Good_Space logo - XLabs case study

Designing a childcare model for regeneration

Good_Space is radically redesigning the early childcare education model with their expertise in wellness architecture, circular economy thinking and a closer connection to nature.

Their solution is a total system approach that uses circular design principles to optimise every aspect of physical spaces, learning experiences, curriculums and resources for the children, teachers and communities of Aotearoa.

3 people sitting on outside on grass brainstorming at XLabs
CBD methods:
Closed loop systems
Smart materials
Regenerative behaviour
Circular business model
Embedded intelligence
Networked participation
Waste and energy reduction
Societal benefits

The Team:
Jade Hurst, Founder and Creative Director, Good_Space
Nick Morrison, Go Well Consulting
Phil Smith, Collingridge & Smith Architects

The Challenge ­–

With 70% of time spent indoors, we find ourselves disconnected from the natural world. At a formative age, this can create lasting issues for our mental and physical health. In fact, it’s proven that with greater access to green spaces, children under the age of 10 will have 55% less risk of mental health disorders in adulthood. Imagine if Aotearoa’s estimated population of 5.3 million people by 2050 were positively influenced by nature from a young age? It’s time to make a change.

Good_Space is working to make that change happen. By purposefully bringing nature in, they aim to help absorb carbon, purify our air, soften loud spaces, stimulate senses and connect our children and society more closely with the natural world around us. But it goes deeper than that. Jade Hurst, Founder and Creative Director of Good_Space, believes the spaces we spend time in should enrich our wellness — and how we spend our time should regenerate our environment. That nature is intrinsic to who we are, but our ‘knowing’ has become ‘unlearned’ over many years. And it’s up to us as people of Aotearoa to open our eyes, to respect and renew the mauri ora of the natural systems that sustain us and our children. 

At XLabs, Jade brought a team of experts together to explore ‘how circular economy principles might be applied to a childcare centre for the benefit of our communities and the environment.’ 

“We’re in the business of designing spaces to optimise human health. Wellness Architecture in collaboration with circular principles presents an exciting opportunity to create healthy and happy spaces for all. We’re designing a childcare centre model that sets new regenerative standards using these principles.”
— Jade Hurst

Child running over concrete path surrounded by leaves designed by Good_Space
Good_Space team looking over children's chair made from renewable materials with XLabs instructor

The Journey ­–

Their journey began after securing a building site for the first circular childcare centre and briefing their architect on the regenerative goals for our project. XLabs then became their space to explore how circular economy principles might be applied to designing a childcare centre that improves health and wellbeing, cares for natural resources and acts as a transparent teaching tool for our children. The XLabs sessions on regenerative behaviour particularly resonated with their team, and the overall process helped them to shape up three focus areas:

Built environment: 
Designing physical spaces with smart materials and closed loop systems to harness the natural resources around us and reduce negative impact.

Circular curriculum:
Weaving a circular curriculum across early learning at every point - from in the centre, to out in nature, to an online platform and into the homes of wider whānau and communities - all enabled by embedded intelligence, networked participation and a circular business model.

Guidance of Kaitiaki:
Creating a new and crucial role for the Nature Teachers that bring it all to life, the centre’s Kaitiaki. Illuminating regenerative behaviour and circular principles right across our spaces, resources and rituals.

The Solution ­–

Their solution is a childcare centre model designed for all children of Aotearoa, a good space to grow, learn and cultivate long term wellness. By bringing more natural connection, more regenerative systems and more transparent learning into every aspect of early learning — from the building design itself, to a circular curriculum and learning ethos. Each centre and its supporting infrastructure will serve both the immediate and long term needs of our children, their families and caregivers, and ultimately, help communities thrive.

Circular design features:
- The building itself will harness the resources of natural daylight, water and air for uses such as energy, light and thermal warmth. 
- Rainwater will be a core element in the childcare centre and incorporated in children’s’ learning; used for everything from washing, flushing of toilets, water play, through to filtering the water for our green spaces, and of course, for drinking. 
- The shelter will be made of smart and deconstructed materials, as will the furniture, educational resources and toys they provide. 
- Teachers and Kaitiaki will benefit from a curriculum enriched by circular economy principles, with new ways to connect, grow and thrive. Outside of learning hours, they will also optimise the use of buildings as hubs for the wider community to learn circular behaviours.

Good_Space Circular Design solution for childcare on ipad
Good_Space team sitting on grass outside planning their XLabs solution

The Ambition ­–

Good_Space is making good traction to meet their ambition of having their first centre built by 2023, and are seeking to involve key partners in a pilot programme across an additional 50 centres. By 2025, they intend to be reporting on the progress of these 50 centres and be seeing the uptake of these spaces as learning hubs for ECE teachers to level up their own development. Ultimately, they would like to scale their solution for every one of the 5000 childcare centres operating across New Zealand.

As experts in wellness architecture, Good_Space is perfectly positioned to make this a reality. By placing people at the centre of the design process, creating spaces that optimize the health and happiness of humankind. They see children as the heart of their work, and our future — together with nature, representing a formidable teaching partnership.