Miami-Dade County Prototype Schools - West Hialeah Elementary School
M. C. Harry and Associates, Inc.
Honorable Mention Winner 2008 Education Design Showcase

Project Fact Sheet
Facility Use: K-12 Elementary
Project Type: New Construction
Category: Whole Building/Campus Design
Location: Hialeah Gardens, FL
District/Inst.: Miami-Dade County Public Schools
   Jaime G. Torrens Chief Facilities Officer, Office of School Facilities
Completion Date: August 2007
Design Capacity: 1,239 students
Enrollment: 1,201 students
Gross Area: 126,000 sq.ft.
Space per pupil: 102 sq.ft.
Site size: 8 acres
Cost per student: $25,018
Cost per sq.ft.: $246.00
Total project cost: $30,997,800
Building construction cost: $24,623,000
Site purchase cost: $1,574,310
Site development cost: $2,330,000
Furniture & equipment cost: $1,800,000
Fees and other: $1,524,790
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MDCPS Prototype Elementary Schools: West Hialeah Elementary School


The goal of the ‘prototype system’ is to achieve a high performance school that delivers meaningful civic presence; responds well to varying site conditions; and creates an inviting educational environment for impressionable young minds. This architectural response involves a collection of ‘proto-parts’ creating a village-scale campus organized around a central ‘Mainstreet’ pedestrian environment.

The library, an iconic expression of lifelong learning, is located on the second floor directly over the entry breezeway, and is a key element in the composition of the school’s main entrance. School administration offices are located directly off the breezeway to maximize visual control over those entering and exiting the campus.

The interior design of the ‘cafetorium’ accommodates not only the school’s lunch activity, but also the special acoustic and lighting requirements of a 400-seat performance venue for staged productions, musical events, and public address.

The architectural vocabulary for the campus is based on a ‘tilt-wall model’. This construction model organizes a system of abstract, yet coherent, visual relationships expressed through the use of asymmetric, geometric, and planar wall elements.

Techniques for achieving student-oriented scale and proportion for the school include the use of wall plane articulation, fenestration, and the controlled use of bold color.

Sustainable design strategies were derived from the California High Performance Schools initiative and the national Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.

Aesthetic Use of Tilt-Up

Each ‘proto-part’ of the elementary school campus is designed to take advantage of the inherent characteristics of tilt-wall construction while avoiding the ‘big box’ architectural expression often times associated with this construction technique. Through the use of intersecting planes and plane changes, cast reveals, a controlled color palette, and carefully composed wall fenestration, each campus building articulates a discernable ‘Tab A into Slot B’ construction model.

‘School Within a School’

The student body of our prototype school can range in size from 800 to 1200 students. One of the unique features of the 400 student classroom building ‘proto-part’ is its allusion to a smaller and more personal school environment accommodating grades ranging from pre-k through 5th. In this scenario, the process of elementary matriculation is housed within a single building, and each student’s school experience is shared, in turn, with a more intimate and recognizable group of fellow students. The school campus includes two such classroom buildings expandable to three buildings in the future.

Collaboration Room

Each floor of the 2-story ‘proto-part’ classroom building is divided into two separate classroom wings by a double loaded corridor. Each classroom wing is comprised of five or six individual classrooms organized around a central common entry space dubbed ‘the collaboration room’. Beyond its function as a secondary circulation space, this innovative multi-purpose ‘collaboration room’ performs as a group study/activity space, provides access to ten computer stations, and as a classroom lobby space, promotes a spirit of student union and community. The collaboration room is visually accessed and derives daylighting from each of the surrounding classrooms.


The ‘mainstreet’ environment is designed as a central campus circulation and landscaped casual gathering space. It is defined by the classroom and core buildings which flank it, and its character is enhanced by the outdoor dining and shaded activity spaces which front on it. Its width to height ratios were calculated to maximize the intimate pedestrian feel of the space, the careful composition of wall planes, fenestration, and color communicate a ‘building block’ aesthetic with young students in mind.

Technologic Provisions

The design of a ‘new generation’ public school environment must take advantage of the rapid advance in technology. Concepts employed on the prototype schools include:

Touch sensitive interactive whiteboards that enable the student/teacher to save notes to a computer and print/email/fax as necessary.

All classrooms, ‘collaboration rooms’ and the media center have power and data connections to multiple computer stations to promote independent learning activities.

A safe and secure school campus is fundamental to a productive learning environment. Not only does the school incorporate the strategies of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), but also is wired for campus wide CCTV camera monitoring.

Unlike traditional school cafetoriums, this ‘proto-part’ cafetorium is designed to perform as an auditorium first and a cafeteria second. Accordingly, special attention was given to the design of both acoustic and lighting controls. Through the combined use of sound absorption panels and curved, sound reflective panels, superior sound diffusion is available with a reverberation time of one second; ideal for the range of activities hosted in this space including theatric and musical events, public speaking, and enthusiastic lunch hour dining.

The school campus includes a 125-foot instructional television (ITV) tower located at the end of ‘Mainstreet’. The tower supports both a parabolic microwave dish antenna to receive WLRN TV broadcasts, and an AM/FM antenna receiving radio broadcasts which can be played over the school wide intercom system.

The decentralized HVAC design utilizes multiple A/C units, each serving classrooms that share common heat gain characteristics, for more responsive temperature control. This results in enhanced thermal comfort and reduced energy consumption.

Flexibility for Community Use

Community use of campus facilities is a fundamental program objective. The ‘proto-part’ design response has isolated three key campus spaces for convenient community access during after school hours. The media center, an ideal space for book readings, small scale lectures, and computer classes, is located on the second floor and can be accessed via elevator or stair directly from the school’s main entry breezeway; the auditorium, which includes a raised stage, dressing rooms, and operable seating for 400 patrons, is an ideal venue for large scale lectures, little theatre productions, aerobic/dance classes, and musical events; the collaboration spaces in each classroom building can be used as an adult education meeting/classroom space with access to computer terminals, all without compromising classroom security.

Barrier Free Accessibility

The limited site acreage available for this collection of prototype elementary schools required both a two-story design solution for the classroom buildings, and the placement of the media center on an upper level. Accordingly, an elevator has been made part of the design, located directly off the main entry breezeway and adjacent to campus administration offices. The elevator’s second floor lobby is common with the media center’s lobby, and offers access to a second level covered walkway system linked to each classroom building.

Sustainable Design Strategies

Energy and water conservation strategies, coupled with indoor air quality strategies, have been incorporated into the prototype elementary schools. These concepts include stormwater quantity/quality control; water efficient landscaping and plumbing fixtures; enhanced energy performance; the use of R134A refrigerants and regional materials; an outdoor air delivery monitoring system; low emitting finish materials; zoned HVAC system for thermal comfort control; daylighting in all regularly occupied spaces; and mold prevention measures.

Fourth Grade Student Responses to Survey First reaction: “Oh, my God!” - Melissa, 4th grade

Favorite part of the school: “The library, because it has a great view and it is a very quiet and peaceful place.” - Karina, 4th grade

First reaction: “My first day at school was like being in heaven.” - Jordan J., 4th grade

Favorite part of the school: “Everything! I don’t have one favorite because it is so beautiful.”- Melissa, 4th grade

Favorite part of school: “The stairs. How many elementary schools have another floor?” - Jefferson, 4th grade

First reaction: “It was great, all these beautiful colors.” - Da’Jour, 4th grade

Owner Comments

“They have been very responsive towards the needs of the project in general, and the criteria of the owner in particular....under very difficult restraints of time and budget, and (they) have met, or exceeded the needs of the project throughout the entire process.” - Erick Laventure, Executive Director, Office of Facilities Construction, Miami-Dade County Public Schools

Project Description:
1) Control of Institution: Public
2) Type of Institution: Traditional
3) Education Model: School-within-a-School


Methodology & Standards:
District/Institution Decision; First-Cost; Prototype Design

Funding Method(s):
Primary Source: Alternative Source
Alternative Sources: Secondary: Other (Certificates of Participation)

Project Delivery Method(s):
CM At-Risk

Sustainable/Green Design:
Principles Followed: LEED; CHPS
Site Selection and Development: Building Orientation
Water Conservation: Water Conservation
Energy Efficiency and Conservation: Energy Efficiency; Building Automation/Energy Management Systems; Natural Ventilation
Materials Use: Sustainable Materials Selection
Indoor Environmental Quality: Use of Daylighting; Acoustics; Indoor Air Quality


Associated Firms and Consultants:
Landscape Architecture: Laura Llerena & Associates
General Contractor: Suffolk Construction Company
Structural Engineer: Bliss & Nyitray, Inc.
Electrical Engineer: SDM Consulting Engineers
Mechanical Engineer: SDM Consulting Engineers
Civil Engineer: EAC Consulting, Inc.
Acoustical Consultant: Bob Holley, Arts Environments
Food Service/Kitchen Consultant: Schwartz Schwartz & Associates, Inc.

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