"I worked closely with Fielding International and RTA Architects on the replacement school building for Douglass Elementary. The partnership between these two groups has worked extremely well. It was truly a case of synergy, where the efforts and talents of Fielding and RTA came together to create something beautiful and functional as a result of their collaboration. The school design and the learning environments embedded in that design have garnered a great deal of attention and have been very successful in providing innovative, supportive and flexible learning spaces that meet the needs of all students.”
Kiffany Lychock, Director of Educational Innovations, Boulder Valley School District
In November 2014, Boulder Valley School District taxpayers passed the largest bond in Colorado history at the time. The $576 million package provided much needed capital for improvements to the District’s buildings, with a focus on educational innovation.
The District retained RTA as design architect and Fielding Nair International (FNI) as planning architect to bring their goals to life. FNI worked with the District to facilitate a pertinent change to Douglass Elementary School’s educational delivery model by transforming it from a teacher-centric model to a collaborative “competency-based” educational model utilizing independent study, teacher team collaboration and project-based learning. Douglass Elementary serves as a “model” as how to effectively utilize instructional practices in optimized physical learning spaces.
The architectural team conducted a series of six Design Advisory Team (DAG) meetings with representatives from all stakeholder groups: local community members, administrators, teachers, District staff, and former and current students.
To ensure the final environment aligned with the vision and goals set during the planning process, 3D visualization was used to refine and communicate building solutions. Throughout the design, construction, and post occupancy phases, the architectural team and general contractor held community meetings and hosted open house tours to educate the community, staff, parents, and students on the progress and intent of the design.
The school’s floor plan design begins with “the Heart” a large, open area that presents a variety of different educational zones to accommodate multiple learning styles from large group assembly, to smaller collaborative group work, and, single and one-on-one educational activities.
Students are clustered by grade in Learning Communities that include learning studios, a project room, a small group room, a shared teacher collaboration room and flexible shared common areas. A Curiosity Center, adjoining the Heart, is a creative hub of activity design to promote intellectual exploration, content creation, and interactive learning.
At 59,000 sf, the new Douglass Elementary School was designed to meet the District’s Sustainability Management System and Sustainable Energy Plan and is net-zero energy capable. The new building is estimated to use just 30.9 kBTU/SF/year, a 64% reduction in energy use over the old facility, translating into significant utility savings for the District.