the majority of the Northern Hemisphere. Developed collaboratively by Volfdesign, the Danish Technological Institute, and WindowMaster, the system functions as an air filter while also reducing ambient noise. This solution has not only proved conducive to a healthy and pleasant learning environment for students and teachers, but its application in the Feldballe extension has been awarded the Danish Design Award in the category of Better Learning.

Estimated at a third of the planet’s overall waste, the harsh reality is that 39% of global greenhouse gas emissions can be traced back to the building sector, with construction materials currently accounting for a staggering 11%. Rasmus Hjortshøj, 2022
Straw is a fast-growing renewable resource and a by-product of agricultural practices all over the world. As such, when upcycled and adopted as a construction material, it translates not only into a scalable solution for carbon sequestering and waste management but a great alternative to producing new materials.
While carbon footprinting can offer quantifiable data to evidence the success of this project, the true measure of its impact - what it will offer to the many children of Feldballe School as well as the local community through the years - is incalculable. Rasmus Hjortshøj, 2022

Guiding the way forward: 
5 principles for sustainable construction

To support the project’s innovative design, our team formulated a forward-thinking and transparent framework for sustainable design that does not exceed planetary boundaries. Comprising of five ambitious principles, the framework looks at the entire life cycle of a project, cradle-to-cradle.

  1. Incorporate sustainably sourced, renewable, bio-based materials to sequester rather than emit carbon.
  2. Use already produced local materials to save resources and energy during manufacturing and transportation.
  3. Employ materials that are free of toxic chemicals, minimizing off-gassing and ensuring clean production and processing procedures.
  4. Lower operational energy consumption by ensuring a healthy indoor climate, fostering an environment that balances daylight with passive ventilation.
  5. Design for disassembly, enabling the reuse of building components in the future.


All contacts
Portrait of Magnus Reffs Kramhøft

Magnus Reffs Kramhøft

Industrial PhD fellow, Architect

Portrait of Peter Tegner Matz

Project Manager, Constructing Architect

Portrait of Jakob Strømann-Andersen

Director, Innovation and Sustainability, Partner


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