Sustainable Schools - Design Bureau

Germantown Friends School

Germantown Friends School by SMP Architects

Germantown Friends School by SMP Architects

Germantown Friends School by SMP Architects

The Amenity Center

The Amenity Center by Box Studios

The Amenity Center by Box Studios

The Amenity Center by Box Studios

The Amenity Center by Box Studios

The Amenity Center by Box Studios

The Amenity Center by Box Studios

Rosa Parks Elementary

Rosa Parks Elementary by Dull Olson Weekes Architects

Rosa Parks Elementary by Dull Olson Weekes Architects

Sustainable Schools

Monday, April 4th, 2011

As sustainability and global warming have become great issues of our time, perhaps no building type has embraced sustainable principles quite like schools. Not only do more efficient buildings help administrators adhere to tight budgets, but studies by the Heschong Mahone Grouphave also shown that students achieve higher average test scores in green, naturally lit spaces. What’s more, the school buildings themselves demonstrate to students the key principle of sustainability: places constructed efficiently and built to withstand the test of time. Although schools themselves can’t solve the fact that architecture contributes to more than half of all energy use in the United States, they can show a new generation the virtues of holistic thinking.

“I think schools, as well as other nonprofits, build buildings to last 75 or 100 years,” says David Ade of SMP Architects, whose firm has worked on numerous LEED-certified projects, including a sustainable school in Pennsylvania. “[Schools] are much more willing to think about the long-term benefits, whereas a corporation is not as willing. And from an educational standpoint, every school that we’ve done—whether it’s started as a goal from the beginning or not—is bringing sustainability to the forefront as a teaching tool, and is something that has emerged in all of our school projects.”

So whether public or private, or at the university or elementary school level, educational institutions that emphasize shrinking their carbon footprint have become the top places to teach hands-on lessons about green architecture and sustainable lifestyles.

Germantown Friends School—Philadelphia, PA

At the Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia, local firm SMP Architects collaborated with faculty and staff to create a building that is both a participatory experience and LEED Gold-rated. The 16,400-square foot Sustainable Urban Science Center was completed in 2009 for $8.3 million and includes such carbon reducing elements as cisterns, green roofs, solar energy, geothermal energy, and extensive monitoring systems that minimize the use of lighting in empty rooms.

“The fact that the cisterns are above ground and on display, the fact that kids can go onto the green roofs, that systems are exposed inside: those are decisions we reached early on with the school,” says Ade. “The school wanted a science building that was fully integrated into their program. It was the idea of science and sustainability in sight. Kids who were coming to the building could understand this building was different.”

The Amenity Center, Indiana University—Bloomington, IN

Designed by Chicago firm BOX Studios, The I.U. campus Amenity Center is a 10,000-square foot facility that includes meeting rooms, a lounge area, open study areas and art rooms for University of Indiana graduate students living in adjacent dorms and campus apartments. The entire space is flooded with natural light thanks to a glassy façade with an abstract checkerboard patterned glass. “It becomes like a jewel box at night,” says architect Ferdinand Dimailig, a principal with BOX studios. Although the project was designed to accommodate LEED specifications, BOX did not register the building for the designation, which allowed the firm to place more of their strict budgetary towards the building itself.

To further emphasize the building’s green lien, BOX Studios situated the Amenity Center around a mature tree hundreds of years old and used a palette of locally sourced limestone to tie its contemporary design to the more traditional styled architecture of the surrounding complex. The concrete used inside the building contains 25 percent fly-ash, a pollution-control byproduct from coal-fired energy plants. Forestry Stewardship Council-certified woodwork and renewable bamboo were artfully used within the center’s interior, while energy-saving fixtures such as dual-flush toilets and waterless urinals were installed to conserve water. “As we talked to the town of Bloomington, they were so encouraging about anything green,” adds Dimailig.

Rosa Parks Elementary—Portland, OR

Portland architecture firm Dull Olson Weekes Architects designed the LEED-Gold-rated school, which anchors New Columbia, a public housing development that once faced rampant crime and destitution in the 1980s but has since been revitalized with a wave of new investment. Rosa Parks Elementary’s sustainable features include a storm water management system that retains all on-site water, photovoltaic solar panels, natural ventilation and extensive day lighting. Dull Olson Weekes designed the school to be 25 percent more energy efficient than energy code requires. And at a time when the industry is wringing its hands over LEED-rated buildings that do not meet energy-savings targets, Rosa Parks Elementary routinely performs about 10 percent more efficiently than expected, and is now the most energy-efficient building in the Portland Public Schools system.

Text by Brian Libby
Images courtesy of Barry Halkin Photography, Gary Wilson Photo/Graphic

 

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