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Lake Bunyonyi Community

School, Uganda


The Lake Bunyonyi Christian Community Vocational and Secondary School (LBCCVSS), was set up in 2006 due to a need for education and vocational skills in the local area. The school is located on the shores of Lake Bunyonyi in the far south-west corner of Uganda, close to Rwanda. In this rural community the majority of pupils live too far from the school, so most board and many are orphans.

Architects from FCB Studios worked alongside engineers from Buro Happold from 2008-2016 to develop and support this school. This support and built infrastructure has helped Lake Bunyonyi School blossom into a thriving hub of education – starting with 30 students and now serving over 350 local children.

After first developing a masterplan for the school, construction works were made possible from generous donations from the Feilden Foundation and the Happold Trust. These works included: site-wide engineering works (to secure the school grounds due to the very steep nature of the site and heavy rainfall in the wet season), an open dining hall structure, classrooms, dormitories, a new kitchen and latrines. A later second phase completed a 2-storey multipurpose building, which acts as a hub to their vocational skills based courses and includes a dormitory and teaching spaces.

Alongside the built infrastructure, the school’s income-generating activities have been developed with the aim to create a financially self-sustaining model educational facility. These include a beekeeping project to sell honey in local markets, sustainable forestry, rabbit and goat farming, and a government subsidised tea plantation on the school grounds. It is anticipated that the school will eventually be able to self-fund future plans for the site envisaged in the long-term masterplan, including a staff accommodation block, new classroom block and a ‘Welcome’ Building.’


Geographical and Topographical Context 

Lake Bunyonyi is one of the Great Lakes within the East African Rift, situated near Kabale at 1,962m above sea level in a mountainous and volcanic area in the South West corner of the Uganda. Lake Bunyonyi is claimed to be the 2nd deepest lake in Africa, and at only 7km wide and even narrower in places due to its meandering shape and 29 islands, the very steep topography continues up on onto the lake edges.


The school occupies a steeply sloping site on the edge of Lake Bunyonyi, where tropical storms leading to landslides are also commonplace due to increasing deforestation. One of the principal challenges of the site is the lack of flat land on which to build classrooms and the need to create retaining walls and pathways up and down the site that are not subject to erosion. To overcome this, buildings have been placed along contours connected by a network of decorative stairs and pathways. Rainwater collection tanks have also been utilised to help reduce runoff and provide a useful water supply for washing and cooking.


Generally, the region has two rainy seasons from March to May and September to December, but local variations often occur. Due to the high altitude, Lake Bunyonyi also benefits from a cooler and more moderate climate than other parts of Uganda, with average highs of around 24 degrees and lows around 11 degrees. This gives a good diurnal temperature variation of around 10 degrees, which also allows buildings with high levels of thermal mass and good natural ventilation to benefit from night time cooling and reduce internal temperatures in the daytime.

Sustainability Impact 


Although completed before the implementation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in 2016, the work at Lake Bunyonyi School supports the following goals:


By providing skills-based education at the school as well as training given through construction to students and labourers, the project has directly improved local employment and job opportunities.

Bioclimatic Design Principles 

Designing in response to the dry to wet and hot to cold extremes of Mzuzu’s climate was challenging. Five key approaches were adopted to reduce heat gains and maximise cooling within and around the buildings:


IMAGE 1_Lake-Overview.jpg

Materials  The Dining Hall superstructure is formed by 12 timber columns rising off galvanised steel baseplates with 12 large rafters supported at one end by a column and the other by resting “reciprocally” on its neighbouring rafter. This simple frame design creates a column-free internal space of over 10m in diameter. All timber was locally sourced from a small nearby eucalyptus forest. This reduced transport and demonstrated to the local community what is possible using local timber, which is not typical in the region as a structural material. This dining hall has now become the focal point of the school, and is where students and the local community frequently gather for events, assemblies and services

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