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PLANNER Volume 49 | Issue 2 & 3

Dr. Phinnize J. Fisher Middle School

Changing The Face of Education

P O W E R B O N D 速: M A E L S T R O M ( B L U E S P I R I T )



FACILITY PLANNER Volume 49 | Issue 2 & 3 Publisher John K. Ramsey, CAE Chief Executive Officer Editor Barbara C. Worth Graphic Design Tiger Type Design A4LE Board of Directors and Foundation & Charitable Trust Board of Trustees Scott Layne , ALEP Chair David L. Schrader, AIA, LEED AP Vice Chair William A. Stice, REFP Chair-Elect Dan R. Mader, AIA, ALEP, LEED AP Past Chair John K. Ramsey, CAE Ex-officio Chief Executive Officer Troy Glover, ALEP Midwest/GreatLakes Director Philip J. Poinelli, FAIA, ALEP Northeast Director Kelley Tanner Pacific Northwest Director Christina Lighthall, REFP Southeast Director Kerri Ranney, AIA, ALEP Southern Director Julie Barrett Williams Southwest Director Philip Idle, ARAIA Australasia Director John Wheatley Canada Director Neil Logue United Kingdom Director A4LE Headquarters John K. Ramsey, CAE Chief Executive Officer Michelle Mitchell Director of Operations & Administration Barbara C. Worth Director of Strategic & Private Development Carla Terian Director of Meetings Janell Weihs Director of Education Donna Robinson Regional Director Edi Francesconi Membership Administrator

The Educational Facility Planner is a digital publication of the Association for Learning Environments (A4LE) and is written, produced and distributed by A4LE Headquarters, 11445 East Via Linda, Suite 2-440, Scottsdale, AZ 85259. The Planner is paid for annually as a part of the A4LE membership dues. Non-members may subscribe at a rate of: U.S./Domestic, $60; Canada, $70: Foreign, $85 annually for four single issues; $15 single issue price. TO ADVERTISE IN THE Educational Facility Planner The Educational Facility Planner welcomes advertising in upcoming issues. To reserve space, contact Barbara Worth at or call 480.285.9002. Theme: Changing the Face of Education Issue Number: Volume 50, Issue 1 Publication Date: April 2016 Submittal Deadline: March 11, 2016 Ad Submittal Deadline: March 4, 2016 Materials Close Date: March 13, 2016 FOR EDITORIAL INQUIRIES We welcome articles, case studies, research articles and commentary offering different viewpoints and perspectives on issues of interest to our diverse membership. Please submit articles to: Barbara Worth at To access the editorial calendar, please visit: ADVERTISERS IN THIS ISSUE We thank the following companies for their generous support in advancing the mission of A4LE. Big Ass Fans Kalwall Corporation Shaw Contract Group Smith Systems Solatube Tandus Centiva The Educational Facility Planner solicits and publishes articles designed to further information about the planning of educational facilities. The opinions expressed in such articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Association for Learning Environments or its officers or the membership. EDUCATIONAL FACILITY PLANNER © 2016 by the Association for Learning Environments

Talk About It! As you read and enjoy articles inside this issue, make it a point to talk about it with your co-workers and colleagues in educational facility planning, design and construction. Your feedback is important to us. We would like to share your comments. Please send to the LEConnect Open Forum at the Association for Learning Environments (A4LE) or email your comments to Barbara Worth at


Dr. Phinnize J. Fisher Middle School – Changing the Face of Education Greenville, South Carolina


PLANNER Volume 49 | Issue 2 & 3




Get Out! By Boris Srdar and Lauren Scranton


Kindling the Spark of Imagination and Innovation – A Eureka Moment Katy Independent School District’s Robert R. Shaw Center for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) By Thomas J. Gunnell, Peter McElwain, Steven C. Adams, Jennifer S. Henrikson and Laura Flannery Sachtleben

16 Outdoor Playing = Outdoor Learning By Dr. Deborah J. Rhea and Irene Nigaglioni

24 The Outdoor Classroom of Al Ghadeer Kindergarten By Travis R. Dunlap and Linda Lemasters

27 Urban Contextualism and Educational Environments By Tom Neff


Dr. Phinnize J. Fisher Middle School — Changing the Face of Education


Maximize Energy Savings through Competition By Kudret Ütebay


The Space Utilization Inquiry Tool (SUIT™) An Enhancement of Standard Building Capacity Assessments By Thomas Martineau and Tatia Prieto


The Summit Success Story: Examining an Open Plan School By Brianne Smith


A User’s Manual for the Future of K-7 Libraries By David Reid and Marianne Melling


Healthy Buildings: North Penn School District’s Approach to Protecting IAQ During Energy Efficiency Upgrades By Kudret Ütebay, Tom Schneider, Michele Curreri


Creating Healthier Environments for Teaching and Learning: Applying Concepts from the WELL Building Standard to School Design and Operations By Julie Walleisa, Mimi Burns and Andrea Hanson





Get Out! by Boris Srdar and Lauren Scranton In order for our students to be able to succeed in career and life beyond grades K-12 our education system can no longer emphasize the transmission of pieces of information that are supposed to be memorized and then tested. In light of this, it logically follows that education should have a bias towards action – hands-on learning, experiential learning, interactive teaching. Ostensibly, this bias would more adequately prepare students for what is to be expected of them in the 21st century work place. So, where do we begin?


ne step on the path towards this new model is rethinking our pedagogical methodologies. Twenty-first century learning needs to make the transition from primarily stand-and-delivery teaching to a learning environment where teachers are chiefly mediators of the learning process—one that helps students to take control of their own learning, and gives students and teachers the opportunity to create knowledge. Let us be clear that we are not advocating for the abolishment of “teaching by telling.” There are still instances when this practice can be very effective. One way to accomplish this is to take learning out of doors. When the formal learning process is moved from the traditional classroom and into a natural environment the benefits add up to a big impact on student learning. Whether guided or open-ended, students bring a wealth of knowledge and curiosity to outdoor learning. The natural world empowers students to ask questions about what they notice and the tenacity to find the answers. Lesson plans cannot be written to the depth of learning that can take place when a student experiences a connection or disconnect with the complexities of the natural world. Research corroborates what many of us have experienced personally and supports our assertions about the benefits of interacting with nature. Empirically it has been found that: •

Natural environments, such as parks, foster recovery from mental fatigue, stress, and anxiety and are found to be restorative.1,2

Natural play settings have been found to reduce the severity of symptoms of children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and improve concentration.7

Exposure to natural environments enhances the ability to recover from illness and injury.8

A direct experience with nature can provide greater interest in topics introduced indoors triggered by experience that was relevant, real-world and tangible.9

Play with natural elements (e.g., sticks, leaves, stones, sand, mud, etc.) was found to engage children longer than traditional play materials, supporting greater cooperation and pro-social behaviors.10

Garden-based learning programs have resulted in increased nutrition and environmental awareness, higher learning achievements and increased life skills for students.11

Participation in outdoor school has been linked with higher ratings of conflict resolution skills, improved self-esteem, problem solving skills and environmental behaviors.12,13

Fieldwork has been linked to positive impact on long-term memory due to the memorable nature of the fieldwork setting.14

People have a more positive outlook on life and higher satisfaction when in proximity to nature.3,4

So, why is learning in a natural environment so effective? Perhaps it’s because moving education outdoors taps into the way people learn.

Observing nature can restore concentration and improve productivity.5,6

Learning is both a physical and social process. James E. Zull, professor of biology at Case Western Reserve University




learning, forming a significant step where students take greater ownership of their self-initiated education.

found that learning actually alters the brain by changing the number and strength of synapses. “The changes occur when the teacher and learner, together, engage four essential parts and associated processes of the brain:

There are different design concepts that help create successful outdoor learning environments. Sometimes schools try to create their own new eco-systems. The Primary School for Sciences and Biodiversity in Boulogne-Billancourt, France intends to create a new eco-system in a dense urban setting, both via green roof terraces with rich planting diversity and the envelope that is designed to establish nesting places for a variety of birds. Other times schools are integrated into a thriving existing eco-system. Valle Alto Ecological High School in Valle Alto, Monterey, Mexico likewise has been very careful to find its place in a rich eco-system without losing a single tree. In Bellevue, Washington, Cherry Crest Elementary School gently sits in a wooded setting, reinterpreting former storm rain drainage into a new design. Green roofs lead to rain chains leading to a courtyard creek, leading to a natural ravine on the site. Green roof, courtyard creek and chains, and overflow rocky ravine all present ultimate teaching moments. Cherry Crest example shows how a memory of an essential natural element can be a starting point for creating a multitude of outdoor learning opportunities, and thus enabling enrichment of the curriculum.

1. Sensory cortex – which takes in new information through the body’s five senses 2. Integrative cortex – which conducts reflective observation by comparing new information with old information in memory 3. Frontal cortex – where abstract hypotheses are formulated 4. Motor cortex – which actively tests hypotheses through physical actions such as speaking and writing, which elicit feedback from others, and thus, new information that enters the brain through the sensory cortex All four parts must be stimulated for learning to take place.”15 What Zull describes is the experiential learning process. Taking learning outdoors is inherently experiential, and when it’s properly conceived, adequately planned, well taught and effectively followed up on outdoor education paves the way for the ultimate teachable moment.

In general, interpreting a memory of a former natural setting can be a very powerful design approach towards creating a stimulating outdoor learning environment and establishing a meaningful sense of place, rooted in its context. The Farming Kindergarten in Bien Hoa, Dong Nai, Vietnam uses continuous walking roof areas for gardens and planting lessons, evoking the former agricultural character of the area. Here the memory of nature is a generator for creating a wonderful sense of place, reflective of the transformations in a broader society. The Chrysalis Childcare Center in Auckland, New Zealand symbolizes the nation’s bi-cultural character through two large trees, an English oak and a native Pohutakawa, equal in size. The design evokes an appropriate image for the multi-cultural facility. The C-shaped building forms a protected site area where the two trees represent nature as artifacts with deep cultural meanings. The whole courtyard is a playing and learning environment, where outdoors is as important as the interior classrooms.

Outdoor education should not be viewed as something that occurs outside but a venue for students to apply their knowledge in a personal and meaningful way. Everyone involved in shaping education should understand this connection and work together to bring the outdoors inside as well as bringing the inside to the outdoors.

What can architects do? At the time when the education is trying to compete with entertainment it is more important than ever that we create inspiring learning environments. Purposefully designed outdoor areas can help us create a specific sense of place for each school, and establish opportunities for teachers to enhance curriculum through real life science and hands on learning. There is plenty of evidence indicating that outdoor activities can trigger enhanced curiosity and connection making in students. We have seen outdoor student explorations lead to completely unscripted connections with indoor lessons, sparking future inquiries. Interaction with nature has serendipitously triggered student self-directed

Outdoor spaces are a very effective component to 21st century learning strategies. Student outcomes can benefit greatly by exposure to purposely designed outdoor environment and curriculum.





Early communication and collaboration between educators and architects can advance the union of formal education and nature-based education, which creates opportunities for the development of 21st century skills and the essential core competencies that students need in order to be successful in college and career. 

12 American Institutes for Research, “Effects of Outdoor Education Programs for Children in California” (report, Palo Alto, 2005). 13 Caprara, Barbaranelli, Pastorelli, Bandura and Zimbardo, “Prosocial foundations of children’s academic achievement,” Psychological Science 11, no. 4 (2000):302306. 14 Justin Dillon, Mark Rickinson, Kelly Teamey, Marian Morris, Mee Young Choi, Dawn Sanders and Pauline Benefield, “The Value of Outdoor Learning: Evidence from research in the UK and elsewhere,” School Science Review 87, no. 320 (2006): 107-111.


Rachel Kaplan and Stephen Kaplan, The Experience of Nature: A Psychological Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989).


Terry Hartig, Marlis Mang and Gary W. Evans, “Restorative Effects of Natural Environment Experiences,” Environment and Behavior 23, no.1 (1991): 3-26.


Frances Kuo, “Coping with Poverty: Impacts of environment and attention in the inner city,” Environment and Behavior 33, no.1 (2001): 5-34.


Phil Leather, Mike Pyrgas, Di Beale and Claire Lawrence, “Windows in the Workplace: Sunlight, view, and occupational stress,” Environment and Behavior 30, no.6 (1998): 739-762.


Tennessen and Cimprich, “Views to Nature: Effects on attention,” Journal of Environmental Psychology 15, no.1 (1995): 77-85.


Andrea Faber Taylor, Frances Kuo and William Sullivan, “Coping with ADD: The surprising connection to green play settings,” Environment and Behavior 33, no.1 (2001): 54-77.




RS Ulrich, “View from a window may influence recovery from surgery,” Science 224, no.4647 (1984): 420-421.


Louise Chawla, Kelly Keena, Illene Pevec and Emily Stanley, “Green schoolyards as havens from stress and resources for resilience in childhood and adolescence,” Health and Place 28, no.1 (2014): 1-13.

15 James Zull, The Art of Changing the Brain: Enriching the practice of teaching by exploring the biology of learning (Sterling: Stylus Publishing, 2002).

About the Authors Boris Srdar A graduate of both Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and Zagreb University of Croatia, Boris Srdar FAIA, LEED AP, brings to bear a complex design background. Creating a true sense of place for each educational facility on numerous K-12 projects has been a constant goal. As a result of such an approach and as principal design lead for NAC Architecture, seven schools that he has designed since 2010 have received 16 national and international recognitions. A frequent invited guest speaker, within the last year alone Boris has given five presentations at national and international events and state conferences.

Lauren Scranton Lauren Scranton, MA, joined the NAC team in January 2015 as their education thought leader. She possesses an intimate knowledge of current K-16 research and trends and extensive experience communicating this with a variety of stakeholders, user groups and community members. Lauren has developed her understanding of educational protocol, best practices and innovative thinking through the last five years of working within the educational sphere. She spends time curating resources that keep her abreast of national trends and critical issues. Ms. Scranton completed her Master of Arts in Policy, Organization, and Leadership Studies in Education at Stanford University.

10 Ibid. 11 Cornell University Cooperative Extension and Department of Horticulture, “Highlights from Journal Articles,” Cornell Garden-Based Learning: Resources for gardeners and educators, October 1, 2015, http://blogs.




Kindling the Spark of Imagination and Innovation – A Eureka Moment

Katy Independent School District’s Robert R. Shaw Center for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) by Thomas J. Gunnell, Peter McElwain, Steven C. Adams, Jennifer S. Henrikson and Laura Flannery Sachtleben An outlier in the community captured the imagination of smart students and supportive professional engineers. This outlier from the district’s mainstream support system was robotics. The robotics program was being incubated in rented space with resources from a few companies and incredibly supportive parents. For students and their mentors it was truly a labor of love and garnered national recognition from competitions as well as local attention.


aty Independent School District (ISD) is a suburban district in southeast Texas encompassing 181 square miles west of Houston. Katy ISD is a high performing district and one of the country’s largest. In an effort to make its mission of providing unparalleled learning experiences for students to create their future, the district has traditionally sought opportunities for students to be on the vanguard of learning experiences that meaningfully engage them at a high level.

engineers (BP, GE), teachers, and even a state representative with an engineering pedigree. The visioning process identified the developing roles of each stakeholder based on current trends, exposed the committee to relevant projects across the country and explored future skills needed by learners. Three vision goals were summarized directly from committee comments to drive the process forward:

In an effort initially to support the collaborative efforts of students and adults the district weighed the options of renting, renovating or building a facility. The district selected building a learning and project environment that would not only meet the immediate needs for robotics but serve as a catalyst to spark the imagination and spirit of innovation in the community.

Design Process Starts With Vision The district reached out to collaborate with stakeholders to determine the vision and recommend a design for what was perceived from the beginning as a center for imagination and innovation. The visioning process was led by Stantec who provided a deep expert bench to bring the vision to life. Representatives on the committee included students, former students (for example one then interning at NASA),

The STEAM Project Center will catalyze dynamic relationships across Katy ISD through the intersection of creative students, passionate teachers and fully engaged mentors.

The STEAM Project Center will enable creativity, communication, collaboration and flexibility as roles are explored and responsibilities rotated; for example: teachers will be learners, students will be leaders and mentors will be collaborators.

The STEAM Project Center will offer a new forum for learners to explore diverse interests through hands-on activities relevant to our changing world.

As part of the committee’s work, they explored what they wanted the STEAM Project Center to represent to the community and provide for the students. The committee took the lead from a survey of 1,709 CEO’s completed by IBM that identified the top “future proof ” traits incoming




employees need to have to be successful.1 The top four traits – collaborative, communicative, creative and flexible – created a framework for the visioning process to explore how the STEAM Project Center can support their growth. The Committee was asked to project themselves into the future and reflect on the STEAM center and how they would hope it was remembered. Their inputs and feedback were overwhelmingly positive and some of the aspirations are reflected below:


Quality Light & Connection to Outdoors


Flexibility & Openness


Well lit

Tools & storage accessibility

High-bay spaces with exposed ceilings

Use of natural materials


Quality ventilation

Flexible work spaces

Simple forms

Outdoor work space

Low-maintenance Multimaterials functional


Overflow to exterior through overhead doors

Shop & project space


Connecting the global workforce to students

Connect teachers to students through more personal/hands-on interactions through project based learning

Katy ISD students collaborate to solve real world engineering problems through design, creativity and partnerships with area businesses

Whiz kids go beyond the confines of the textbook to create the change the world needs

Rotating responsibility to tap into individual passions and potential to get the job done – all roles are critical

Broad level of exposure to varied principles – not limited to STEAM specifically (tools, teamwork, safety, industry standards/communication)

Building on the fundamentals and trying to capture the essence of a project that they knew would be transformational for learning and a legacy to build upon, the committee suggested a number of attributes to be considered in design. These inputs were not just aspirational as the committee members had seen these principles in action during both industry (Toyota project center) and educational site visits (U.S. Naval Academy).

Design Attributes: In a last step before design, the program was explored using four categories: activities, users, tools and aesthetics. Each category was discussed for each space on the program, helping to identify where overlap occurs and any unanticipated needs.

Design: Form Facilitates the Creative Function The vision of creating a unique flexible catalyst for student innovation and imagination served as a guiding light throughout the design process. This exciting facility was designed to be an incubator for innovation – for the students, district and community. The outcome became a design rooted in the principles of flexibility, sustainability and functionality. This unique project won the prestigious 2015 Caudill Award.2 During the design process the Katy ISD Board of Trustees named the facility the Robert R. Shaw Center for Science, Technology, Engineering. strators/Texas Association of School Boards) for educational projects that exemplify excellence in planning and design of the learning environment. The exterior of this one story facility presents an architectural vernacular which reflects the exciting, progressive, cutting edge activities occurring within. The corrugated steel siding and cubic massing denotes a contemporary, technological, engineering based environment with a reflection of artist sculptural cubism and a connection to the sciences both




Floor plan natural and physical. In keeping with the primary objective of flexibility, the facility has been situated on the site to enable expansion in the future, as well as providing outdoor plaza areas equipped with ample power to support outside activities and program functions. The fenestration design allows for the capture of direct and indirect natural light throughout the facility and its program spaces.

project planning and modeling faces the high volume space with large glazed windows, while the back space within the project bay is dedicated to project development/shop space. Overhead doors were installed between the project bays in a daisy chain manner to provide additional flexibility, nurture collegiality and supportive learning between groups and/or enable larger space for project needs.

The interior nucleus of the facility is a central, highly adaptable high volume space and has been designed to enable learners to move in a fluid manner through the learning process of thinking, modeling, making and demonstrating.

A large shared shop area designed to accommodate large technological production and construction equipment includes overhead access doors to both the high bay area and exterior loading plaza. At the opposite end of the high bay area is a flex classroom space divisible into two self-contained classrooms or collaboration spaces. This space is equipped with state-of-the-art technology including an interactive technology wall. Adjacent to this space is a small area close to the main entry designed to accommodate two, possibly in the future three, on-site administrators. The operation of this facility is also supported by a cluster of ancillary spaces including restrooms, storage, coffee bar, custodial and technology/physical plant system spaces. These spaces have been provided in the design at the end of the high bay space to minimize the impact on the functionality and maximize the future expansion possibility.

Exposed HVAC and structural systems and a sealed concrete floor provide the flexibility needed to support a wide array of uses in this communal area. Natural light is provided in this area through the use of light well cylindrical ceiling/ roof components. Power connections are distributed along the perimeter walls and through floor connections. At one end of this space is a large video display screen easily seen throughout the space. A state-of-the-art sound system also supports the wide spectrum of program opportunities within the space. Flanking this central nucleus are eight identical project bays. Each project bay is divided into two distinct spaces. The front space of each project bay designed to support collegial

The facility is designed to provide safe after hours facility use with ample energy efficient artificial light both inside and





Making connections

This facility supports many activities—project building, exhibition, competition, community assembly and professional development. A central high bay space connects 8 project bays with glass walls, supporting collaboration and learning-on-display through transparency. Large overhead doors connect adjacent project bays for flexibility and teaming opportunities. Flex classrooms and a shared shop allow students to think, model and make with fluid access to tools and build space. surrounding the facility. At night the strategic placement of glazing provides tempting glimpses of the magical activities occurring within. The facility has been recognized as a Texas Collaborative for High Performance School (CHPS) designed facility ensuring a healthier more efficient learning environment. Control of energy in rooms, efficient water fixtures, LED lighting and a reflective cool roof are a few of the sustainable design elements. These elements along with the use of highly durable materials minimize maintenance costs and will help to ensure the longevity and vitality of this facility for years to come.

The Learning Environment Becomes Alive: Safely Capturing Lightning in a Bottle Operating the facility in as a safe and efficient manner as possible without diminishing the creativity of the space

presented a challenge. Securing access to the building was a high priority. The center was equipped with a card entry system for doors with both exterior and interior access. The system provides direct control over who enters the building and who enters each work bay. The Raptor system at the front desk was installed to do background checks on nondistrict adults who use the building. Security cameras were also installed at exterior entry points and inside of work bays. Cameras are monitored by Shaw Center personnel. Since the Shaw Center is a space where students are actively involved in building projects, it often requires the use of dangerous tools and machinery. Safety training is standardized and mandatory. Licensed safety trainers train adult and student leaders of after school clubs who in turn deliver training to their club. Additionally, a professional Katy ISD employee is on site whenever the building is in operation. This ensures that everyone is in compliance with building safety procedures.




Incubator for innovation

The STEAM Center is a place that catalyzes creative relationships and encourages creativity, communication, collaboration and flexibility. It offers incubator space for the District to redefine their STEAM teaching pedagogy.

Once personnel and safety procedures were in place, the unlimited potential of the building became apparent very quickly. From its opening in February 2015 to the end of the spring semester in May 2015, over 2,000 students used the building. During the spring semester the building was in use seven days a week closing at 10 PM during the week and midnight or later on the weekends. Robotics teams used the building to build world class robots, winning competitions in Houston, Dallas and Salt Lake City. Teachers brought classes to the center to complete projects such as building a sound cannon, building catapults, building hovercraft, creating life sized games for children in need, building rockets and much more. A world class forensic event was hosted where every student in the district enrolled in Forensic Science came to the building and participated in solving a simulated crime in a simulated environment. A local sheriff department provided multiple experts to guide students through the process of discovery, inquiry, information processing and communication.





The building has been used for events, professional development, competitions and science summer camps. Two examples are the Young Inventors Science competition and the Family STEAM Night. The Young Inventors competition involved students bringing their inventions to the center and being judged in a national competition. A summer camp was held to help students prepare for this contest. The Family STEAM Night had 340 students and their families

participate in a variety of Science activities ranging from a Rice University presentation on the neuroscience behind optical illusions to investigating chemical reactions to building prototypes of bridge structures. The potential of the building is only beginning to be realized and is as unlimited as the creativity of current and future students who use the building. 


IBM Institute for Business Value, CEO C-Suite Studies. (2012). Leading Through Connections-Insights from the Global Chief Executive Officer Study (IBM Global Business Services). Somers, NY 10589. en/gbe03485usen/GBE03485USEN.PDF


The Caudill Award is an award named after Texas Architect William Wayne Caudill (1914-1983) and is awarded by TASA/TASB (Texas Association of School Administrators/Texas Association of School Boards) for educational projects that exemplify excellence in planning and design of the learning environment, arts, and mathematics. The 24,000 square foot technology rich facility with a construction cost of $4.9 Million is situated on 4 acres adjacent to the District’s Career and Technology Center resulting in dynamic synergy between the facilities.

About the Authors

facilitator. Steve’s career began in Galena Park ISD as an elementary school teacher.

Thomas J. Gunnell Tom Gunnell is a 23-year Navy veteran who has served as Chief Operations Officer in large school districts for the past 12 years. As Katy ISD’s chief operations officer, he currently oversees building operations, maintenance, transportation, purchasing, food service, security, facility planning, human resources and risk management. He is a member of AASA, ASBO (Pinnacle Award Winner), A4LE and NCS4 (Professional of the Year).

Peter McElwain As district architect/planner for Katy ISD, Peter McElwain is responsible for all major capital construction and renovation work. During his 18 years with Katy ISD, Peter has been involved in the completion of over 1 billion dollars in school district facility projects. Peter has worked 28 years in the K-12 sector in school districts in both Texas and Canada. Peter is a member of the AIA, A4LE, ASBO, and TASBO.

Jennifer S. Henrikson Jennifer Henrikson is a senior associate at Stantec Architecture and serves as the executive client contact for K-12 districts in Houston, Texas. She has been practicing architecture for over 24 years, with the last 14 being focused solely on educational facility design. During her tenure at Stantec, she has worked on a broad range of project types including K-12 educational facilities, administrative support and athletic facilities. Prior to joining Stantec, she provided pre-design and planning services to a wide array of fortune 500 companies regarding their facilities needs for their current portfolio of buildings and master planning for future needs. She received her undergraduate degree in Architecture at the University of Texas at Arlington, and a Master of Architecture at University of Houston.

Laura Flannery Sachtleben

Stephen C. Adams Steve Adams is currently serving as the facility coordinator for the Robert R. Shaw Center for STEAM in the Katy Independent School District (KISD). Steve is responsible for day-to-day operations of the Shaw Center and implementing the district’s vision for the center. Steve served for twelve years as an instructional officer for curriculum in Katy ISD managing certain district curriculum initiatives, supporting curriculum development, and conducting teacher training. Prior to that, Steve served in Katy ISD as an instructional technology

Laura Flannery Sachtleben has been dedicated to educational design for the past 13 years. She received her undergraduate degree in Environmental Design at Texas A&M University, and a Master of Architecture at Tulane University. Laura is a senior associate with Stantec Architecture and is committed to the notion that architecture can and should serve as a catalyst for innovation in education. She has researched and spoken on topics of sustainability and innovation in educational architecture, and in 2014 was named the 2014 Young Architect of the Year by the Houston AIA.



Improving the Places Children Learn

2015 James D. MacConnell Winner Dr. Phinnize J. Fisher Middle School Greenville, South Carolina

An Advanced Academy for Designing Learning Spaces

Schedule of THIRD cohort Instructions


Module 1: Designing School to Support Diverse Learning Needs


Susan Rundle

August 2016

Module 2: Educational Facility Community Engagement and Master Planning – 1 week off for conference

Robert Hendriks

October 2016

Module 3: Assessment of the School Facility – 2 weeks off for holiday (at the end of Dec.)

Allen Abend, RA

November 2016

Module 4: Educational Facility PreDesign Planning

Sue Robertson

January 2017

Module 5: The Educational Facility Architectural Design Process

Sandy Kate, Donald Pender

March 2017

Module 6: Project Management/ Project Delivery

Irene Nigaglioni

May 2017

By preparing school leaders and educational facility professionals, we improve teaching and learning and promote safe and healthy educational environments. For more information, please visit:

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21st Century learning approach


STEAM curriculum – science, technology, engineering, arts and math


Leadership and teamwork proficiencies


Multi-disciplinary solution: planning process from the concept phase to completion of the project, with thorough documentation


Live jury presentations


Opportunity to present at A4LE annual and regional conferences


Global recognition and awards



Outdoor Playing = Outdoor Learning by Dr. Deborah J. Rhea and Irene Nigaglioni Presently, public schools have given very little thought into how unstructured, outdoor play can create a vibrant learning environment for the K-12 student. Even if a public school does think about the possibilities, there can be several roadblocks: 1) What is a viable playground design?; 2) Will the playground take away from learning in the classroom?; and 3) How much will the playground cost? The present trend is for schools to put more time and energy into the classrooms and other indoor spaces instead of the outdoor spaces. If a school does think about the outdoor space, they still place more emphasis on the use of very traditional playground equipment or fields with very traditional sport settings than more nature driven play spaces.

Where does the outdoor environment fit with school learning? Where have we gone wrong? At the expense of play, U.S. public schools have placed significant pressure on students and teachers alike with a pursuit of standardized learning. Most public elementary school principals in the United States have been pressured to minimize recess to none or one daily1 and physical education to 2-3 times weekly in order to capture the maximum number of minutes required by the school district in language arts, math, science and social studies daily. Interestingly, schools have seen an increase in bullying and other social and emotional issues throughout the day in the classroom, hallways and recess areas which inhibit learning. We continue to believe that the cognitive health of our children is much more important than the physical and social/ emotional well-being of our children. This model continues to emphasize technology and standardized learning rather than incorporating innovative and creative, outdoor play environments.

Understanding the relationship between movement and learning. Numerous brain activation studies2,3,4 found one or more positive associations between physical activity/recess and indicators of cognitive skills and attitudes, academic behavior and/or academic achievement. Some of these brain activation studies have also shown that children and adolescents who are moving throughout the day allocate more cognitive

resources to a task and do so for longer periods of time3,4,5. Furthermore, children pay better attention to their content/ subjects,6,7 are less likely to be disruptive in the classroom8, feel better about themselves5, have higher self-esteem, less depression9 and less anxiety when they have been physically active2,9,10. If all of this research is true, then where are the innovative outdoor learning spaces? How often should children be outdoors to explore and play?

Play defined. Many researchers around the country believe that play during the school day should be offered at least once daily as an unstructured, outdoor break where the experience is whatever the child wants it to be. It could be role play, physical activity, sitting and reading, socializing, imagining or just reflecting7,10. This is the most important time when children can “regroup” and refocus their energies11. It’s a time that affords children the ability to expand their imaginations and be creative. The Finnish educational system believes that play is the most important part of the school day for this reason. They believe children should be outdoors in an unstructured play environment for 15 minutes every hour. A project called LiiNK (Let’s inspire innovation ‘N kids)12 has been testing this belief by assessing the feasibility of four outdoor, unstructured breaks for play throughout the school day in four Texas public schools. So far, positive results have been very evident from observing children during these outdoor play breaks. If this is working, what should play spaces look like?




3. Must allow for physical challenges – play areas should provide challenging tasks and activities for kids. We know that crawling is one of the most complicated moves a person learns, as it requires careful coordination of arms and legs. Playgrounds should have elements that invite creativity, coordination and strength.

What do children want and need for outdoor play environments? We have found in the two years of observing children in multiple recesses daily, that the children love to run, chase, roll, jump, climb and swing. They also love to make up games and play differently at the different recess times. We also see the children sit for one to two minutes at any given time in the 15 minutes and then hop right up and begin to run again when their bodies are ready. They don’t stay quiet for very long. We also find that the children do not need much in the way of traditional equipment. They love movable parts like noodles and blocks to stack and climb on. They also love more natural areas like trees to climb, logs to sit or balance on, rocks to climb or sit and then places to draw on a chalk board, play music or act/pretend play. They love hills more than stationary equipment and they could use different spaces for very different things than what adults might do. Overall, these play areas create a very lively place for children to move and play in an unstructured environment. The play environment can be brought indoors when the weather is uncooperative. So keep the options open for where play spaces are designed within the school and outside.

Goals for designing an innovative play space in a school setting.

4. Must allow for continuous learning – play areas that include opportunities for exploration allow kids the chance to play in different ways every day. Mazes and tunnels, chalk boards, musical instrument stations and climbing equipment provide great opportunities for improvisation and discovery that help students become more creative thinkers. 5. Must be safe & accessible – the design of play areas should always have safety and accessibility as a priority, and material choices and location should be vetted carefully to ensure the play area is as safe as possible, and accessible to all students. 6. Can be anywhere – play areas should not be limited to the outdoors. Designers should plan play areas in and outside of the building, to give students more chances to move throughout the day.

Designing the innovative play space.

Designing play areas takes careful planning and understanding of the site, the building floor plan, and more importantly, what students like. In order to best tackle designing these spaces, it is important to understand what the overall goals of play area design are. 1. Must be fun – there is no point in providing a play area that does not invite students to play and have fun. The play areas need to be colorful and inviting, with different activity areas for the students to play. 2. Must be diverse and varied – just like we learn in different ways, students play in different ways. The play area needs to allow for diversity in order to appeal to all students. Well-designed play areas include ground level and elevated activity opportunities, allowing kids to sit, stand, roll, climb and stretch, which engages the brain in different ways. In addition, play areas should include one or more of the following elements – sand, water and hills.

In order for play areas to be successful, planning needs to start early. A designer can minimize site acreage and save construction costs if they are allowed to design the play areas in conjunction with the school facility. This is a shift in traditional design process, as play areas are oftentimes delegated to PTA groups or purchasing departments with the end result being simple structures with limited diversity. Furthermore, these structures can be hard to use due to lack of physical area to move and play or lack of accessibility from school building to play area. The play area design should be included as part of the project design development, so that the site can be planned correctly for access, drainage and play area diversity. In addition, access from the building to the play areas can be planned, so that high traffic hallways for outdoor recess use will be designed with the correct width, and exit doors can be equipped with card access readers for ease of entry at the end of recess. Consideration of drinking fountains is a high priority so that students returning to class have quick access to water prior to school building entry.





can be added by simple fountains that are activated by teachers when the area is accessed. The challenge to designers is to successfully weave water into the site by creating engaging play environments, giving students the opportunity to change their play environment.

Sand pit with different textures and different creative paths

Early play area planning also allows for the inclusion of items such as hills, sand and water, which are favorites of children, allowing them true opportunities for unstructured play.

Play environments should extend beyond the actual play areas to include all other exterior accessible areas such as pathways, corridors, gardens and open fields. All of these spaces should be fun and engaging and include tactile and visual activities to engage students. Simple stepping platforms for climbing and balancing, slides in the sides of hills for coordination, swings hanging from trees for height and balance management, hammocks between posts or trees for nature enjoyment, chalk boards on the sides of berms for creativity are all engaging for the outdoors. School architects need to remember that although outdoor play areas are essential, weather conditions such as high ozone levels or inclement conditions can prevent outdoor play from taking place some times of the day or some days of the week.

When designing the whole site, berms and small hills can be planned, and separate activity areas can be created. These hills can be designed with a variety of landscaping and turf, which can result in great play areas that extend the learning experience. Incorporating water features in play areas to some may appear costly, but it can be done very simply and sustainably by providing a cistern for collection of rain water, which can then be used by the kids for playing, and for watering the gardens around the school. According to Wyatt & Maddaugh13, water play fosters social engagement and creative problem solving, as well as connecting them to the natural world through seasons and weather patterns. Water can be contained in channels, or

Trinity Valley School outdoor play area for K-4 grades

Therefore, school architects must also carve out interior spaces for additional play mobility throughout the day and when exterior play areas are not accessible. Areas such as hallways and stairs, libraries, classrooms and large multipurpose rooms (i.e., auditoriums, cafeterias, and gyms) can be designed with play in mind.

Library – exploring white space

The goal of these spaces is to get students up from the seated position and demonstrate concepts, share ideas and become fully engaged in their learning. Space design ideas include furniture selections, writeable walls, levels of travel, color selections throughout the building and accessible areas to play within the building





Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF; 2013). Childhood Obesity: The Challenge. Retrieved August 2013, from


Biddle, S. J., & Asare, M. (2011). Physical activity and mental health in children and adolescents: a review of reviews. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 45, 886–895.


Sahlberg, P. (2015). Finnish lessons 2.0: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland? New York: Teachers College Press, pp. 1-264.


Verburgh, L., Konigs, M., Scherder, E. J. A., & Oosterlaan, J. (2013). Physical exercise and executive functions in preadolescent children, adolescents and young adults: a meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine. DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2012-091441.


Ickes, M.J., Erwin, H., & Beighle, A. (2013). Systematic review of recess interventions to increase physical activity. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 10, 910926.


Howie, E.K., & Pate, R.R. (2012). Physical activity and academic achievement in children: A historical perspective. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 1, 160-169.


Murray, R., & Ramstetter, C. (2013). The Crucial Role of Recess in School. Pediatrics, 131:183-188.


Turner, L., Chriqui, J.F., & Chaloupka, F.J. (2013). Withholding recess from elementary school students: Policies Matter. Journal of School Health, 83, 533-541.


Entin, E. (2011). All work and no play: Why you kids are more anxious, depressed. Retrieved from: allworkandnoplay.

Weave in areas for creative experiences

The classroom spaces can definitely be designed to invite movement and play. Furniture can be selected in the initial design process that is oftentimes relegated to the end of the construction project, and is often completed by people that were not involved in the design process. Furniture that is selected with play and movement as a goal will include components that are easy to move around and can be used in many diverse and creative ways. Ultimately, square footage can be optimized and play can be rooted within each classroom environment if furniture and movement goals are addressed when first designing the layout.

Design every space with play in mind. Every component of the building and site should be designed with play in mind, making the entire facility fun and exciting. Cafeterias and gyms should include outdoor play areas with canopies and blocks and benches for extended play. Walkways and pathways should include surprise elements such as slides and tunnels to incite exploration and learning. Each component can be carefully planned and designed so that they are safe, accessible, and most of all fun. Providing the physical environment to support activity and play will result in active learning which promotes academic achievement as well as critical thinking, creativity and problem solving skills. 

10 Pellegrini A.D., & Bohn-Gettler, C.M. (2013). The benefits of recess in primary school. Scholarpedia, 8(2), 30448. doi:10.4249/scholarpedia.30448. 11 Jarrett, O., & Waite-Stupiansky, S. (2009). Recess—It’s Indispensable! Young Children, 64(5): 66-69. 12 Rhea, D.J., Rivchun, A.P., & Pennings, J. (submitted, 2015). The LiiNK Project: Implementation of a Recess and Character Development Pilot Study with Grades K & 1 Children. Journal of Physical Activity and Health. 13 Wyatt, P. & Maddaugh, A. (2013). Waterplay- Weirs, Pumps, Channels and Gates. Landscapes.





About the Authors Dr. Deborah J. Rhea

Irene Nigaglioni

Dr. Deborah J. Rhea is a full professor in Kinesiology and associate dean of Research and Health Sciences in HCNHS at Texas Christian University. She prepares K-12 physical education teachers and is fully invested in her research called LiiNK (Let’s inspire innovation ‘N kids) studying recess and character development in the schools. Email:; phone: 817.257.5263.

Irene Nigaglioni is a partner and national planning director for PBK. She offers varied experiences in programming, design and project management for institutional facilities. Specifically, Irene is one of the foremost industry experts in cuttingedge programming and has earned national recognition for her concentrated efforts in research and programming for educational facilities and outdoor environments. Email: Irene.; phone: 972.233.1323.



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Dr. Phinnize J. Fisher Middle School —

Changing The Face of Education

by Barbara C. Worth

Dr. Phinnize J. Fisher Middle School


r. Phinnize J. Fisher Middle School, Greenville County Schools, is the recipient of the 2015 James D. MacConnell Award, presented at the recent Association for Learning Environments (A4LE) LearningSCAPES conference in San Diego, CA. This prestigious award recognizes a comprehensive planning process that results in educational facilities that enhance the educational program, meet multiple goals and hold purpose and distinction within a community. Renee Alexander, AIA, BBT Architects and jury chair commented, “All of this year’s entries were exceptional, making it an extremely difficult task for the jury. These projects reflected the innovative school planning and design work that is moving beyond the traditional world of schools as we know them and inspiring transformation in education for tomorrow’s learners and leaders.” Dr. Phinnize J. Fisher Middle School is changing the face of education, translating the typical teacher-centered classroom into an experiential multidisciplinary program driven by problem-solving, discover, exploratory learning and an experience that requires each student to actively engage in a situation in order to find its solution. “Fisher Middle School represents a model of collaboration between the school, the community, local business and industry, and the architect and engineering firm, said Dr. Burke Royster, superintendent of Greenville County Schools. “That collaboration resulted in a facility that not only serves as an effective learning environment, but is, in and of itself, a learning tool.”





A multidisciplinary planning team collaborated on the facility’s initial programming and design, evaluating curriculum, long-range planning, technology, and important energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly strategies. The team included school district representatives, the design team McMillan Pazdan Smith and educational programming consultant Fielding Nair International. Innovation is the key to discovering the solutions to the challenges facing the world today and in the future. A new pedagogy based on an integrated, collaborative and project based learning curriculum informed the STEAM middle school, providing a continuous pathway of education through opportunities that create STEAM-literate graduates ready to accept the challenges of the curriculum at high school, post-secondary education and point them in the right direction regarding their career choices.

Dr. Phinnize J. Fisher Middle School

Fisher Middle School’s flexible and adaptable learning spaces convey an atmosphere of a professional research facility with a balance of studio, collaboration and lab space. All of the learning communities provide easy adaptability so that teachers and students can morph their environments daily. Engaged project based learning can happen anywhere. Through partnerships with local businesses and other agencies, the Fisher students have unique opportunities that support this type of learning to occur. Honoring Dr. Phinnize J. Fisher, superintendent of Greenville County Schools from 2004-2012, Fisher, the design of the $30 million school, the first in the state to receive the MacConnell Award, includes labeled, color-coded pipes that exhibit the flow and consumption of resources. The see-through, airy interior includes areas with exposed beams, x-bracing and columns that show the school’s physical properties, glass-wrapped communications and power panels that display technological functions, and a bio-retention pond for environmental lessons. Three other exceptional schools were selected as MacConnell Award finalists. Alexandria Area High School, Alexandria, MN, demonstrates how a very engaged public process has resulted in an exceptional high school and the pride of the community. Designed by Cuningham Group Architecture, Inc. as a “Community Center”, nearly every part of the school is activated by the greater community with business partners directly involved in educating the future workforce. Ernest S. McBride, Sr. High School, the first of several new thematic high schools in Long Beach, CA, exceeded the district and community

< Alexandria Area High School




Ernest S. McBride, Sr. High School

aspirations to address overcrowding while at the same time supporting the districtâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most innovative programs. LPA, Inc. led a comprehensive collaborative engagement process focused on college preparation and career readiness that created an environment that encourages student independence relevant to their learning styles. Raisbeck Aviation High School, Tukwila, WA, designed by Bassetti Architects, provides a wonderful solution to a unique STEM program focusing on an aviation curriculum. A very strong vision and an exceptional public/private collaboration and partnership process provided the students with a stellar facility for inquiry-based discovery, exploratory learning and real world application. ď Ź

Raisbeck Aviation High School >





The Outdoor Classroom of Al Ghadeer Kindergarten by Travis R. Dunlap and Linda Lemasters Outdoor learning is a trending topic in education research, and the benefits of outdoor classrooms are increasingly viewed as indispensable. While it would seem that children in the 21st century spend less time outdoors than previous generations, researchers have reinvigorated conversation on the importance of our children’s relationship to natural environments. Exposure to the natural world is recognized increasingly as an integral component of students’ development and education, and outdoor classrooms are an instrumental way to foster the reconnection of students with nature.


utdoor learning provides very positive outcomes in the cognitive, physical and social development of students. Researchers have demonstrated numerous advantages for students’ learning experiences in natural environments. For example, children who have contact with nature tend to score higher on tests involving concentration and self-discipline. A reverse correlation also exists: the lack of a connection to the outside may exacerbate Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) in children. Additionally, the physiological benefits of children’s involvement with nature cannot be ignored. For example, researchers have concluded that exposure to natural light reduces the risk of nearsightedness. Social and psychological benefits also are noted. As an example, when students play in a natural environment, their play is more imaginative, and these children show heightened language skills and greater ability for collaboration. These are just a few of the many advantages of outdoor learning. Consequently, schools around the world are embracing the outdoor classroom model to maximize the related learning and behavior outcomes for students.

Trends in Outdoor Classrooms Schools are increasingly adopting the outdoor classroom model and incorporating it as a feature of their education facilities. The creation of outdoor classrooms usually involves utilizing the natural landscape surrounding the school building; other times, a school may purchase or allocate space away from their existing facility to develop an outdoor classroom. Regardless of its location, the most important considerations in the planning and execution of outdoor classrooms are the geographic and climate variables that affect the learning space. Outdoor classrooms are intended to incorporate the natural elements of their surroundings, and this has led to some very intriguing designs.

Outdoor classrooms come as a variety of structures. These classrooms are tree houses, yurts, wigwams, greenhouses, boats and tents. Schools plan and cleverly devise these spaces to fit their particular geographic and cultural context. Outdoor learning facilities incorporate the natural elements nearby and utilize familiar learning tools in new ways. Often, outdoor classrooms feature nature trails with native vegetation and wildlife, flower and vegetable gardens, and places for play. Learning tools such as microscopes, telescopes, water tables and butterfly boxes stand out and invite exploration in an outdoor classroom, in contrast to their more formal placement and use in traditional classrooms. Whether an outdoor classroom is in rural America, the urban centers of Asia or the deserts of the Middle East, the outdoor classroom model offers learners tremendous opportunity to grow and discover.

Al Ghadeer’s Outdoor Classroom One such case of a school joining the outdoor classroom trend is Al Ghadeer Kindergarten in Al Ain, a city in the Abu Dhabi province of the United Arab Emirates. In 2012, an American kindergarten teacher, Krystyn Brown, approached her administration to consider investing in an outdoor classroom. The outdoor learning model is largely unconventional in the region of Abu Dhabi as it is in many non-Western contexts. However, after Ms. Brown’s proposal inspired a local sheikh, Al Ghadeer Kindergarten was granted funding to build a customized outdoor learning space. Upon the approval of both the school and the benefactor, the six-month planning and construction process began. A public relations specialist for the sheikh started working to expand the initial proposal and budget, as there was a great investment of enthusiasm, time and finances on this project. Various




contracts were awarded to local companies to work on several aspects of this outdoor classroom. The ground was made level and work to construct the classroom began. Al Ghadeer Kindergarten’s outdoor classroom was up and running in early 2013, and its design and features demonstrate the incredible versatility inherent in outdoor classrooms.

The Outdoor Facility’s Features

1. The first learning station is designed to enhance gross motor skills. This station employs bicycles, tricycles, scooters, trampolines, a seesaw, jump rope, bouncing balls and other items that involve a child’s large muscle groups and whole body movement. Often, depending on the number of students, the entire outdoor facility is overrun with these young learners utilizing equipment from this station for fun and play. 2. The second station features items to enhance the students’ fine motor skills. These activities exercise fingers and hands, feet and toes. At this station there is a table for counting and manipulating small objects like blocks. The young learners can build things with blocks, use playdough, color with crayons and make paper dolls.

Al Ghadeer’s outdoor classroom is a unique expression of the outdoor learning model in an Arabian Desert context. The learning space in this context appears as a large, octagonal tent surrounded by sand, parched grass, and palm trees. Tents are common for this part of the world, for celebrations and weddings, and they serve as a symbol of the UAE’s notso-distant nomadic past. Al Ghadeer’s large tent covers a concrete base and is held up by steel rods; underneath are six interchangeable learning stations. The amount of space for and arrangement of these learning areas can expand, decrease, be rearranged or altogether abandoned for a supremely flexible multipurpose facility. Generally, however, all six learning stations are present to cultivate cognitive, kinesthetic and social benefits for learners aged four to six years. The six learning stations have proven to be an invaluable asset to the pedagogical methods of teachers at Al Ghadeer and to the learning experience of their young students. The six centers were designed with the following considerations:

3. The third station is fashioned for science exploration. The station can change themes in accordance with the curriculum objectives throughout the students’ kindergarten experience. Some of the items at this station include magnifying glasses for looking at bugs and plants, binoculars to look at trees and birds, boxes of local plants, boxes of sand, and water tables for students to splash, pour and color water with dyes. 4. The fourth station is a dedicated space for reading and language. This station makes available children’s books and flash cards with letters of the alphabet. Additionally, there are materials to make letters and pictures on paper. Al Ghadeer is a bilingual kindergarten where both Arabic- and English-speaking teachers lead each classroom. Both languages are heavily used at the reading station. This station serves as a space for students to exercise both their visual and auditory faculties. In addition to seeing and writing letters, this station holds a large carpet for students to sit on while listening to a story read in Arabic, English, or both. Students may even act out what they are hearing in stories, as this station can work in coordination with the fifth station, which is dedicated to drama.





5. The fifth station is intended to engage students in dramatic play and the arts. Here learners can let their imaginations run free as they dress up and act. This station provides children with costumes and props to create their own productions or act out narratives that are read aloud. Also, a puppet theater was built to entertain and teach children important social and emotional lessons through short stories and skits. The children love the puppet shows and enjoy having the opportunity to perform as the puppets as well. This station also integrates drawing, painting and work with play-dough and clay. In this station moral and cultural aspects are often noted as children depict their world in song, acting and art forms. 6. The purpose of the sixth station is to familiarize students with sound. This station allows the children to make music and songs, or just noise with various items. There are pots and pans, musical sound makers and a xylophone. This station is used to introduce students to the concept of making and arranging sounds for communication and music. This station works best with fewer students and well-guided instruction.

designed to embrace and highlight their natural and cultural contexts; (2) outdoor classrooms should be designed to meet the learning needs of the students they will serve; and (3) research showing that outdoor learning environments are beneficial can help ‘sell the idea’ and overcome initial resistance to proposed implementation. The families and staff of Al Ghadeer Kindergarten have welcomed the outdoor classroom as a tremendous addition to the school’s facility. The outdoor space has come to serve well the community of young learners, their families, school employees, and many community members of Al Ain, and this example of an effective learning space demonstrates that outdoor classrooms are extraordinarily worthwhile and effective. 

Implications for Outdoor Learning Models When Krystyn Brown initially proposed the addition of an outdoor classroom at Al Ghadeer Kindergarten, there was little enthusiasm. Few members of the Al Ghadeer community understood why such a facility would be needed. Ms. Brown worked to make the evidence-based case for why outdoor learning is crucial in child development, and why this model of an education facility should be implemented at her school. After some time, she won the support of her administration, students’ families, and the community at large. There have certainly been challenges for the building and maintenance of this structure. Al Ghadeer’s outdoor classroom was built to sustain a harsh climate and desert conditions. The classroom structure is subject to grueling summer temperatures, droughts, sandstorms and the disrepair incurred from the use of two hundred kindergarteners. However, the school takes pride in their outdoor learning space. They have worked to repair the facility after large windstorms took away the tent, and they have added to the collection of learning materials to increase the utility and effectiveness of each learning station. The outdoor classroom at Al Ghadeer affirms several important lessons: (1) outdoor learning spaces should be


BIBLIOGRAPHY Fjortoft, Ingunn. “The Natural Environment as a Playground for Children: The Impact of Outdoor Play Activities in PrePrimary School Children.” Early Childhood Education Journal 29, no. 2 (January 2001): 111–17. Louv, Richard. Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. Updated and Expanded edition. Chapel Hill, N.C: Algonquin Books, 2008. Moore, Robin C., and Herb H. Wong. Natural Learning: The Life of an Environmental Schoolyard. Creating Environments for Rediscovering Nature’s Way of Teaching. Berkeley, CA: MIG Communications, 1997. Taylor, Andrea Faber and Frances E. Kuo. “Coping with ADD: The Surprising Connection to Green Play Settings.” Environment and Behavior 33, no. 1 (2001): 54–77.

About the Authors Travis Dunlap Travis Dunlap is a research associate at the George Washington University in the Education Facilities Clearinghouse. After having worked as a foreign language educator, he now researches and writes on topics relevant to education facilities and how to make schools better.

Linda Lemasters Linda LeMasters is an associate professor in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development of the George Washington University, where she advises students, directs student research, and directs a project at Taibah University in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Additionally, she is the director of the Education Facilities Clearinghouse, a federally-funded program to improve the facilities of public schools and universities.



Urban Contextualism and Educational Environments by TOM NEFF The contextual fabric of our environment shades how we live, it colors our daily experiences, and it affects what and how we learn. If we look back just 100 years, the context of the urban environment was ordered, contained, and predictable. Even though the automobile was beginning to expand the boundaries of our experiences, the educational environment was relatively static and routed in time-honored truths, organized into undisputable categories.


ast forward to 2015 and the contextual fabric of the urban environment has transformed to reflect a global awareness that both embraces and demands multifacted experiences. The boundaries of our respective environments continue to disolve, and the impact of virtual realities continues to transform and redefine our understanding of how to live, adapt to ever changing experiences, and incorporate those experiences into learning.

Urban environments and contexts continue to evolve, change and adapt. There is a move toward greater transparency of both space and information. Access to data and information influences the definition of space, driving the sense of openness and visual connectivity that can quickly adapt and respond. We are bombarded with so many sources of information that attempt to inform, to overwhelm, or to persuade that reclusive,

We are “connected” 24/7. The impact of digital communication has reduced the need or motivation for face-toface interaction and dialogue. We are bombarded with information from a multitude of sources that invite us to step into the world of NOW. The incredible rate of change we are experiencing is influencing us to demand and expect immediate gratification, off-set by the desire for wellness to compensate for indulgence. This culture of immediate gratification has led us to become a “throwaway” society that rejects the outdated in favor of the new and current. There is a continual shift of urban environments that gravitate to the new, leaving the old to decay.





escape mechanisms like “ear-buds,” have become a branding icon that is as much a universal wardrobe component as it is a necessary blocking agent to escape and recollect. Understanding key components that can be derived from the context of urban environments, and exploring the impact and relevance of these components on learning spaces is key to aligning the learning environment with the living environment. It is important to develop learning spaces that reflect the context that defines the living environment of the teachers and the students they serve. Four examples from Indianapolis, Indiana, illustrate the concept of incorporating the thematic elements to reinforce the educational goals by responding to the surrounding context of the learning environment. They are Vision Academy @ Riverside, Paramount School of Excellence, Tindley College Academy and the Indianapolis campus of Ivy Tech Community College.

Vision Academy

and, through an experientially based learning experience, have a new vision of what could be. They are redirected to a new set of opportunities and experiences that reach beyond and out of poverty. One key to developing learning spaces for Vision Academy was borrowing actual elements from the surrounding context, and then creatively using them to change their meaning and help frame a new vision of what was possible. It is difficult to see beyond the immediate environment if all of the surrounding references point to the same conclusion. The architectural and engineering design team from Schmidt Associates worked with the educational team to identify contextual components that could mirror the context, but then transform and redefine them to ultimately change the students’ paradigm of “what is” to “what could be.” Looking at the surrounding building fabric of pre-cast structures, the design team used the same vocabulary, but in a new way to redefine “what is” to “what could be.” A typical suburban elementary school emulating an affluent suburban housing development would have been inconsistent with the surrounding context. It also would have underscored the perception that a student, coming from this industrialized, urban environment, would be equally out of place in the

The educational goals of Vision Academy are based on changing the urban student’s paradigm of what is possible by creating a “vision” that is: •

environmentally responsible,

based on experiential learning,

reaching beyond the inner city experience of poverty and limitation,

capable of opening new doors and seeing beyond and

nurturing and safe.

Vision Academy is located on the edge of a transitional, enterprise zone in Indianapolis. To the west of the site are industrial and warehouse facilities, as well as the residences for most of the students who attend the academy. To the east is the beginning of the bio-medical research corridor aligned with the Indiana University School of Medicine campus, with the backdrop of the downtown skyline. Allegorically, the Vision Academy is the gateway for the students who are drawn from the industrialized, harsh urban environment,




affluent world that sat at the other end of the bio-medical corridor pointing to the downtown skyline. Changing the vision and expanding horizons began with a pre-cast concrete shell that could have been another stark warehouse or manufacturing facility. The goal was to use this vocabulary in a new way that celebrated surrounding elements and represented them in a new way. Sealed concrete floors from the surrounding warehouses took on a new meaning when they were offset by the clean lines of aluminum-framed glazing and entry systems; crisp dywall partitions contrasted with the soft tones of wood trim and doors. The metaphor of doors opening to new opportunities was expressed, again through contextural components, such as using all- glass, roll-up doors resembling a familiar oilchange chain as the component that opens the learning and cafeteria space to new experiences beyond. It was also important to recognize the power that color plays in the context and lives of Vision Academy students. The design team borrowed from the colors that defined the population and incorporated them into the fabric of the building. Interior transparencies, ample use of natural light, and security vestibules help reinforce the feeling of safety and security as well as create a nurturing environment for experiential and transformational learning.

Paramount School of Excellence The Paramount School of Excellence is located in another part of the urban core of Indianapolis. Its context is very different from Vision Academy. It is also located in an area of high poverty that had originally been part of the suburban band of middle class, blue-collar neighborhoods that served a manufacturing base that has since deteriorated. The Paramount School of Excellence, also a charter school, is contextually based, but draws from a much broader, globally oriented base. In contrast to Vision Academy that strives to change the vision of individual students from within their respective environments, the Paramount School of Excellence strives to inspire its students to transform their environments. The transformation responds to a more agrarian, environmentally conscious, globally inspired context. The





school draws from a Midwestern vernacular of images that range from iconic barn images to the geometric patterning of farm fields of produce.

The imagery of the school is abstractly striking on the Indianapolis urban landscape, as it incorporates components that reach beyond the local to embrace a broader context of agrarian components with everything from a western lodge, to a heavy timber barn and stable, Native American patterns, and even a tree house.

Students are introduced to urban farming through seasonal crops, chickens and even goats. Academics are infused with real-life experiences in urban-agrarian settings that teach responsibility for planting, harvesting, feeding and nurturing while applying the metrics learned in math, science, reading and language skills. The anticipated outcomes of the Paramount School of Excellence are: understanding personal responsibility for preserving the environment through active participation in sustainability, applied knowledge of natural systems, and incorporating life-long goals for a global society that recognizes diversity and celebrates achievement.

Tindley Collegiate Academy Tindley Collegiate Academy on the east side of Indianapolis is a unique college- preparatory charter school whose motto is, College or Die! This phrase is stenciled on the wall in the hallways of the school. Although not taken literally, it sends a powerful message to the female students. The mission is to develop “scholars,” not simply “students.” Most students will be the first generation in their families to attend college. The contextual setting for Tindley Collegiate Academy is an older residential, blue-collar area on. Most of the houses are rental properties, and many of the residents are transient. Creating a sense of place and of permanence was a strong driver in developing the building concepts. It was also important to push the students to see themselves differently in the context of their environment. Where Vision Academy was very literal in the way it drew from the contextual fabric of the surrounding environment, both Paramount School of Excellence and Tindley Collegiate Academy were very intentional about using contextual cues to change the environment to influence the students

Tindley Collegiate Academy pulls from the residential elements that surround it, suggesting the notion of family and home, but then pushes the language to a higher, more refined




corporate headquarters facility in Indianapolis. Context is rooted in history and becomes part of the “story” of a building, a neighborhood, a city, or even a region. When Ivy Tech acquired additional property on its main campus to create the primary administrative facility for the statewide community college system, it also acquired a piece of Indianapolis history.

vocabulary. For example, the use of limestone at the base of the building is a gesture to the use of similar materials in collegiate gothic buildings on campuses around the country. The building interior borrows from a more corporate set of images, suggesting that students need to redefine their own image of themselves as someone stepping through the door of opportunity into a world that is more sophisticated and more refined, and as someone worthy of competing successfully in the professional world. Many spaces in the school feel like a corporate office or board room, but that is exactly what the mission of the school suggests that the students should prepare themselves for. Tindley Collegiate Academy also shifts the self-image of the students by borrowing from the iconography of an elite prepschool. The female students wear uniforms more attuned to a private boarding school than a neighborhood charter school.

Ivy Tech Community College

The building on the site had been the previous home of St. Vincent Hospital, the birthplace of many of the city’s notable citizens. When the hospital relocated to the suburbs, the building became subsidized housing for the elderly. When the funding and residents slipped away, the building became a sad reminder of what had been a grand statement along Fall Creek, on the northern edge of downtown. Before the building could be demolished, Ivy Tech and the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission, took one more look at the potential of transforming this iconic structure and expanding on the contextual fabric of nearly a century of growth and development.

Ivy Tech is a statewide community college in Indiana that until five years ago, had been primarily a vocational and technical institution offering two-year associates degrees in a wide variety of careers. Recent legislation that restructured credit sharing with other state universities changed the overall perception of Ivy Tech programs – and the composition and sophistication of the students. Now with such unique components as a nationally ranked program in culinary arts, and state-of-the-art facilities to train medical technicians, Ivy Tech has emerged as a viable alternative to a four-year university program. It has numerous campuses across the state to make it accessible and most importantly, affordable. Part of the shift of the image of Ivy Tech from a technical school to a community college was the development of the

Schmidt Associates, as the architects and engineers for the project, employed a new surveying technique, call a “point cloud” to create a virtual, three-dimensional map of the existing building. Using the point cloud made it possible to generate a Revit model that accurately represented what existed in space. Schmidt Associates used the Revit model to develop a concept that retained the front façade of the





The result preserved a contextual component that was significant to the surrounding community, and transformed the image of Ivy Tech, making it a part of the contextual fabric and elevating its presence in the city. ď Ź

About the Author Tom Neff

original structure, and then peeled the deteriorating rear portion away to allow new, appropriate spaces to be woven into the original floor-to-floor heights and openings.

Tom Neff, AIA, LEED AP, RID is the principal in charge of the K-12 Studio for Schmidt Associates, an award winning architectural/ engineering firm in Indianapolis, Indiana. Tom has both an undergraduate and Master of Architecture degree from The Ohio State University, and has been involved in educational planning and design for over 38 years. With an early foundation, teaching design at the University of Notre Dame, Tom has been able to incorporate his experience from the classroom into his approach to creating engaging and meaningful learning environments. Tom has numerous articles in a variety of educational planning publications and regularly serves as a guest lecturer for the graduate education programs at both Indiana State University and Ball State University.

Brightening classrooms every day

Thousands of schools use Solatube Daylighting Systems to create brighter learning environments. Click or visit




Maximize Energy Savings through Competition by Kudret Ütebay Energy costs are one of the largest drains on K-12 school district operating budgets, second only to personnel costs and totaling approximately $8 billion annually nationwide. In many cases, energy is the single largest controllable operating cost. For schools, energy efficiency is by far the easiest—and single most cost-effective—way to reduce energy costs, and could potentially save an estimated $2 billion of national school energy expenditures. That’s equivalent to the cost of nearly 40 million new textbooks!1 As a result, many school districts are taking proactive steps to improve the energy efficiency of their school buildings.

The power of competition

Harness the power of competition

One of the best ways for schools and other organizations to improve efficiency quickly is by harnessing the power of competition to motivate simple behavior changes that help save energy. Everyone loves a good competition—especially students, who thrive on competition and love being recognized for their efforts. Schools and school districts are taking advantage of student energy and enthusiasm by creating an opportunity for friendly competition within and among schools.

Every year, EPA hosts a national competition among thousands of buildings to see which building can reduce its energy use the most. In 2014, participants improved energy efficiency by an average of more than 5 percent and saved an average of $5,000 in energy costs. And among schools, 187 buildings collectively saved more than $1 million. Now, EPA is helping schools and other organizations bring the competition model home and host their own ENERGY STAR® energy efficiency competitions!

Small investment, big results Why are competitions so cost-effective? Because they cost relatively little to implement compared to facility upgrades, but they are highly effective at motivating students, faculty and administrative personnel to take small actions that add up to big energy savings. Time and time again, leading ENERGY STAR® partners have found that a spirit of healthy competition and the opportunity for recognition are among the best drivers for participation in organization- or community-wide energy management. For the sake of the team, everyone pitches in—from the student who turns off the lights as she leaves the classroom, to the facility manager who shuts down the HVAC over the weekend. These small actions evolve into new habits, especially when the results validate those efforts and become a source of school pride.

A look at the numbers Schools spend approximately $75 per student on gas bills and $130 per student on electricity each year. By implementing

Figure 1: Reduce energy use and vow those around you!





energy efficiency measures, many K-12 schools have been able to reduce energy costs by as much as 30 percent in existing facilities.1 Since 2010, EPA has hosted the ENERGY STAR National Building Competition, which pits buildings of every kind from across the nation against each other in a competition to see who can reduce energy use the most. K-12 school districts have ranked among the top finishers every year. Here are just a few examples of schools that harnessed the power of competition to make sustainability work for their bottom lines. In an energy efficiency competition, everyone can be a winner! Students Make a Difference: Red Clay Consolidated School District |Wilmington, DE 10–11% savings, up to $95,200 cost savings Red Clay Consolidated School District had multiple teams, divided by grade level, compete in the 2014 National Building Competition. Students contributed to the teams’ successes by participating as part of a “BTU Crew.” This group conducted energy experiments in their classrooms and analyzed results. The students also tracked sources of energy waste and suggested ways to reduce energy use.2 Engaging & Educating Staff: Demarest Elementary School | Bloomfield, NJ 52% energy savings, $75,900 cost savings

The 2013 National Building Competition winner, Claiborne Elementary School, credits its success to the creation of a culture of energy conservation by involving everyone in its mission. Energy conservation awareness presentations to students and teachers explained specific steps they could take to save energy, as well as the importance of conserving the earth’s resources. Students learned about simple actions they could take to make a difference, including adjusting thermostats, keeping doors and windows closed when cooling or heating systems are operating, and making sure all electronic devices in their classrooms are shut off at the end of the day. During the year, aspects of energy conservation were integrated into activities outside the classroom—such as the school’s “Spooky Math & Science Night” on Halloween—supporting the school’s efforts to develop the next generation of energy conservation leaders!4

Other benefits of energy efficiency—the list goes on Think cost savings are the only benefit of cutting energy waste? Think again! Better energy performance is linked with many other benefits related to health, student performance, faculty member satisfaction, and quality of education.

Demarest Elementary School was the #1 overall winner of the 2012 National Building Competition. The school won the competition by engaging its entire staff in saving energy. Faculty and other staff members took control of their immediate areas by turning off and unplugging their equipment and accessories. Members of the school’s energy team learned how to operate its antiquated energy management system (EMS) and replaced a heat timer, in order to get the building to run on a normal schedule. These individual actions added up quickly, and helped Demarest take the gold!3 Raising Student Awareness: Claiborne Elementary School | Baton Rouge, LA 45.9% energy savings, $114,449 cost savings


Improve indoor air quality. Studies demonstrate associations between IAQ and the health and performance of students and staff members in U.S. schools. The research linking poor IAQ to children’s health problems and reduced academic performance shows the critical role that a school’s indoor environment plays in student achievement.5 Installing energy recovery ventilation equipment, for example, can reduce infiltration of air contaminants from outdoors while significantly reducing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) energy loads.1 ļļ Improve student performance. Studies have demonstrated that increased classroom ventilation rates are associated with improvements in student health and performance. A European study showed that a doubling of the ventilation rate from about 7.5 cubic feet per minute per person (cfm/person) EDUCATIONAL FACILITY PLANNER | VOLUME 49 | ISSUE 2&3


in teacher retention rates, reductions in insurance costs, and reduced legal liability, all due to improved indoor environmental quality.1

to 15 cfm/person improved speed of academic performance by about 8 percent.5 ļļ Increase attendance. An indirect benefit of energy efficiency measures in school buildings is an increase in school attendance rates. According to an analysis for the State of Washington, incorporating green building measures in school designs improves indoor air quality and can reduce absenteeism rates by as much as 15 percent. Also, since many school operating budgets are determined by average daily attendance, even a small reduction in absenteeism can save money.1 •

Reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other environmental impacts. Improving energy efficiency in school buildings can help reduce GHG emissions and criteria air pollutants by decreasing consumption of fossil fuels.1 Other benefits from improving energy efficiency in K-12 school buildings include improvements

How to plan and launch your own competition Based on the huge successes and results generated by districtwide and school-wide individual competitions, many schools are launching their own ENERGY STAR energy efficiency competitions, modeled after EPA’s ENERGY STAR National Building Competition, as a way to inspire participants to save money and shrink their environmental footprint. The path to energy efficiency through competition begins with these simple steps (explained in more detail in EPA’s ENERGY STAR Energy Efficiency Competition Guide, described below): 1. Set goals. To set reasonable goals, it is helpful to understand the current energy performance of potential competitors and their experience with energy management. This understanding begins with establishing a benchmark, which schools can do using EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager® tool, described below. 2. Define the Playing Field. Every competition needs a playing field! Explicitly define the competition’s playing field—the timeframe, the competitors and the metrics—to keep the planning process and competition scope focused. 3. Dedicate Resources. Decide who in your organization can drive the competition forward—a crucial element to a competition’s success. Appoint an individual or group with sufficient availability and expertise to support the competition and its participants on an ongoing basis. 4. Recognize Participants. Choose a recognition structure in advance: how will you determine the winning school or classroom, and what will they win? Make sure the recognition structure is clearly stated at the start of the competition so that participants know what to expect. 5. Keep Score. Select metrics to assess success, establish a baseline, and track and verify data. Any school, district or organization can use EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool to do this—at no cost!





6. Plan Launch. Create a comprehensive timeline for the competition to help you and participants stay on task and on track. There are many elements and phases of a well-run competition, and planning them out ahead of time ensures you don’t miss any key steps once the competition begins. 7. Get the Word Out. Communication is essential in all phases of a competition, from beginning to end— make sure participants, potential sponsors, the media and the public are all aware of the events ahead!

Resources and next steps Need help planning and launching your own ENERGY STAR energy efficiency competition? EPA offers these and other no-cost tools and resources to help you plan and launch your competition! ENERGY STAR Energy Efficiency Competition Guide: Use this guide to plan and lead an energy efficiency competition of your own. This step-bystep workbook walks you through every detail and decision to help you create a competition that is right for you, your organization, and your community! ENERGY STAR Guidelines for Energy Management: The ENERGY STAR Guidelines for Energy Management contains a step-by-step road map for continuous improvement, based on best practices from the nation’s leaders in energy management. EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager: Portfolio Manager is an interactive resource management tool that enables you to track and assess energy and water use across your entire portfolio of buildings, all in a secure online environment. More importantly, it can help you implement every step of your energy management program, from setting a baseline and identifying which buildings to target, to setting goals and tracking improvements. It’s also the tool for earning recognition from EPA for your efforts.

measures you can finance using anticipated savings, and whether you should finance now, wait and use cash from a future budget, or wait for a lower interest rate. 


United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA). 2011. “Energy Efficiency Programs in K-12 Schools.”


United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA). 2015. “EPA’s National Building Competition 2014 Wrap-Up Report.”


United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA). 2013. “EPA’s National Building Competition 2012 Wrap-Up Report.”


United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA). 2014. “EPA’s National Building Competition 2013 Wrap-Up Report.”


United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA). 2014. “Energy Savings Plus Health: Indoor Air Quality Guidelines for School Building Upgrades.”

About the Author Kudret Ütebay Mr. Ütebay, The Cadmus Group, Inc., has more than 20 years of experience in education, research, energy, science (physics), and technology. He serves as Deputy Program Manager for EPA’s “Analytical, Technical & Outreach Support for ENERGY STAR® Commercial, Institutional and Industrial Sectors” contract. He provides support to public‐sector organizations seeking to successfully implement comprehensive energy management plans. For the past 14 years, Mr. Ütebay has worked closely with school districts to evaluate building energy performance and has presented at numerous conferences on energy management and health‐related topics. In recognition of his noteworthy leadership, Mr. Ütebay was appointed as a Technical Advisor to the Green Schools Alliance National Advisory Board and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Clean Air Partners.

Cash Flow Opportunity (CFO) Calculator: The CFO Calculator helps inform strategic decisions about financing energy efficiency projects. Use the tool to estimate how much of the energy efficiency




The Space Utilization Inquiry Tool (SUIT™) An Enhancement of Standard Building Capacity Assessments by Thomas Martineau and Tatia Prieto In the ideal world, school districts renovate their facilities to keep pace with developments in educational practice. All school districts operate on the same cutting edge of technology implementation. Each school district works hard to ensure a consistent learning experience across all its classrooms. Teachers embrace similar ideas of the best teaching methods. If only.


nfortunately, we do not yet live in that ideal world. Instead, school facility planners are called to assist schools and districts in the struggle to work with existing buildings while rolling out new learning models, to adapt Depression-era structures to accommodate wi-fi, and design spaces that satisfy only the average of local teaching methods. What school facility planners cannot afford to ignore in this struggle is that one common metric, school capacity, is becoming an increasingly outdated concept, unless it is undergirded with a nuanced understanding of the current educational environment and the true likely next steps for the school and district.

Example kindergarten classroom, this one in Alaska Photo credit: Prismatic Services

In its most common form, “building capacity” is calculated on the basis of a floor area allotment per person. Several states have developed hard rules on building capacity. In New Hampshire, it has been decided that kindergarten students each require 50 square feet of space. In New York State, one official guideline states 30 square feet for a publicly funded kindergarten, 35 square feet for private daycare facilities. In Virginia, a kindergarten student must have an average of 41 square feet of classroom space, but not less than 34 square feet. Yet, these measures are strictly mathematical1. One visit to any kindergarten classroom, stacked to the legal limit with tubs of manipulatives, lunch boxes piled in a corner, fish tank perched on the out-of-use radiator under the window, and iPad cart charging in the last spot on the daisy-chained extension cord, shows just how short these building capacity square footage measures can be in the face of educational needs. The literature abounds in research concerning the influences of educational trends on school design. Prominent in this literature has been a series of papers on the influence of educational trends on the design and construction of schools by Kenneth R. Stevenson, Ed. D., (2002, 2007, 2010) of the University of South Carolina in Columbia. In its most current incarnation (2010), Stevenson’s monograph Educational Trends Shaping School Planning, Design, Construction, Funding and Operation, offers 15 key trends and observations as they are likely to influence the planning, design, construction, funding and operation of public schools in the United States. These trends forecast, among others, more flexible and changeable school facilities, increasing





educational delivery by electronic means, and a restructuring of the teaching profession into expert educators similar to medical doctors, assisted by a cadre of technicians and assistants who carry out educational protocols and orders. Yet, Stevenson’s observations do not adequately underscore the sheer variety of places schools and districts occupy along the spectrum of educational practice.

The mere calculation of whether or not the student population of a school building is above or below capacity no longer carries sufficient meaning, except perhaps for the most proximate moment. Of greater importance is a threefold consideration: 1. Are the school district’s existing buildings suitable for the educational programs the district envisions during the coming 20 years? 2. If the existing buildings are not fully suitable, then what are the types of renovation and remodeling actions the district should initiate? 3. What types of new buildings should the school district plan, design, and construct, if any? To help answer these questions, and to serve school district clients in a more complete and thorough manner, we have developed a tool that permits us to assess the suitability of our clients’ buildings, and the possible need for new facilities that fit future programs. The reference frame we use is our clients’ view of the future, instead of a rigid, external ideological construct of what prospects are to come. We have named our tool SUIT™ – the acronym for Space Utilization Inquiry Tool.

Eldorado High School in Oklahoma Photo credit: Prismatic Services

In consulting with public school clients across the country for the past decade, we have seen the same scenario play out again and again, with the same result. School capacity based on a rigid allotment of floor area per student is no longer enough to decide on the adequacy of a school building or school design. The use of space in Eldorado High School outside of Las Vegas, with its deep strands of technology coursework is fundamentally different from the space needs of Eldorado High School in Oklahoma, where schooling is still decidedly traditional, with nary a computer in sight. Instead, a methodology was needed to determine the suitability of an existing school or of a new school design on the basis of changes in technology and pedagogy, as evidenced by a recognition of new teaching and learning styles and newfound approaches and practices in these areas. We also needed a way to account for where the school/ district was along the spectrum of educational practice. Is the district implementing center-based learning in most classrooms? Are teachers effectively integrating technology in the classroom? Is most technology learning happening in the lab environment?

When applied in our consulting practice with schools and districts, SUIT™ relies on the current experiences of a school district’s educators (principals and teachers), facility support staff (custodians and maintenance workers, kitchen staff, etc.), and students to define and categorize the district’s existing building stock along the dimensions of pedagogical and facility suitability. This collected information is then combined with an on-the-ground assessment of every space in every school building of the district. SUIT™ contains an inventory of factually – and positively – worded statements (issue statements) in two key categories: pedagogy and facilities. Some examples of pedagogy statements are:


Significant technology assets are deployed in each classroom. The use of computer labs is minimized.

Classes are provided in the appropriate spaces (science in a class equipped with a hood, etc.)

The school is small in size or is broken into more than one school-within-a-school, or it has in place other measures to boost connectivity and familiarity among students and staff.



Room locations, size or features do not limit educational programming options.

Hypothetical Actuality and Significance Scores for Selected Issue Statements Issue Statement Actuality Significance Significant technology assets are deployed in 4 5 each classroom. The use of computer labs is minimized. Classes are provided in the appropriate spaces (science 3 2 in a class equipped with a hood, etc.) The school is small in size or is broken into more than one school-withina-school, or it has in place 1 1 other measures to boost connectivity and familiarity among students and staff. Room locations, size, or features do not limit 1 4 educational programming options.

Some examples of facility statements are: •

The spaces in my school can be flexibly rearranged with little cost or effort as needs and uses change.

My school has adequate seating space in the cafeteria.

The core spaces of my school (cafeteria, kitchen, gymnasium, auditorium, offices) were expanded as classroom wings or portables were added.

Most classrooms are occupied each period.

Issue statements provided in surveys are tailored to the reference frames of each school district’s stakeholder group. The issue statement inventory serves as the basis for client customization. While clients cannot remove issue statements from the list, they may create, with assistance from our staff, issue statements to be added to the inventory. The customized survey is then administered to a variety of school stakeholders: •


staff (kitchen, cafeteria, office, and custodial);

administrators; and


If a school district has a high rate of community usage, then community members would be an additional stakeholder group. Once a statistically significant numbers of stakeholders have provided input, each issue statement must be evaluated by district stakeholders on two scales: •

actuality of the statement from the viewpoint of the respondent; and

significance of the statement from the respondent’s perspective.

Each answer lies on a five-point Likert scale. The actuality scale ranges from 1 to 5, with 1 being “not at all true” to 5 being “very true”. The significance scale ranges from 1 to 5, with 1 being “not at all important” to 5 being “extremely important”. Sample results for four pedagogical questions are shown below. Survey results are then categorized by user group as follows:

Most urgent issues: issue statements with the lowest actuality ratings and the highest significance ratings are potentially the most urgent issues to be addressed.

Least urgent issues: issue statements with the lowest actuality and the lowest significance ratings.

Secondary issues: issue statements with mixed results, either by user group or overall. These issues may require follow-up, such as more in-depth interviews with key stakeholders and decisionmakers, before they are placed in the prioritization order.

We have found this approach provides the school/district a clearer picture of where they currently are on the spectrum of educational practices and what their logical next steps might be. If they are not ready for a high-tech, one-to-one, personalized learning environment, their facilities should not attempt to push them in that direction. If they are already on the cutting edge in regard to technology, they are likely bristling at trying to implement that in the traditional cookiecutter square classroom and need to find ways to carve out small group meeting space.





As we work with SUIT™ in the coming years, we expect to make incremental improvements and enhancements. In our consulting practice, we move from final report to final report. In our tool development work, nothing is ever final or finished. 

REFERENCES Stevenson, Kenneth R., (2010): Educational Trends Shaping School Planning, Design, Construction, Funding and Operation. National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities at the National Institute of Building Sciences, 1090 Vermont Avenue, NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC 20005-4950, USA, 1-16. Retrieved from: ED539457.pdf

About the Authors Tatia Prieto Tatia Prieto, MBA, PMP, founder and president, Prismatic Services, Inc., has more than 20 years of experience consulting for school districts in 30 states, ranging from Alaska to Florida, and in districts from 112 to 740,000 students. Over the years, she has seen the good, bad, and really ugly of school facilities. Tatia holds an MBA from the University of Texas – Austin and has nearly completed an Ed.D. in educational leadership from the University of North Carolina – Charlotte.

Tom Martineau Tom Martineau, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, started as a research associate with the New York State University Construction Fund in 1966. As a licensed, registered architect, he has nurtured his expertise in pre-design analysis and facilities management. He strives to inform design sufficiently to discourage architects from creating schools that gloss over client needs and look like regional airports. Working with Tatia since 2005, he’s seen some of the same good, bad and ugly of school facilities. He holds Bachelor and Master of Architecture degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.




Summit Elementary School Photo Credit TimeFrame

The Summit Success Story: Examining an Open Plan School by Brianne Smith Nestled against the Casper Mountains along the scenic North Platter River in central Wyoming, the city of Casper is a conservative, family-friendly community of 60,000 people. In 2008, a group of educators, parents, designers, and community members gathered to discuss the opportunities for a new elementary school that would motivate and prepare students for the challenges of the future. Five key staff members, including the principal, were committed to designing and working in the school for at least five years to make their vision a reality. The group envisioned spaces that promoted the full engagement of young minds, responsibility, exploration, analysis, movement, creative expression and integrated special education. They also envisioned a building that was illuminated with natural light and had extensive access to the outdoors.


everal existing Casper schools illustrated that project‐based, experiential education was employed successfully within the district. However, the team charged with conceiving the new facility felt that children in the elementary grades are highly aware of place and routine. Therefore, a program emerged that took the best from a traditional classroom and placed it in a context

modeled on “community” and “home.” As one designer summarized:


“School in the landscape of Nature Village in the landscape of School The House in the Village The Rooms in the House”1 EDUCATIONAL FACILITY PLANNER | VOLUME 49 | ISSUE 2&3



Summit Elementary School Photo Credit TimeFrame




Summit Elementary School emerged as a kindergarten through fifth grade school that encompassed dynamic, engaging spaces for students and staff alike. First, barriers between the cafeteria and gymnasium were removed to create and open and inviting Village Center. It is a space that is never empty: its form is defined by the administration wing, the stage/music room, the kitchen, the art studio and the Educational Houses and physical movement, intellectual activity, individual and group interaction are constantly taking place. Quite literally, the Village Center is where different ages and life stages, the outside world, and the individual converge. The Educational Houses are organized by kindergarten/ first grade, second/third grade, and fourth/fifth grade communities. Other configurations were tested and would not meet the educational delivery model envisioned by the staff. Teachers in grades K-3 work in teams of two, creating shared classrooms of 36 students. Students also shift fluidly between grade-level classrooms throughout the day to regroup in ability-focused reading and math groups. At the 4th and 5th grade levels students are grouped by subject matter but content is developed collectively by the entire teaching team. Classrooms are open to the shared gathering space and operable partitions between rooms open and close throughout the day to meet the needs of the lesson plan. The classrooms and gathering spaces are designed around the student and are not ‘owned’ by any one teacher. Instead, a separate workroom with a large ‘kitchen table’ for group collaboration is located in each House and provides each teacher with individual space for their work and personal items. Not only does collaboration improve lesson planning, it also prevents teachers from feeling isolated in their classroom. In any design, a classroom must meet fundamental criteria: natural light; healthy, temperate air; and close proximity to learning materials and the instructor. Acoustical performance is also key to successful open school design. Walls had been removed to enable a high level of fluid and flexible learning, but students still needed to be able to focus and to hear teacher instruction. Carpet on the floor, tackable acoustic panels on the window wall and specialized acoustic ceiling tile throughout the houses absorb sound and minimize reverberation. The teaching wall location and furniture were strategically arranged to minimize ‘line of sight’ for acoustics between classrooms that are not intended to share direct instruction at that time. The result is a pleasant

background murmur that the majority of teachers surveyed felt did not distract students from their lesson. Interestingly, many visitors enjoy the acoustic openness, remarking how energetic and engaging the school feels because you are immediately immersed in the educational experience. Another successful aspect of the design is the high level of integration of students of all ability levels, including those requiring special services. Without doors and traditional levels of formal organization, students and staff can enter/ exit rooms or receive supplemental instruction with minimal interruption to the rest of the class. This inclusion reduces the label of being ‘different’. Students requiring time to calm down in order to focus in the classroom are asked to step out into the gathering space: full supervision is maintained without requiring significant disciplinary action. For multiple reasons, staff has found that more special education students have opted in to the Summit program than was originally anticipated. Summit was quickly filled to capacity with students and parents that found it was an optimal environment for their learning style. In 2014, the district needed to build another elementary school, and the positive experience with Summit led many to suggest its design be repeated. There is always a catch, however: the budget available was significantly less than that which Summit had enjoyed. This challenged forced the design team to focus. What was successful about Summit? What could be removed or changed to reduce cost, and what was essential to the success of the program? The design team returned to Summit after four years of operation and interviewed staff, students, and parents. Students enthused about the Village Center and the natural light. Ninety percent of teachers agreed that the teacher workroom spaces functioned well. Furthermore, all of the teachers surveyed agreed that the building design itself facilitated student collaboration. Fundamentally, the Village Center remained the same in the new design. The space was adjusted to maximize circulation paths and allocate space more efficiently. PT/OT was relocated to a more central location that simplified student access. A significant discussion focused on increasing the level of security possible while maintaining the open plan layout. The district established a security protocol at Summit Elementary School that requires the House doors to be locked at all times. In the new design, the Village Center has been organized so the receptionist in the administration area





has direct line of sight with all three of the house doors and can unlock the doors from her desk as needed for students moving around the building. In the Houses, the teacher workrooms were repeated in the new design without change. The proportion of the classrooms and gathering space remained the same, but flex spaces were removed to meet the square footage goals of the project. In all, about 3,300 square feet were removed from the original design. However, the small group rooms were critical to meeting students’ needs and were maintained in each House. The design team also focused on key aspects of team teaching and located operable walls in the most critical

recommendations for other districts interested in developing their own open plan school. 1. Understand the fundamentals of great learning spaces. Regardless of wall location, successful learning spaces have key criteria that must be met. 2. Integrate curriculum and building elements to optimize spaces. When the curriculum and modes of teaching are well understood, then the building can be optimized to deliver an environment that supports education. 3. Advocate for the vision. Throughout design and the operation of the building, at least one person in a position of leadership must have a vision for the operation of the school and encourage the staff, parents, and students to achieve that vision. Furthermore, the school sees a higher level of success when the adults operate in the manner they want the students to function. 4. Focus on the student experience. When staff focus on the educational spaces being owned by the students, not teachers, it transforms the process of education. After diligent revision and effort by the district and design staff, the updated layout will be released for bidders in midNovember 2016. In the fall of 2017, the new school will open its doors to a new group of Casper’s youngest citizens and inspire and prepare them for their role as future leaders. 

A rendering of the Village Center at the New Elementary School - Summit Success Photo Credit RB+B Architects

locations. Summit included one classroom per House that is entirely enclosed, in case such a need was required. However, openings were later added to facilitate team teaching and no acoustically isolated classroom exists in the new design. On the flip side, operable walls between classrooms were not typically being opened the full length of the wall. Teachers indicated that they opened and closed portions of the wall on a daily basis, but they also needed wall space for display and storage. In the revised plan, operable partitions are located where they are needed for team teaching but are half the length in order to optimize acoustics, maximize wall space for teaching purposes and minimize costs. During the interviews, teachers requested that one teaching location be able to run both smart projectors in the linked team teaching rooms, and this has been added to the new design. Based on the experience of designing an open plan school and then redesigning it with limited funding, the following are



Lee Skolnick, Lee H. Skolnick Architecture and Design Partnership

About the Author Brianne Smith As an architect with RB+B Architects, Brianne has an avid commitment to environmental design and constructing buildings that enrich lives and communities. In pursuing her interest in high performance spaces that benefit people, she has been conducting research within RB+B’s completed projects to confirm buildings are meeting their academic design intent. She lives in Loveland, CO, with her husband, two daughters and yellow lab, and enjoys gardening, hiking and photography.


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facilities research


A User’s Manual for the Future of K-7 Libraries by David Reid and Marianne Melling

New York Elementary School’s renovated library hosts self-directed learning with a “genius bar” at the center (credit: Aaron Dougherty).

As Lawrence Public Schools (USD497) set out to implement a personalized learning model across their district, they began to think about how entire schools – not just individual classrooms – could be incubators for change. This K-12 school district, the seventh largest in Kansas, started their process more than three years ago and consider it an ongoing work in progress. One instrumental piece of this plan has been the transformation of the school libraries. Long ago made obsolete by their rigidity, lack of space and shortage of technology, the old libraries were consuming valuable educational real estate and stifling otherwise tremendous opportunities to support this shift in their instructional model.



facilities research


he Lawrence Public Schools teaching and learning team saw the libraries as a huge opportunity to create a visual symbol of the transformative learning process that was under development; and an opportunity to provide vital physical resources necessary to support a robust personalized learning model.

Over the course of the research phase, Gould Evans and USD 497 arrived at a number of viewpoints, and established a series of nine design patterns that were incorporated into the new or renovated libraries. •

Lawrence USD497 and Gould Evans Architects embarked upon a research project to explore the future of the K-6 Library and its potential implications in supporting a personalized learning model that includes blended learning as a core strategy. Several of these new libraries opened to their school communities in the fall of 2015. Nearly three months into operation, the libraries are already fostering positive cultural changes within their respective schools -- enabling the librarians to host a range of project-based learning activities, supporting independent students in self-directed learning and offering a wider range of research support, all the while continuing to promote the value of great literature. Gould Evans is conducting a post-occupancy evaluation of the libraries and preliminary findings are included herein. Initial research revealed the some compelling facts about how young readers encode text differently with print vs. digital materials, how print materials improved reading retention, and how students using a combination of print and digital materials scored highest out of several control groups with limited access to certain formats of information. Overall, there is undeniable value in maintaining both print and digital collections, and helping students understand how to use the two formats most effectively. Some of the highlights of this research can be further explored here.

Cordley Elementary School Students work on multi-media projects in their newly-renovated library (credit: Aaron Dougherty).


Pattern 1: The Library is a Place for Making: Shift away from the analogy of the library as a “grocery store” and toward the library as a “kitchen.” As such, students move from being consumers to creators.

Hillcrest Elementary School’s new maker space helps redefine the library as a learning incubator (credit Aaron Dougherty).

Pattern 2: Library as Home to a Rich Digital Tool Kit Multi-media projects help students develop technology literacy as well as collaboration skills. Bundling high-end production and editing equipment in the library helps manage costs on this specialty equipment while providing necessary user support in the form of available staff. It’s a natural outgrowth to think about these resources being a part of the future library.

Pattern 3: Library as a Learning Incubator As evidenced by our post-occupancy evaluation, libraries – and librarians – are catalysts for instigating change within the school-wide instructional model. The library can offer space and resources that the classrooms cannot.

Pattern 4: Student-Centered, Student-Directed Educational theorists Piaget, Montessori, Pestalozzi and even Socrates have argued that students should


facilities research


members to read, explore, collaborate, learn, and create. We must call on our institutions to provide the necessary support and access to technology for people with diverse abilities and needs.

learn by playing and following their curiosity. And Sugata Mitra’s 2010 “Computer in the Wall” experiment evidenced the potential of students to self-organize toward achieving outcomes that interest them. Self-Directed Learning teaches students to be responsible owners and managers of their own learning process – a valuable workplace skill that benefits from being developed early. •

Pattern 5: A Place for Everyone; A Palette of Places Styles of learning are as diverse as the number of learners themselves. Providing a palette of places and furniture helps the library to be an inviting place for everyone – including the introverts of the world who often find the library to be their refuge.

Pattern 6: Creative Story-Telling Space The act of artistic visualization encourages students to listen to a story and create detailed mental pictures about what is happening. Making ‘mind movies’ helps them remember content. Visualizing is an important strategy for students as they move from picture books to chapter books. The process helps students encode information into visuals so that the information can more easily pass through the various stages of memory: working memory, the visuospatial sketchpad (the mind’s eye), short-term memory and long-term or deep memory.

Pattern 7: Celebrate Great Children’s Literature Viewed historically, if you want to know what any literate society cares about, you have only to look at the books it has given its children and teens. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone motivated the New York Times to create a special children’s best-seller list. Books including Pippi Longstocking, Huckleberry Finn, The Diary of Anne Frank, and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret were all targeted for censorship, demonstrating how children’s books can contain deep ideas, convey cultural criticism and even become lightning rods of controversy.

Pattern 9: Anticipate Change – Flexibility Planning Mobility is the new design platform. Technology is causing unprecedented rates of change, not just in libraries but throughout society. Today’s libraries must be much less about permanence and much more about adaptability.

Hillcrest Elementary School’s creative storytelling space was designed to help students visualize stories (rendering: Gould Evans)

According to the district’s superintendent, Rick Doll, “By letting go of some of our baggage on what libraries have always been, we’ve really opened up the opportunities for the library to support school-wide learning in a much more robust way.” Gould Evans’ designs for the new libraries challenged many paradigms of the old libraries:

Pattern 8: A Place for Community and Social Learning School libraries are natural hubs for community gathering. In the words of Robert Putnam, “People may go to the library looking mainly for information, but they find each other there.” School libraries are turning to their communities and offering resources, services, instruction, and programs that empower community


There are no circulation desks – there is only a genius bar where library staff can work alongside students to assist them in research and catalog lookup.

There is no security or access control for the libraries – they are open to the school, enabling seamless flow for students and conveying a welcoming impression.

There are no private offices for the librarians – they have counter workspace adjacent to the maker area with lockable cabinets.

Maker spaces replace instructional areas – instruction can still happen but students EDUCATIONAL FACILITY PLANNER | VOLUME 49 | ISSUE 2&3

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predominantly engage in project-based learning activities. •

There is a wide palette of furniture in every library – most furniture is movable and ‘kid-friendly’ (moving away from the uncomfortable oak chairs that once populated the library) and much of the re-used shelving will be replaced with shelving on wheels. The goal is to make almost everything mobile.

lesson planning. She says, “My experience in the classroom has given me incredible value in working with self-directed students – it’s a skill you develop from years of experience managing a classroom.” Librarians historically try to control children in the library. She attributes this to the lack of experience that librarians have in classrooms. “It takes the full toolbox of soft-skills!” she says.

Three months into their new libraries, what lessons learned have the librarians at USD497 discovered? “The librarians need to be in everybody’s business” according to Christina Brumfield, librarian at Hillcrest Elementary School. In a sense, Christina is a matchmaker that helps bring teachers and curriculum opportunities together, fostering cross-curricular learning and more hands-on learning. “It’s important that I know what each classroom teacher is working on at any given time,” she says. Christina goes so far as to think of her library as ‘The Kitchen’. She is intentional and works hard to keep the library free for students that come and go to work on projects. No longer does Hillcrest use the library for classwide library instruction, testing or similar types of activities. The library is sustained as an open laboratory. It’s a noisy and active place where making is happening all the time, and 6th graders are learning alongside 3rd graders.

Christina’s insertion into classroom activities has not always been well received by the teachers. Many teachers have bluntly told her they would prefer she just continue doing what the librarian has always done. But on its most successful level, Christina and other teachers are finding engaging ways to re-present curriculum and blend multiple subjects into singular lessons, bringing a lot of hands-on opportunities to the table. “The kids love it!” she says. “They earn points in the classroom for completing assignments or finishing early. They can spend those points on any number of ‘rewards’.” She’s been pleasantly surprised how many students cash in their points for an opportunity to come to the library and engage in her weekly maker activities. Many of these are correlated to the engineering standards that are a part of the classroom teachers’ standards. Many others engage in learning opportunities disassociated from classroom activities. Either way the kids love it! And inevitably, the kids love Christina’s energy and attention that she pays to their learning enrichment.

Christina is a former classroom teacher who recently received her library science degree. According to her, most library science programs don’t teach the skills necessary to serve in her role; especially the critical skills of collaboration and

Jen Scotten, the librarian at South Middle School, is also persistent in using the library to enrich and extend classroom learning activities. At the middle school level, she also contends with students who still struggle with their reading

The calendar for Hillcrest Elementary School’s maker space is always full!



facilities research


skills and carry a heavy stigma with them. As such, she’s very careful to help delayed readers feel at home in the library. “Students who have difficulty reading traditionally find a library to be an extremely intimidating place” she says. “It’s commonly filled with shelves of books, none of which they feel like they’re able to understand. By reducing the presence and size of the print collection, I’m able to create places in the library that are free of these intimidating artifacts and thereby make it more inviting.” She keeps graphic novels displayed more visibly and makes it evident that her library is a place for everyone and every type of activity. When visiting her in the library, we asked what the students were working on. “I have no idea what they’re working on, but they’re working and that’s what I want them to be doing here!” The next year will continue to reveal new opportunities that the Lawrence Public School libraries can extend to the broader learning ecosystem within the schools. And if things go as planned, Christina and Jen will have new recruits that share their incredible passion to transform the future of K-6 libraries. 


About the Authors David Reid David Reid, AIA, served as the design principal for the Lawrence Public Schools projects and led the research effort for the future of the K-7 library. Through an in-depth inquiry-driven process, the design team sought ways for the built environment to help foster the culture, innovation and flexibility/agility needed to meet the vision of the USD497 projects over the long term. David Reid is a principal with Gould Evans and a leader in the firm’s national practice in Education and Strategic Learning Environments. He leads much of the firm’s education research, focused on gaining a deeper understanding of the emerging pedagogies in 21st Century learning, how learning goals impact design of the built environment, and ultimately how design influences learning outcomes, behavior, and perception.

Marianne Melling Marianne Melling, architect for Gould Evans in Lawrence, Kansas holds her masters of architecture from the University of Kansas, through which she developed methods of translating empirical data from community engagement to design concepts. Since that time she has continued her education through SEED certification (Social Economic Environmental Design). While at Gould Evans, Marianne has utilized community engagement processes to understand the impact of various scales of user groups on the functioning of elementary schools.



Healthy Buildings: North Penn School District’s Approach to Protecting IAQ During Energy Efficiency Upgrades by Kudret Ütebay, Tom Schneider, Michele Curreri Energy efficiency and cost savings are typically the primary objectives of school building retrofits and renovations; however, school districts can see an even greater return on their investments by addressing health and safety concerns at the same time. School districts across the country are using the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Energy Savings Plus Health: Indoor Air Quality Guidelines for School Building Upgrades (Energy Savings Plus Health) to do just that by addressing priority issues, such as HVAC systems and low-emissions materials. In addition, Energy Savings Plus Health details assessment protocols and low-impact, “do-no-harm” solutions.

Hatfield Elementary School in Lansdale, Penn., underwent retrofits to achieve energy savings and health protection.

“We used the actions outlined in Energy Savings Plus Health to protect indoor air quality and occupant health during recent renovations to Hatfield Elementary School, as well as during daily operations and maintenance. Looking forward to 2016, we have already started planning additional school building upgrades using the guidelines’ checklists and principles for energy savings and health protection.” – Tom Schneider, Director of Facilities, North Penn School District, Lansdale, Pennsylvania



health and safety



ost districts consider energy efficiency as a core tenet of their facility’s renovations and two recent studies provide strong evidence that this trend will continue. A U.S. Department of Education study found that building systems in nearly one third of the nation’s permanent public school buildings are in fair or poor condition, and most problems are associated with energy-using equipment that also can create health problems if not maintained properly.1 According to a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the National Association of Energy Service Companies study, energy efficiency measures accounted for a majority of energy company services from 2008 to 2011, with K–12 school districts contributing to about 20 percent of this demand.2 As an increasing number of schools undergo energy efficiency upgrades, Energy Savings Plus Health can provide valuable information to improve IAQ, from the first planning stages through the final retrofit.

North Penn School District

The Energy Savings Plus Health Guidelines For school districts that are ready to make energy efficiency changes in their facilities, the guidelines have the key resources and tools needed to protect health and safety during upgrades. In addition to the 23 IAQ Priority Issues assessment protocols and EPA-recommended actions, the guidelines also list resources and tools for project planning, communications and worker safety. The customizable Energy Savings Plus Health Checklist Generator allows stakeholders to create tailored IAQ checklists for a variety of energy efficiency retrofits. These assessment protocols and checklists, can be used to guide actions and solutions for a variety of building upgrades, including: •

Building assessment, commissioning





Building envelope

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems

Material selection and replacement

Operations and maintenance

18 schools representing 2 million square feet

12,570 students and 1,500 staff

37% energy reduction between 2008 and 2015

2009 IAQ Tools for Schools Leadership Excellence Award

2012 and 2013, ENERGY STAR® 20 percent and 30 percent energy reduction recognitions, respectively

2013 and 2014 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year award for energy management

2015 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year— Sustained Excellence award for energy management

North Penn School District—Saving Energy, Reducing Costs and Promoting Healthy Buildings through Retrofits, Operations and Maintenance NPSD provides an outstanding example of how applying the practices outlined in Energy Savings Plus Health can support a healthy indoor environment during retrofits designed to reduce energy use and cut costs. The NPSD energy management program addresses IAQ upgrades and energy savings opportunities at the operations and maintenance, renovation and retrofits, and construction stages of the school facilities lifecycle. NPSD has continued to achieve results through continued monitoring of energy savings, student-led energy audits, occupant education, and generation of baseline data for evaluation and tracking. In the Hatfield Elementary School renovation, we started using Energy Savings Plus Health and the Checklist seven months into the project. The sizable renovation involved installing new mechanical




systems, such as condensing boilers, a multi-stage chiller and a digital control system; electrical systems, including lighting replacement; plumbing; new interior finishing; envelope repairs; and storm water control work. We used the Checklist Generator to manage 15 different building upgrade activities.

Sustainable Operations and Maintenance in Existing Buildings

– Tom Schneider, Director of Facilities, North Penn School District, Lansdale, Pennsylvania Table 1 shows a selection of recommended actions from the Checklist Generator and how they relate to different IAQ priority issues in the guidelines.

Priority Issue Priority Issue 1.0 Project Planning

After receiving complaints about high humidity, odors in the classrooms and temperature differences between classrooms, NPSD used Energy Savings Plus Health to identify potential causes of poor IAQ. As a result of careful evaluation of the facilities (Priority Issue 1.0), faulty equipment (terminal equipment controllers, electro-pneumatic transducers) was replaced to increase boiler room air pressure and improve cooling valve operation (Priority Issue 18.0). Control adjustments were also made to allow free cooling, proper minimum outside air damper position and dehumidification,

Assessment Protocol (AP)/Minimum Action (MA)/Extended Action AP 1.1 Gather Feedback on IAQ Conditions in the School Building

Action Taken •

Reviewed the IAQ at an elementary school in response to complaints that included— • High humidity • Smells and odors in the classrooms • Temperature variations Found— • Units not dehumidifying • High CO2 levels • Temperature variances as great as 6°F to 10°F • Units not cooling

Spray foam was used to air seal the interior envelope. Priority Issue 3.0 MA 3.6 Prevent Condensation Moisture Control and Mold in the Building Enclosure: Air seal the enclosure and manage air pressure relationships. MA 3.9 Control Moisture During Contractor left flashings open prior to a rain. In Roof Modifications response, the District performed an infrared scan of the roof to ensure that insulation was not wet and moisture was not trapped inside. MA 8.3 Assess and Mitigate Soil Vapor barriers were used under all new concrete Gas Vapor Intrusion slabs. Priority Issue 4.0 MA 4.1 Evaluate Condition of A qualified asbestos professional surveyed the Asbestos (asbestos Asbestos-Containing Material locations of the asbestos-containing material. Asbestos abatement was performed during the was known to be in the and Use Properly Trained summer and prior to commencement of any building) and Accredited Personnel for Abatement or Repair construction activities. Priority Issue 22.0 MA 22.2 Protect HVAC Systems Pre-installed and installed ductwork were sealed Protecting IAQ During to avoid dust infiltration. The return air register was Construction sealed to avoid dust infiltration into the system. Table 1. Application of a Selection of Energy Savings Plus Health’s Priority Issues by NPSD



health and safety


and debris and dirt were cleaned from air units (Priority Issue 3.0).


Improving Energy Efficiency through Smart Retrofits and Renovations Built in 1970 with no internal insulation, vinyl asbestos tiles (Priority Issue 4.0), and lead-based primer paint (Priority Issue 5.0), the Hatfield Elementary School building was in need of serious renovation to achieve optimal environmental and student health. NPSD consulted the guidelines partway through the renovation process to ensure proper considerations were taken to improve IAQ and reduce energy use. As a result, Hatfield Elementary School now features a new mechanical system (condensing boilers, a multi-stage chiller, a four-pipe system with fan coils and dedicated outdoor air thermal recovery), electrical system (LED lights and improved controls for occupancy, vacancy and day lighting), and plumbing system (low-flow fixtures, domestic water heating), as well as low-emitting interior finishes and new spray foam insulation on the interior of all walls for improved energy efficiency (Priority Issue 13.0).

EPA is interested in case studies on how these guidelines are being implemented during retrofits or construction projects. If you are interested in using Energy Savings Plus Health and provide feedback to EPA, please contact


Debbie Alexander, Laurie Lewis, John Ralph, “Condition of America’s Public School Facilities: 2012–13.” U.S. Department of Education, March 2014.


Elizabeth Stuart, Peter H. Larsen, Charles A. Goldman, Donald Gilligan, “Current Size and Remaining Market Potential of the U.S. Energy Service Company Industry.” Electricity Markets and Policy Group, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 2013.

The Next Generation of Schools Facilities Looking forward to 2016, Tom Schneider, Director of Facilities at NPSD, has already started planning additional school building upgrades using Energy Savings Plus Health and its principles for energy savings and health protection. NPSD is ensuring that new school facilities provide the same energy savings and IAQ benefits as renovated facilities, using the practices outlined in Energy Savings Plus Health (Priority Issue 22.0). To protect HVAC systems, pre-sealed ductwork was purchased and already installed ductwork was sealed to prevent dust infiltration. Automatic drain trap primers also were installed to reduce vapor-forming contaminants, and vapor barriers were installed under all new concrete slabs to prevent condensation and mold growth, improving IAQ and reducing irritant-related respiratory illnesses (Priority Issue 3.0).

Putting the Guidelines into Action Energy Savings Plus Health can help school districts meet energy efficiency and money-saving goals. The Guide can play a key role in aligning stakeholders and defining a successful path to facilities management that thoughtfully considers the health and safety of students and staff. 


RESOURCES Energy Savings Plus Health: Indoor Air Quality Guidelines for School Building Upgrades Energy Savings Plus Health Checklist Generator IAQ Tools for Schools Action Kit School IAQ Assessment Mobile App

About the Authors Kudret Ütebay Kudret Ütebay of The Cadmus Group, Inc., has more than 20 years of experience in education, research, energy efficiency, physics and technology fields. He provides support to publicsector organizations seeking to successfully implement comprehensive energy management plans. For the past 14 years, Mr. Ütebay has worked closely with EPA and school districts to evaluate building energy and water performance and has presented at numerous conferences on energy management, indoor air and health-related topics. He currently serves as a technical advisor to the Green Schools Alliance National Advisory Board and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Clean Air Partners. continued>>>>



Tom Schneider

Michele Curreri

Tom Schneider has been the director of facilities and perations at North Penn School District for the past year and was previously manager of energy and operational efficiencies. Prior to working at NPSD, Mr. Schneider was the Supervisor of Operations at the Council Rock School District, north of Philadelphia. He has a degree in mechanical engineering and has worked in facilities management, construction management and design of K–12 schools and colleges most of his career. Mr. Schneider has managed or designed renovation and new construction projects valued in excess of $650 million.

Michele Curreri is an environmental protection specialist at EPA, where she specializes in indoor air quality issues in schools. With more than 25 years of experience working with K–12 school districts, Ms. Curreri has spent the past 15 years assisting school districts in designing, building and maintaining healthy, high-performing schools. Her experience includes the design, development, implementation and evaluation of EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools.


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Creating Healthier Environments for Teaching and Learning: Applying Concepts from the WELL Building Standard to School Design and Operations by Julie Walleisa, Mimi Burns and Andrea Hanson Schools are an ideal place to incorporate design and operational strategies that support physical and mental wellbeing and improve student and staff fitness, mood, sleep patterns and performance. The WELL Building Standard1 focuses on human health and wellness, setting performance requirements in seven categories related to occupant health in the built environment. There are several WELL features that are not discussed enough in typical practice or under other building standards, and which research suggests can benefit multiple body systems.


here is a wealth of wellness research and principles focused on adults, but it can be challenging to apply these to schoolchildren to achieve intended results. Most children have limited control over their lifestyles and physical environments; someone else decides what time they wake up, how many hours they spend in school, where they live and in which school they’ll spend a quarter of their waking hours. More importantly, children are in the process of building habits that will shape their wellness as adults. Creating environments that better support children’s health and wellbeing can reap lifetime benefits.

Pesticide Management The intent of WELL Feature 10 Pesticide Management is to eliminate the use of highly toxic chemicals, like pre-

emergent herbicides, and reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides. WELL requires the creation of an Integrated Pest Management Plan (IPM) that defines how approved products are used and which products are prohibited. WELL uses the City of San Francisco’s IPM as their model.2 When San Francisco’s IPM was implemented it resulted in an 80% decrease in pesticide use and an 88% reduction in the use of glyphosate, the chemical found in RoundUp.3 Monsanto’s glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the US, regularly used in agriculture, forestry, public parks, school grounds, and playing fields; however, it recently had its carcinogenic status raised by the World Health Organization. Glyphosate has up to a 60-day life. Most people do not know where it has been sprayed or when they are exposed to it.4 Awareness of IPMs is increasing as they are implemented across the country. The State of New Jersey, for example, requires all public, private and charter schools to adopt an IPM policy that includes a school-specific plan.5 To achieve herbicide reduction through IPMs, practices include a mix of pro-active weeding, monitoring, mowing and modifications to landscape design. The IPM approach is initially laborintensive and represents a huge culture shift in maintenance operations for cities, school districts and institutions that are often short-staffed and rely on broad applications of chemicals for weed control. Design modifications, like changing tidy rock mulched xeriscapes to natural native plant meadows, can make this maintenance transition more manageable and create healthier landscapes.



health and safety

Circadian Lighting Design WELL Feature 54 Circadian Lighting Design assesses exposure to melanopic light.6 Melanopic lux evaluates light’s impact on the release of melatonin, which is linked to the amount of blue light in the spectrum.7 During the day melatonin production stops, body temperatures rise and we become more alert, productive and physically stronger. At night our bodies secrete melatonin which helps us sleep. Research now tells us that a disrupted circadian system is connected to a long list of health and behavioral problems: cancer, obesity, diabetes, depression, and mood and sleep disorders.8 Circadian lighting helps keep the system in check by mirroring natural light, starting with cool blue light in the morning, progressing to a whiter light midday and becoming warmer toward evening.9 Schools are beginning to experiment with tunable LED lighting, including Kongsgardmoen School in Norway. Morning starts with a fixed setting of cool white light, helping students and staff start their day. As the day progresses, teachers can change the light color to support the task at hand, using intensive cool white light for short term concentration or warm white light to create a relaxing atmosphere.10 Critics are concerned that the installation is premature. Jim Benya, a lighting researcher, states: “We simply are not ready yet to prescribe lighting for human circadian benefit. Lacking protocols for how much light, for how long, of what spectrum, prior light history, temperature and other factors, installing lighting systems for any human benefit related to the human circadian system is an experiment right now.”11 While it appears that more research is needed to determine the benefits of applying circadian lighting to the learning environment, a proactive approach would be to limit screen time in the evening. Research recommends shutting off devices 2-3 hours before bedtime to avoid disrupting students’ natural circadian rhythms.12

Interior Fitness Circulation WELL Feature 64 Interior Fitness Circulation focuses on improving cardiovascular, muscular and skeletal health by discouraging reliance on elevators and instead promoting use of stairs and walking paths as a source of indoor exercise. Children’s activity levels, measured in steps/day, have been found to peak before age 12 and decrease through adolescence13, with some studies finding that only 14% of

high school students are achieving 10,000 steps per day.14 Recess as a source of activity for younger children continues to be threatened. Surveys indicate that 25% of elementary schools no longer provide recess to all grades, 40% of districts have reduced or eliminated recess to make more time for academics, and 77% of principals report taking away recess as a form of punishment.15 In addition to addressing recess policy, schools can encourage students to walk more indoors and climb stairs more frequently.

Stair use can be promoted by locating them in a prominent location and by locating popular destinations, such as libraries and common rooms, on upper levels to drive stair use. In high schools, the social power of stairs can be exploited by locating stairs where they become the space to see and be seen. Incorporating artwork, interactive digital music and light effects, or jokes and trivia questions can also make stairs and pathways more interesting and appeal to human curiosity.16 Combining welcoming design attributes and creative ideas may be the best strategy to turn today’s schoolchildren into a generation of adults who naturally choose the stairs.

Exterior Active Design / Physical Activity Spaces / Active Transportation Support WELL Features 67, 68, and 69 facilitate active living with a focus on outside activities.17 By providing quality amenitized connections to surrounding areas, outdoor fitness-friendly spaces, and support services for biking and walking, facility design can help people make healthy decisions. Sixty-nine percent of adults are overweight and lead sedentary lives18 – driving to work and sitting at a desk. For children in school, obesity can lead to a lifetime of health challenges and social stigmas associated with being overweight.19 Design





that deliberately creates easy, appealing opportunities to be active can make a difference. •

Facilities for fitness include, bike paths and sidewalks, tracks and trails to build endurance and improve aerobic conditioning, and courts, playground equipment and multi-purpose fields to improve balance, flexibility and strength.

Amenities that encourage activity include movable furniture, drinking fountains, water features, gardens and public art – all of which facilitate social integration. More exercise-focused amenities include trails, playgrounds, workout stations and access to gyms and pools.

Support facilities for active transportation include walkways, showers, locker and changing rooms, secure bike storage and bike maintenance tools.

To relieve other strains, classroom furniture is progressing. Standing workstations are common in the workplace, but a relatively new trend in the classroom, in which the seated posture remains the norm. Some schools have moved to a completely standing environment which introduces a whole variety of new risk factors. It’s important to provide a variety of settings to alleviate risk factors associated with extensive sitting or standing.25 A recent study of 374 elementary school students in College Station, Texas installed standing desks and stools in classrooms. They found the students were more active and burned more calories. For the modern student, or office worker, being free to move around and stand for part of a day is a good way to keep moving.26 Read and Ride programs are also taking hold. Ward Elementary in North Carolina furnished a classroom space with donated exercise equipment. This innovative use of space gives kids the benefit of physical activity without a reduction in curriculum time, and reading proficiency is up 83% for participants.27

Ergonomics: Visual and Physical WELL Feature 73 Ergonomics focuses on providing alternative postures to reduce visual and physical discomfort.20 The latest research shows young people spend around 6.5 hours a day in front of screens compared to 3.5 hours 10 years ago,21 and the prevalence of nearsightedness among Americans has increased more than 66% over 30 years.22 Studies in China and Australia have demonstrated that exposing children to 66.7 minutes of outdoor activity can reduce myopia,23 and spending around three hours per day under light levels of at least 10,000 lux can protect against myopia (a well-lit office or classroom is usually no more than 500 lux).24 Reducing screen time, increasing exposure to high levels of light through outdoor activity, and shifting from short to long-distance views can all address the myopia epidemic.

Flexible classroom environments and innovative programs activate teachers and students to use all of the real estate in the room. Providing a variety of options gives students and teachers an opportunity to stand, perch, or sit for portions of the day.

Biophilia: Qualitative WELL Feature 88 Biophilia focuses on nurturing humannature connections for the benefit of the nervous system. Numerous studies have correlated spending time in nature with reduced anxiety and ADHD symptoms, enhanced selfesteem, restored attention, and improved test scores and productivity. Yet Americans spend up to 90% of their time



health and safety

indoors.28 Many school designs incorporate simple forms of biophilia by incorporating views to nature, indoor plants and interior materials with natural themes and imagery. Fractals, self-similar patterns found in nature, are incorporated into many finish materials and have been found to reduce stress levels by as much as 60 percent. A more complex area of research and design exploration focuses on how the built environment can incorporate stochastic, or random, sensory experiences found in nature. For example, in a natural setting, sensory experiences may include random bird chirps and rustling vegetation, visual variation in light coming through trees and clouds, movement of leaves and tactile stimulation from small temperature changes and breezes. This complex variation is part of what seems to give nature its power to restore attention, particularly after mental stress.29 In contrast, most classroom environments strive for evenly distributed lighting and acoustic isolation, and have mechanical systems that provide constant background noise and very controlled, predictable temperature and airflow. This uniformity is intended to create good workspace and consistent conditions, but research suggests that the

momentary distraction of dappled light, the sound of water or movement from the wind blowing, may help students concentrate better on the task at hand. Stochastic visual patterns can be introduced by having natural elements outside the classroom, or fritted glass patterns, cast shadows into the classroom, and these can be subtly integrated at periphery of the space. Complex patterns can also be introduced through changes in sound, temperature, airflow and other non-visual environmental attributes that connect people to natural phenomena and create positive distractions.

Conclusion The WELL Building Standard for educational facilities is in pilot status, and research into how to best incorporate design and operational strategies to benefit human health and wellness continues to develop. School districts and designers can use these evolving resources to generate ideas to better promote health and wellness, while considering the ways in which strategies impact each other and relate to other district programs. These concepts can be used to encourage physical activity and connections to nature, limit exposure to pesticides, consider circadian rhythms while selecting classroom lighting or promote ergonomics through furniture





and policy decisions – but significant benefits require that school designers, administrators, teachers and maintenance personnel work together with a focus to support physical and mental wellbeing. 


“The WELL Building Standard,” accessed October 2015, http://


“The WELL Building Standard,” accessed October 2015, http://



“Pest Management for City Departments,” accessed October 2015, “Technical Factsheet on: Glyphosate,” accessed October 2015, historical/upload/Archived-Technical-Fact-Sheet-onGlyphosate.pdf.


“New Jersey School Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program,” last modified September 18, 2015, http://www.


“The WELL Building Standard,”accessed October 2015, http://


“Design lighting for the body, not just the eyes,” November, 20, 2014,


“Circadian Rhythm Lighting,” March 16, 2015, http://www.


Lucas, Robert J. et al. “Measuring and using light in the melanopsin age.” Trends in Neurosciences 37 (2013): Online.

10 Molony, Ray, “Norwegian school pioneers circadian lighting,” LUX Your Independent Guide to Energy-Efficient Lighting, September 1, 2015. 11 Benya, James. September 10, 2015, comment on circadian lighting, “Norwegian school pioneers circadian lighting.” 12 “Blue light has a dark side,” last modified September 2, 2015, 13 Tudor-Locke, Catrine et al. “How many steps/day are enough? for children and adolescents.” International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 78 (2011): Online.

15 “The State of Play: Gallup Survey of Principals on School Recess,” February 2010. 16 Newman, Andrew, “UW marketing class uses trivia to motivate students to use stairs,” May 1, 2014. 17 “The WELL Building Standard,” accessed October 2015, http:// 18 “Why Obesity Is a Health Problem,” last modified February 13, 2013, healthy-weight-basics/obesity.htm. 19 Puhl, Rebecca M, and Chelsea A. Heuer. “Obesity Stigma: Important Considerations for Public Health.” American Journal of Public Health 100 (2010): 1019-1028. 20 “The WELL Building Standard,” accessed October 2015, http:// 21 “Connected Kids: How the internet affects children’s lives now and into the future,” March 2015, 22 Vitale, Susan et al, “Increased Prevalence of Myopia in the United States Between 1971-1972 and 1999-2004,” Journal of the American Medical Association 127 (2009): Online. 23 Morgan, Ian George et al. “Increased Outdoor Time Reduces Incident Myopia – The Guangzhou Outdoor Activity Longitudinal Study,” Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science 55 (2014): Online. 24 Dolgin, Elie, “The myopia boom,” March 18, 2015. 25 Miller, Anna Medaris, “5 Ways Your Standing Desk is Doing More Harm Than Good,” February 17, 2015. 26 Benden, Mark E. et al, “The Evaluation of the Impact of a Stand-Biased Desk on Energy Expenditure and Physical Activity for Elementary School Students,” International Journal of Environmental Research Public Health 11 (2014): 9361-9375. 27 Peters, Adele, “This School Has Bikes Instead of Desks – And It Turns Out That’s A Better Way To Learn,” October 6, 2014. 28 Bowler, Diana E et al. “A systematic review of evidence for the added benefits to health of exposure to natural environments,” BioMed Central Public Health 456 (2010): Online. 29 Browning, W.D. et al, “14 Patterns of Biophilic Design,” accessed October 2015, report/14-patterns/.

14 Hohepa, M et al. “Pedometer-determined physical activity levels of adolescents: differences by age, sex, time of week, and transportation mode to school.” Journal of Physical Activity & Health 5 Suppl 1 (2008): Online.



health and safety

About the Authors Julie Walleisa Julie Walleisa, AIA, LEED AP, ALEP is an architect and Accredited Learning Environment Planner (ALEP) who specializes in programming and design for early childhood, K-12 and higher education facilities. Julie has a Master of Architecture degree from Harvard University and is a principal at Dekker/ Perich/Sabatini.

Mimi Burns Mimi Burns, ASLA, LEED AP, is a landscape architect and planner who focuses on how sustainable site design connects people to nature and improves wellbeing. She has a Master of Landscape Architecture degree from Cornell University and is a principal at Dekker/Perich/Sabatini.

Andrea Mayhew Hanson As a licensed architect and licensed interior designer, Andrea Hanson, AIA, focuses on workplace performance and wellbeing. Andrea is a principal at Dekker/Perich/Sabatini and uses a collaborative design process to create healthy, high-performance environments.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Benden, Mark E. et al. “The Evaluation of the Impact of a Stand-Biased Desk on Energy Expenditure and Physical Activity for Elementary School Students.” International Journal of Environmental Research Public Health 11 (2014): 9361-9375. Benya, James. September 10, 2015, comment on circadian lighting, “Norwegian school pioneers circadian lighting.” LUX Your Independent Guide to Energy-Efficient Lighting, September 1, 2015, “Blue light has a dark side.” Harvard Health Letter. Last modified September 2, 2015. blue-light-has-a-dark-side. Bowler, Diana E et al. “A systematic review of evidence for the added benefits to health of exposure to natural environments.” BioMed Central Public Health 456 (2010): Online. Accessed October 2015. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-10-456. “Circadian Rhythm Lighting.” USAI Lighting, March 16, 2015, “Connected Kids: How the internet affects children’s lives now and into the future.” Childwise Monitor 20th Anniversary Report, March 2015. “Design lighting for the body, not just the eyes.” LUX Your Independent Guide to Energy-Efficient Lighting. November, 20, 2014. http:// Hohepa, M et al. “Pedometer-determined physical activity levels of adolescents: differences by age, sex, time of week, and transportation mode to school.” Journal of Physical Activity & Health 5 Suppl 1 (2008): Online. Accessed October 2015, Dolgin, Elie. “The myopia boom.” Nature International Weekly Journal of Science, March 18, 2015. Lucas, Robert J. et al. “Measuring and using light in the melanopsin age.” Trends in Neurosciences 37 (2013): Online. Accessed October 2015. doi: Miller, Anna Medaris. “5 Ways Your Standing Desk is Doing More Harm Than Good.” U.S. News Health, February 17, 2015. Molony, Ray. “Norwegian school pioneers circadian lighting.” LUX Your Independent Guide to Energy-Efficient Lighting. September 1, 2015. Morgan, Ian George et al. “Increased Outdoor Time Reduces Incident Myopia – The Guangzhou Outdoor Activity Longitudinal Study.” Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science 55 (2014): Online. Accessed October 2015.




A4LE Celebrates the

2015 Architectural Award Winners


rojects of Distinction for new construction, Lighthouse Awards recognizing renovation projects and Design Concept Awards were presented for outstanding planning and inspired architectural design of high quality learning spaces to nine exceptional projects during the recent A4LE LearningSCAPES Conference in San Diego. Juried for excellence in design and functional planning directed toward meeting the needs of the educational program, these outstanding projects demonstrated satisfaction of their intent with regard to the community environment, learning environment and physical environment. Bill Stice, ALEP, A4LE Board member and jury chair commented, “Educational theorist, Haim Ginott, once stated in a seminar to young educators, ‘’I’ve come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom…’ He may well have been speaking to designers and architects of today. Their influence and impact on learning environments speaks to the synergy they have created with educators in the employment of pedagogy and design to perpetuate student performance. I am honored to have been a small part of the process of recognizing these amazing innovators as they epitomize the mission of the Association for Learning Environments.”

Projects of Distinction – New Construction Occupied Facilities Alexandria High School, Alexandria, MN, demonstrated an excellent design process by Cuningham Group Architecture, Inc. Exceptional interfacing with the community accomplished a refined design throughout. The bulk of the academic programming is offered in four ‘academies’ in a pair of nearly identical 3-story academic wings—small learning environments that feature a vast array of flexible learning spaces bathed in natural light and

drenched in technology, along with a variety of specialized hands-on learning LPA, Inc.’s Johnson Middle School, Westminster, CA, displays crisp and resolved architecture with age appropriate interiors. The developmental process lead to exploration centers designed for extensive differentiated learning. The new “Exploration Center” blurs the lines between Technology, Art, Science and Shop with the new highly configurable, highly-flexible spaces that offer unique and personalized hands-on environments for students. Kellam High School, Virginia Beach, VA, highlights a robust process where interaction with a full spectrum of stakeholders in collaborative planning led to an extraordinary facility. A new prototype for 21st Century learning, Kellam is founded on the principles of studentcentered challenge-based learning and focused on developing skills in critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration, communication and community service. Many of the features of Kellam High School, planned and designed by HBA Architecture and Interior Design, Inc., pay tribute to the local agrarian environment. Part of the project-based learning curriculum at Kellam High School has enabled students to interact with local businesses. This unique “beach shack” inspired architecture, conceived by Fulton Trotter Architects, suits the purpose of motivating disengaged youth. Noosa Flexible Learning Centre, Noosa, Queensland, is open and engaging in its welcome to students and the community. Noosa provides a benefit to the community by offering learning and social support services to disengaged youth. The safe, intimate spaces give the students security to branch out. The Flexible Learning Centres are safe, inclusive and engaging places of learning that are the focal points of gathering for communities. They have contributed to the development of community



leadership and participation in the local, state and national political agenda. Seven Stones, Regina, Saskatchewan, embraces a building of flexible learning communities that are visually and physically connected around a central atrium instructional area. The teaching team collaborates to create a schedule that allows for rotation of each learning space based on student need and abilities and varying learning modalities. Planned and designed by Number TEN Architectural Group and Fielding Nair International, it is not hard to recognize the extensive opportunities for collaboration and engagement that this building provides.

Lighthouse Award – Renovation Projects Recognized as one of the most creative re-uses of space, Intrinsic, Chicago, IL, incorporates a great design with a very compelling floor plan. School buildings rarely are designed to support nontraditional teaching models. Intrinsic’s bold and unprecedented vision required a campus worthy of its mission. Taking a step into the future, Wheeler Kearns Architects succeeded by designing the first campus in the country designed to truly support a Blended Learning curriculum—a school without a single traditional classroom. Students learn in cohorts of up to 180 in a pod approach that utilizes the new and old portions of the building, thus creating a very stimulating environment.

families moving here to support the technology industry in Silicon Valley. The school in Milpitas, CA must be a valued resource for this community, cultivating community among families that speak different languages. The front plaza is envisioned as “the front porch” for the community. Effective stakeholder engagement in the design process was followed by a post occupancy evaluation…”did we achieve our goal?” New High School #4, demonstrated BakerNowicki Design Studio’s rigorously and impressively developed concept design on all levels. Educational specifications for the high school focused on three primary academic concepts: small learning communities, centers of applied learning and the Center for Advanced Science Exploration. The planning introduced three strategies for their implementationflexibility, collaboration and socialization. The Centers for Applied Learning were crafted around the local community’s growth and economy, preparing students for post-secondary rigor and the local work force. 

Farmington, ME’s Mt. Blue Campus is the product of PDT Architects excellent design process that resulted in the creation of many different learning communities. In spite of the site’s rural location, the building is planned and designed to encourage teenagers and adults to cross paths and to erase the distinction between academic and vocational learning and between high school, college, and vocational programs. Mt. Blue demonstrates the ultimate interpretation of an environment that is active and alive!

Design Concept Award – Projects in the Design Phase Gould Evans’ Milpitas Elementary epitomizes a welldeveloped learning community. A large majority of the students are projected to be new immigrants to this country, predominantly from India and China, their




Brad D. Pfluger Honored as Association for Learning Environments Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Brad Pfluger, AIA, ALEP, President, Pfluger Associates L.P., is the recipient of the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award, presented at the recent Association for Learning Environments (A4LE) LearningSCAPES conference in San Diego, CA. This award, the highest and most prestigious honor conferred by A4LE to an individual, is designed to honor a member who has distinguished themselves by making significant lasting contributions to the educational facility planning industry throughout their illustrious career. As a tireless advocate for excellence and innovation in educational facilities that support learning models and instructional styles, Brad Pfluger’s collaborative spirit defines him as a person—and is the essence of his life’s calling as an architect and school planner. He firmly believes that sharing ideas and learning from one another is critical to success. Brad

Pfluger is committed to achieving educational improvements by bringing stakeholders together through volunteer efforts with numerous educational and community organizations. “A strong proponent of 21st century school design and current trends and issues in the educational facility design process, Brad’s willingness to mentor others involved in school design and planning has helped to shape numerous colleagues into architects and leaders, positively impacting the facility planning arena,” remarked David Waggoner, AIA, LEED AP, BD+C, ALEP, jury chair. Brad Pfluger is strongly committed to the profession of architecture and the intellectual growth of his firm members. Every year, Brad takes the entire firm and their family members to various cities to foster team building and increase their knowledge of architectural concepts in different regions of the country. 

Philip Idle Named Association for Learning Environments’ Director of the Year Philip Idle, a director of Edgar Idle Wade (EIW) Architects and Australasia Director on the Association for Learning Environments’ Board of Directors, was honored as the organization’s Director of the Year at the LearningSCAPES 2015 Conference in San Diego. The Board of Directors unveiled the organization’s new name and brand at the recent conference. Selected by his peers as the 2015 outstanding board member, Philip Idle played a key role in the organization’s rebranding efforts. “Philip Idle was recognized for his work in leading

a huge team of people who have engaged in analysis and discussion about our organization and what people respond to,” said Chair Dan Mader. “We’ve looked at how we related to our members and what’s important to them. These conversations framed our rebranding effort.” With expertise in the design and planning of educational facilities, Philip Idle’s work encompasses both the private and government sectors in Western Australia and has been recognized internationally. Philip’s experience on educational projects the consultation phases of the projects and the facilitation of the master planning processes. 



Ronald Fanning Receives A4LE Chairman’s Award


Ron Fanning, AIA, P.Eng., ALEP, NCEE, was honored with the Association for Learning Environment’s (A4LE) Chairman’s Award during the recent LearningSCAPES Conference in San Diego, CA. Presented in the name of the ishes and styles, Big Ass Fans® A4LE’s past chairs, this tribute is awarded o suit any space. Choose from to an individual who has demonstrated continuing service to the organization. wood grains, or sendmeritorious us your

build you a fan to match. than 50 years, Ron Fanning, chairman emeritus, Ass Fans For keepmore you comfortable Fanning Howey, ng and air conditioning and has provided national leadership in the effort to bring visibility to the condition of America’s s. That’s style and savings, at

school buildings, advocating the modernization of learning environments to support 21st century educational programs. During his career, Ron Fanning has been involved in the planning and design of more than 1,000 new and renovated K-12 schools.

“Each year, the chairman gets to pick one person who has influenced them through any portion of or their entire tenure in the leadership of the Association for Learning Environments. I have had the honor and privilege to work with Ron Fanning for my entire professional career. Ron has guided me every step of the way,” remarked Dan Mader, chair, A4LE. “Ron Fanning personifies a true lifetime of dedication and contribution to the betterment of educational facilities. But, perhaps his greatest contribution to the industry has come through his service and support to A4LE, where he has done much to advance our organization. President of the Board of Directors in 2003, Ron Fanning has maintained a lifetime commitment to A4LE, serving as a colleague, mentor and friend to many of the organization’s current and future leaders,” continued Mader. 

isit and 16 for more information.

Big Ass Fan Captures Association for Learning Environments Industry Partner Award

The Association for Learning Environments (A4LE) Industry Partner award is designed to highlight innovation in materials, technology, products and services that are key elements in defining healthy, resilient, 21st Century learning spaces. New and innovative products promote the resourceful development of educational environments. This competition recognizes the results of those efforts and the foresight of the companies whose policies bring resilient and sustainable products to the marketplace. They are making a difference! Congratulations to Big Ass Fan® for their Haiku® ceiling fan, designed with smaller spaces in mind, making it a popular choice for schools, media centers and administrative offices. The fan’s silent and ultra-efficient motor is seamlessly integrated into its minimalist frame and its advanced electronics include seven speeds and customized modes. Haiku combines an award-winning design with unprecedented energy-efficiency for a complete reinvention of ceiling fans. A stand-out in energy efficiency, Haiku®

uses direct current, permanent magnetics and aerodynamic airfoils, making it 80% more efficient than other conventional ceiling fans. Haiku also owns the top 17 ENERGY STAR ratings for ceiling fans. The runner-up for the 2015 Industry Partner Award is Solatube International’s SkyVault® M74 DS Series, the largest tubular daylight device to date. Offering highoutput illumination, the SkyVault provides a 74-centimeter opening to the sky, resulting in higher daylight illumination, greater spacing between units and fewer roof penetrations. Additional features include an Amplifier that delivers focused light over greater distances and reduces light loss at the ceiling plane and a Collector which makes it possible to capture significantly more low angle daylight than traditional skylights without heating the building interior. Solatube International’s products, such as SkyVault, are designed using passive optical technology in order to significantly reduce system costs and maintenance and ensure that they better performance. 




Hats Off


to the A4LE 2015 Fellows

he A4LE Fellowship Award is one of the most distinguished honors conferred by the Council to those members who have provided exemplary contributions to the organization over their many years of service. A fellow is the most respected members of the A4LE community. They represent the mark of excellence in the industry in which they serve and are widely recognized as those that have advanced the association and its mission.

David C. Edwards, ALEP Senior partner of Edwards Edwards McEwen Architects and an A4LE member for the past 23 years, David Edwards has been involved in planning and designing effective educational facility projects throughout his career. Actively participating in the organization, David has always advocated the sharing of ideas and best practices, not only with fellow designers but also with the greater education community as the key to increasing excellence in learning spaces. David has served in leadership roles in the PNW region and the International Board of Directors. Connecting with other organizations and inspiring dialogues across diverse and global boundaries, David shares the benefits and mission inherent in A4LE membership. Thankful for the mentors who have helped him along the way, David never misses an opportunity to encourage others, sharing his knowledge and visions for the future of learning

Bill Heinicke, ALEP, LEED AP Bill Heinickeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s nature is to lead quietly and get a lot done! Bill draws from the vast facility planning experiences in both the public and private sectors he has garnered over his nearly 30 years as an architect, embracing A4LE as a guide to his career path. Bill possesses the critical skill of articulating architectural concepts in relatable terms to all audiences, which he utilizes to connect with communities through outreach efforts, volunteerism and architecture and construction support services. Bill has served in a variety of leadership roles from the local chapter to the international board and has contributed to the image and complexion of A4LE as a whole while serving on several task force groups, strategic planning teams and chapter and regional development programs. A4LE has fueled his daily drive to publicly serve his community by incorporating the contributions of others as well as the vision and mission CEFPI represents. Mark Warneke, ALEP Mark Warnekeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s professional career has been dedicated to creating and maintaining quality educational environments and facilities. Early in his A4LE membership two individuals, Ron Fanning and Ron McKnight, discussed the benefits of A4LE and its impact on the environment of the students. One of the greatest benefits is open communication and sharing of ideas between all facets of educational design. An A4LE member for 24 years, Mark has advocated for open communication and free exchange of ideas to increase excellence in educational facilities. Mark strongly believes that exchange of ideas is not on



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