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A Sustainable Learning Environment in a Tropical Climate

The International School of Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

This new campus for the International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL)’s K-12 students is an urban oasis on a dense, 25-acre site in the heart of Malaysia’s bustling capital city.

The design vision was to create a sustainable learning environment for ISKL’s 1,600 students. From the clean air the students breathe to the natural light that illuminates their classrooms and the shaded outdoor spaces that connect them to nature, this new campus blends the indoors and outdoors to embody sustainable living.

Working closely with ISKL’s faculty, students and parents, HOK’s team designed a campus that unifies a kindergarten, an elementary school, a middle school and a high school. With its design firmly rooted in its Malaysian context and climate, the campus takes its place among those of the world’s best international schools.

A curved connecting spine aligned north-south links the different teaching blocks and forms a threshold between the school’s secure private world and the city’s outer public realm. Public elements are at the center of the campus, with the auditorium, recital hall, gallery, studio theatre and elementary school theatre all grouped around a central open plaza. This is the heart of the school—a place where ISKL can come together as one and also reach out to the broader Kuala Lumpur community.

The building blocks of the schools are the classroom clusters, which are designed around shared principles but applied to suit the needs of different age groups. Classrooms large enough to accommodate a variety of teaching methods are organized around a central commons.

As Malaysia’s first school to achieve the World Wildlife Funds Eco-Schools Green Flag award, environmental education was already embedded into its curriculum. ISKL is also the first school to register and achieve Malaysia’s Green Building Index Platinum rating for sustainable design.

Passive solar design strategies drove the form and layout of the building, which is projected to use 60 percent less energy than the average school in similar hot, humid climates. Arranging the teaching blocks in an east-west alignment draws in daylight while protecting classrooms from the intense sun at the beginning and end of the day. Light shelves on the classrooms’ north and south edges drive daylight deep into the space and reduce artificial lighting loads.

The design borrows from two aspects of traditional Malaysian architecture to improve thermal comfort: screens and shelter. Existing mature plantings and a screened facade shield the eastern elevation, with major openings limited to the northern and southern ends. An open undercroft beneath the middle and high schools creates sheltered spaces for socializing and dining. Naturally ventilated, covered walkways lead to the center of each teaching wing. 

Visible sub meters that are part of the building management system act as a teaching tool that reveals the school’s real-time resource consumption and encourages students to look for ways to save energy.

HOK’s team is collaborating with local architectural partner VERITAS Design. 


Malaysian Green Building Index Platinum


915,000 sq. ft. / 85,005 sq. m.
25.7 acres / 10.4 ha. 


Master Planning
Sustainable Design


Reduction in energy use compared to a conventional design


Reduction in potable water use