Pioneer Middle School
DLR Group - Seattle
Honorable Mention Winner 2009 Education Design Showcase

Project Fact Sheet
Facility Use: K-12 Middle
Project Type: New Construction
Category: Whole Building/Campus Design
Location: Du Pont, WA
District/Inst.: Steilacoom Historical School District #1
   Dr. Arthur Himmler Superindendent
Completion Date: September 2008
Design Capacity: 850 students
Enrollment: 550 students
Gross Area: 108,000 sq.ft.
Space per pupil: 127 sq.ft.
Site size: 20 acres
Cost per student: $27,190
Cost per sq.ft.: $230.00
Total project cost: $34,800,000
Building construction cost: $24,884,100
Site development cost: $1,047,350
Furniture & equipment cost: $1,605,580
Fees and other: $6,847,540
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Pioneer Middle School

In many buildings, sustainability is invisible. It’s an unnoticed breath of clean air; it’s the reduced use of water in the bathroom; or it’s the history of the material you’re standing on while your attention is focused on your activity. But at Pioneer Middle School in DuPont, Wash.,  the value of sustainable choices and building features is not only visible, it is linked to every day learning.

DLR Group led six design workshops, including an eco-charette, with the school district and patrons to develop design goals and an integrated sustainable design program. The project team then went one step further and collaborated with educators over a span of eight months to develop specific sustainability curricula and means to incorporate the Pioneer Middle School building as a tool in the educational experience. The ultimate example includes exposed building systems, lesson plans, teaching aids and building signage.

“We get a lot more ‘a-ha’ moments because we can physically point to elements in the building and relate that back to our lesson. Students are more excited when they can actually see up close and personal the lesson teachers are trying to explain,” said Laura Lowe, Pioneer Middle School teacher.

“Students seem to really appreciate and value their new school,” said Kristi Webster, Pioneer Middle School Principal. “And as teachers have become familiar with the building, they are using specific building features and spaces as an integral part of their lessons, which is engaging students in new ways of learning.”

A Grant Enhances Sustainable Design
When the school’s design was well into the Contract Documents phase, potential supplemental funding grants became available for a wide range of projects as part of the Washington Sustainable Schools Protocol (WSSP) program. WSSP is a continuation of the State’s commitment to developing sustainability in schools. DLR Group collaborated with the District and submitted the grant application for Pioneer Middle School, which received the highest amount available to a new middle school, $350,000.

The WSSP funds allowed the District to incorporate a more robust level of sustainable design into the new school. In collaboration with DLR Group, teachers and staff made a strategic decision to design sustainable elements within the building and develop a focused curriculum around these features.

Design Collaboration
The district identified a core design team of two teachers and the Principal to collaborate with DLR Group designers. This group gathered to strategize implementation of a new curriculum at Pioneer Middle School, which supports sixth, seventh and eighth grade levels.

“Teachers and staff were excited about the opportunity to work so closely with the designers. In the beginning we were all part of the brainstorming sessions, but later a core group of teachers and administrators became the voice of the District,” said Lowe.

DLR Group and Pioneer staff communicated regularly about the curriculum, with each correspondence advancing the building as a learning tool concept. The teachers did what they do best during the collaborative process, they educated. They provided information and resources necessary for DLR Group’s complete understanding of the curriculum requirements.

“Working with DLR Group designers was a positive experience. They were very open to our ideas, and when they didn’t fully understand a concept, they would go out on their own to research a topic and how it applies to middle school curriculum,” said Lowe. ““The design didn’t happen in one pow wow because one meeting was not enough time to tackle all of the issues and curriculum elements we wanted included in the building.”

Multiple brainstorming meetings were critical to the success of the final design. By extending the design process over several months, DLR Group was able to digest and research exactly what teachers were asking to be implemented in the design.

Hands-on Learning
Educating students, staff and the community about energy conservation, specifically the impact of routine activities and individual habits on energy use, was a priority of the district. The design solution is an energy measuring device that provides students with water, gas and electricity data, as well as past/present weather information.

This “green touchscreen” is prominently positioned at the main public entrance. A network of energy sensors throughout the building streams constant energy consumption data to the touchscreen display that is accessible by students, staff and visitors. A graphic readout of building resource consumption allows teachers to conduct hands-on coursework and experiments so students can learn about responsible energy use within the context of a building designed for maximum energy efficiency.

Students also compare current energy use data against past history and standard school energy use to understand how the design of their new school positively impacts the environment. Extensive skylights and operable windows result in 90 percent daylight for total light use at the school.

Respecting the landscape also was a key goal for the design. The school is wholly integrated into the site, with minimal impact to the ecology. The design aesthetic takes its cues from the natural surroundings to better foster a user’s sense of connection to the environment. The protected savannah of Garry Oak Trees is unique to the area and inspired the “Tree of Knowledge” library.

A Sign of Knowledge
Interior and exterior signage highlights sustainable features as well as general building concepts to enhance middle school curricula. The signage demonstrates how the design reduced the building’s environmental impact and how students can further engage in sustainable practices.

Signage illustrating sustainable elements of the school unifies the site and allows visitors to grasp the underlying theme of the school: environmental stewardship. The signage demonstrates how the design reduces the school building’s environmental impact and how students can further engage in sustainable practices.

A concern of educators throughout the process was how their curriculum evolves over time, so any graphic displays needed to be flexible. Teachers shared curriculum components for core subjects at each grade level, and many of these aspects were used in the signage displays. DLR Group prepared an entire graphics package with multiple signs for each subject. These signs are color coded to reflect a specific subject: yellow signs = math; green signs = science. Teachers were provided templates so they can implement signage messaging into lesson plans, and easily create new signs for future displays.

Through the signage, visitors and students can learn how local resources were used to build their facility; ways they can recycle and reuse everyday products; educational performance and personal benefits of natural daylighting; and how to reduce waste through composting.

Outdoor Opportunities
Students and visitors don’t need to step inside the building for lessons in sustainable strategies. Outdoor learning opportunities are everywhere at Pioneer Middle School. Students can experiment with edible food and herb gardens, and monitor plant growth and composting in small learning patios just outside the academic wing.

DLR Group initially proposed a teaching garden, but teachers enhanced the idea by providing a plant list for the garden they could incorporate into their dissection curriculum. In collaboration with landscape architect Aspen Design Group, the design team created a working garden and a world history herb garden for science and food-lab instructors. The herb garden is divided into sections representing different eras and the herbs that would have been prevalent during that era. The Renaissance and Age of Discovery herbs include chives and parsley, while the Eastern Asia and Pacific garden includes bronze fennel and ginseng.

Students and staff participate in a campus-wide recycling program with recycling stations located in each pod, in the commons and in the cafeteria. In addition, space has been provided for a food composting program to be integrated with the science, health and foods lab program.

The parking lot is a prime example of creative means to reduce pollution and improve air quality. On-site parking is minimized to support alternative transportation such as pedestrian and bike access, school bussing and public transportation. Special parking also is assigned for carpool and alternative fuel vehicles.

“The ability to take the classroom outdoors adds variety, engagement and connections to classroom lessons,” said Principal Webster. “Some teachers have already made use of the garden as part of their curriculum.”

Creating Global Citizens
From the building design, to the building resources and the curricula, Pioneer Middle School is truly a lesson in sustainability. Students realize how small changes, such as minimizing energy usage, recycling, and composting, can affect the environment in a big way. The ultimate lesson at Pioneer Middle School teaches students to become global citizens.

“By including so many sustainable features in our school, we have created a culture with the students that we didn’t have before,” said Lowe. “Even in the other schools where we recycled, the concept of protecting the environment wasn’t to the level it is at the new school.”

Project Description:
1) Control of Institution: Public
2) Type of Institution: Traditional
6) Community: Designed for Community Functions

Locale:
Suburban

Methodology & Standards:
District/Institution Decision; Life-cycle Costs

Funding Method(s):
Primary Source: Alternative Source; Primary Source: Revenue Bonds
Alternative Sources: Green School Appropriations/Grants

Project Delivery Method(s):
Single-Prime

Sustainable/Green Design:
Principles Followed: Other (WSSP)
Site Selection and Development: Site Selection (WSSP); Stormwater Management (WSSP); Heat Island Reduction (WSSP); Building Orientation (WSSP)
Energy Efficiency and Conservation: Energy Efficiency (WSSP); Building Automation/Energy Management Systems (WSSP); Natural Ventilation (WSSP)
Materials Use: Recycling/Reuse (WSSP); Sustainable Materials Selection (WSSP)
Indoor Environmental Quality: Use of Daylighting (WSSP); Electric Lighting Systems/Controls (WSSP); Acoustics (WSSP); Indoor Air Quality (WSSP)
Commissioning: Building/systems have been commissioned (WSSP)

Architect(s):

Associated Firms and Consultants:
Educational Planning: DLR Group
Interior Design: DLR Group
Landscape Architecture: Aspen Design (Paul Dix )
Construction/Project Management: Hill International (John Boatman & Rusty Pritchard)
General Contractor: Babbit Neuman Construction Company (Scott Babbit, Project Manager)
Structural Engineer: DLR Group
Electrical Engineer: DLR Group
Mechanical Engineer: DLR Group
Civil Engineer: Saez Consulting Engineers (Jaime Saez )
Acoustical Consultant: SSA Acoustics (Bill Stewart )
Food Service/Kitchen Consultant: JLR Design Group (Les Jones )
Cost Consultant: The Robinson Company (Sharon Kennedy )
Other: Heath Associates (Greg Heath )

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