Issues & AdvocacyIssues & Advocacy
Green Ribbon Schools Winner: Stoddert Elementary School
AIA Advocacy has posted the official photos from Stoddert Elementary on the new Facebook page.
Looking at all the ways Stoddert Elementary School in Washington, DC demonstrates leading environmental and green building practices, you’d never guess that the project started out with a historical building being stretched beyond its original purpose. The school building was built in 1932 and was severely undersized to serve its school and community needs by the time Perkins Eastman Architects were brought on board to update the campus in 2009.
According to project lead Sean O’Donnell, AIA, LEED AP, the original goals of the project were to modernize and expand the school. One of the main problems with the existing building was that there were no common spaces such as a gym or a cafeteria. An arrangement among the DC Department of General Services, the Department of Education and the Department of Parks and Recreation allowed the project leaders to think differently about how the space would ultimately be used.
The end result of the project, which was completed in August 2010, is a campus shared equally between the school and the neighboring community. The building uses cutting-edge environmental practices and technologies to maximize space, light, and energy. The size of the building increased from 17,000 square feet to 65,000 square feet. The school is built to LEED Gold standards and has the first geothermal heating and cooling system in Washington.
During the day, it is a 300+ student elementary school, but in the evening it is a community center, including both the buildings and the grounds. The Department of Parks and Recreation also runs a preschool on the campus during the day. O’Donnell says the building was specifically designed to be zoned to allow the multipurpose facilities to be used by the community without compromising security and operations of the school. This meant that some elements of the building were designed differently than a traditional elementary school. For example, the gym is middle school sized so adults can use it on nights and weekends comfortably to play basketball.
What makes this arrangement work, according to O’Donnell, are several features of the building’s design. There is an abundance of natural light, and views are fundamental to the design. There are many places in the building where a visitor can stand in one place and look through the building in two directions. The distinction between in and out is blurred in several places, such as how the gym flows into the amphitheater which opens into the community garden.
Curriculum – Building Integration
O’Donnell says one of the best parts of the project is how the school has integrated building features into its curriculum. A new principal came on board during the project who was excited by the possibilities presented with the green campus. Teachers and administrators used science educational standards and the architecture of the campus to create a curriculum of 10 hours per year targeted to each grade level. For example, to learn about the environment and life cycles, the younger students study the life cycle of the trees on campus and build bird houses. Younger students also grow plants in their classrooms in the winter and then plant them in the community garden in the spring, to learn about the environment and nutrition.
Older students run the Energy Patrol and the Recycling Team. The Energy Patrol is an ambassador program where students give tours of the campus to visitors and younger students and explain the different environmentally-friendly features. The Recycling Team gathers and processes recyclable materials each week for the whole school.
Impact on Community
O’Donnell describes the Stoddert School project as one of the great projects of his career. He visits the site often and says it’s fun to see the students personalize the environment, from the community garden to the curtain wall on the porch of the school. “There are always great projects out there taking advantage of the light and the views.” O’Donnell frequently leads tours of the campus and has opportunities to get feedback from the school’s neighbors about the project. He says there is a lot of positive feedback and many comments about how the school has really become a center of the community.
What has made this project special was the synergy among the all the shareholders involved. “To have everybody totally engaged from the principal [of the school] to the client to the community all trying to make it happen is why it happened. If everyone wasn’t on board trying to create something that was perfect for the community, it wouldn’t be firing on all cylinders like it has.”
Head over to the AIA Advocacy Facebook page to see all of the official photos of the school. AIA Advocacy staff also had the chance to take a tour of the school lead by Sean O’Donnell. The photos from that tour will be posted on the Facebook page as well, and stay tuned to the Issues & Advocacy website for a complete description of the tour.
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