Project of Distinction Winner 2012 Education Design Showcase
||Facility Use: K-12 Elementary
Project Type: New Construction
Category: Whole Building/Campus Design
Location: State College, PA
District/Inst.: State College Area School District
Dr. Robert O'Donnell
Completion Date: August 2011
Design Capacity: 400 students
Enrollment: 342 students
Gross Area: 60,500 sq.ft.
Space per pupil: 151 sq.ft.
Site size: 56 acres
Cost per student: $28,651
Cost per sq.ft.: $189.00
Total project cost: $16,114,500
Building construction cost: $11,460,500
Site development cost: $1,344,550
Furniture & equipment cost: $631,683
Fees and other: $2,427,740
MOUNT NITTANY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
The new 60,500 SF Mount Nittany Elementary School, built on the site of the former Panorama Village Elementary School in the State College Area School District was designed to house 400 K-5 students and allow for future expansion to accommodate 500 students.
At the start of the project, goals and visions for the project were discussed at a Community Touchstone Dinner that included members of the school community, administration, faculty, staff and student body. Although a number of goals were identified, prioritization showed that the biggest points of focus for the new facility included:
- A design that supports the learning program with high educational outcomes
- Highly adaptable and flexible spaces with instructional flexibility
- Energy efficiency
- Adequate teacher space/amenities
- Building and landscape (with outdoor recreation) as teaching tools
- LEED Gold or Platinum certification
- Adequate and appropriate storage/display/exhibit areas
- Thermal comfort
- Indoor air quality and operable windows
The design team, working closely with the District and the community, responded with a new facility design that achieves all goals.
Educational Program Features
The learning space design for the facility focuses on a centrally-located Learning Resource Center surrounded by large group instruction areas that branch into classroom areas. The classroom clusters promote several levels of social and academic interaction by providing individual, group learning and typical classroom settings.
The Learning Resource Center:
- incorporates vibrant colors to enhance the ‘fun’ behind research and learning
- includes two levels of space, providing areas for research on the upper level and group learning on the level below
- is located directly adjacent to the outdoor learning garden to allow for exterior teaching on nice days
- is located at the core of the structure and is adjacent to the large group instruction spaces to provide equidistant proximity for all
- is located adjacent to the main entry to provide evening access for the community
The educational elements of the facility, combined with the organization of the learning spaces, allow the facility to promote the concept of “learning anytime, anywhere.”
The Planning Process
The planning process included a Community Project Touchstone Dinner, a day-long goal-setting workshop, and two days of design charrettes for over 200 members of the school community, administration, faculty, staff and student body. The group was invited to engage in visioning and brainstorming sessions as well as hands-on workshops that were facilitated by the design team but that utilized the ideas of the group.
The planning process offered multiple opportunities to express thoughts on existing facilities, program, educational needs, and learning environment design. Continuous follow-up public meetings conducted in person and on District television station kept the public informed.
Special Challenges and Solutions
Because the District had a very negative experience with the results of a previous project, they elected for this project to include a planning process that involved a significant amount of community input. Although the design team always looks upon community input favorably, the challenge presented within this particular project was that the full planning and design process needed to take place in a very condensed time period, with the project progressing from planning to bid in 8 months. To achieve success, the team instituted a planning process (described above) that gained the public involvement and input required.
Designed to function as a teaching tool, the building incorporates some unique features that include:
- a ‘Building Dashboard’ that helps students to be aware of how much energy is being used by the building,
- rain gardens and butterfly gardens visible through windows and incorporated into learning,
- a building compass built into the floor surfacing to teach students about true north and magnetic north,
- heights marked in the bricks to illustrate measurement and scale
- exposed, color-coded building systems and structural systems
- a gnomon at the main entry that functions as a sundial.
The effectiveness of using the building as a teaching tool was validated during the tours given by fourth grade students at the opening of the facility. The students were able to describe to visitors the building systems, bilateral daylighting, rain gardens as aids to storm water control, and recycled/renewable materials utilized throughout the building. Although developed as a response to this particular school facility, their understanding and awareness of the features and their meaning will be transferred to other settings, encouraging curiosity and promoting perception.
Safety and Security Considerations
To maintain security within the facility, the design utilizes a secure vestibule concept along with access-controlled doors and minimal CCTV on the exterior of the building. Also, the central ramp area of the facility is designed such that you can see the entire set of classroom clusters from any point, thus facilitating visibility and simple observation of the classroom areas.
Environmental Considerations and Materials Choices
The facility (final LEED certification status to be determined, currently borderline Silver/Gold) utilizes a ground source heat pump system; incorporates a reflective roof system; uses roof monitors for bilateral daylighting within classrooms to reduce the need for artificial lighting; uses rain gardens to aid with storm water control; utilizes high value wall insulation systems with light gauge steel and combinations of masonry and metal panel systems; uses low flow fixtures; incorporates exterior light shades and shelves within oversized windows to optimize overall daylighting; and uses reused, renewable and recycled materials.
The building is an inspirational facility both inside and out. The striking front entry tower draws students and parents alike into the transparent central ramp area. Once inside, all community areas are visually connected through glazed openings to the colorful central ramp system. Windows are abundantly located throughout the building with most providing dramatic views of the ranges of hills surround the facility, including views to Mount Nittany, for which the school is named.
The school, which is one story at the entrance, expands to two stories linked by a series of centrally-located ramps that offer easy accessibility and unite the classroom clusters. The multi-story design follows the slope of the topography, minimizing the amount of site work required.
The new facility is situated within a high-volume residential area and, as a result of public input throughout the planning process, responds to important community issues that include:
- connecting the surrounding neighborhoods with the facility via a continuous trail,
- providing evening function spaces (gymnasium and cafeteria) accessible to the public while keeping educational areas secure,
- siting the building to create an open playground for community use, and
- creating a bus loop to serve as a walking/running track.
- creating a true learning campus by situating the building adjacent to the Middle School.
As mentioned previously, the design worked with the existing topography of the site and as such served as a cost effective measure for reducing the amount of site work required. And, although an approach using sustainable materials and methods are often thought to be more expensive than a traditional design approach, the new Mount Nittany Elementary School facility is comparable in cost to any elementary school completed across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania even though it presently stands to be certified as either LEED Silver or Gold.
|1) Control of Institution: Public|
2) Type of Institution: Traditional
6) Community: Designed for Community Functions
Methodology & Standards:
|District/Institution Decision; First-Cost; Life-cycle Costs; State Standards PLUS|
|Primary Source: Primary Source: Revenue Bonds|
Project Delivery Method(s):
|Principles Followed: LEED|
Certifications Obtained: LEED Gold
Site Selection and Development: Site Selection; Stormwater Management; Heat Island Reduction; Building Orientation
Water Conservation: Water Conservation
Energy Efficiency and Conservation: Energy Efficiency; Building Automation/Energy Management Systems; Natural Ventilation
Materials Use: Recycling/Reuse; Sustainable Materials Selection
Indoor Environmental Quality: Use of Daylighting; Electric Lighting Systems/Controls; Acoustics; Indoor Air Quality
Teaching Tool: Building as a Teaching Tool
Alternative Energy Sources: Geo-thermal
Commissioning: Building/systems have been commissioned
- SCHRADERGROUP Architecture
David Schrader, AIA, LEED AP
161 Leverington Avenue, Suite 105
Philadelphia, PA 19127
Associated Firms and Consultants:
|Construction/Project Management: Alexander Building Construction Company|
Structural Engineer: Baker, Ingram & Assoc.
Electrical Engineer: Barton Associates
Mechanical Engineer: Barton Associates
Civil Engineer: Sweetland Engineering
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