Discovery Elementary School

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Discovery Elementary School

By: vmdoarchitects

While Arlington Public Schools has rebuilt, renovated or built additions to many of the existing schools throughout the County, Discovery Elementary School is the first new elementary school to be built in Arlington in more than a decade. The goal of this project has been to address the growing student enrollment in Arlington while reaching for the highest standards possible – in instructional space as well as sustainability, operating costs, and flexibility. To this end, careful attention has been focused on designing and building a school that supports how and where students learn. Every nook and cranny of the school is arranged to create a seamless integration between design, sustainability and learning. Recognizing that students are the creators of our collective future, Discovery Elementary sets the stage for the development of the skills necessary for long-term stewardship of our world. The result of a community-based design process, the project tiers into an existing hill to both minimize the perception of its size in a residential neighborhood, and to preserve open, flat space for recreation. Small “kinder-houses” face 36th Street, extending out from underneath a large cedar roof that defines the public spaces of the school. Even the mascot, colors and school name were chosen by a vote of the students. The “Discovery Explorers” name reflects the forward-looking, inquiry-based learning that will take place in the building. The school name is also a tribute to John Glenn, who lived adjacent to the site when he became the first American to orbit the earth in 1962. In 1998, while still a sitting senator, Glenn returned to space as a crew member of the space shuttle Discovery, becoming the oldest person to fly in space. Discovery has been designed to be a “net zero” energy school, meaning that the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable energy sources is equal to the amount of energy used. The New Building Institute keeps a list of verified net-zero buildings: there are currently only 39 total in the United States, with only three full-sized K-12 schools. The building’s many sustainable features include 1,706 roof-mounted solar panels, a geothermal well field, solar pre-heat of domestic water, 100% LED lighting, ideal solar orientation and shading, exterior walls with high thermal mass, and bioretention areas that clean and slowly release all of the water from the site. An equal-sized APS school has approximately $120,000 in annual energy costs. This cost avoidance is money that is returned to the APS operating budget, while allowing the school community to enjoy the environmental benefits of a fully offset carbon footprint. Discovery is an all-electric building (no propane or natural gas use). By offsetting all energy costs through photovoltaic generation, the building hedges against future energy inflation. In fact, the more electricity prices increase the higher the return on the investment for the school system!

School DesignCafeteriaClassroomCommon SpaceCorridorsEntranceGymnasiumLibraryMedia CenterOutdoorsPlaygroundsElementaryTechnologyFine ArtsPhysical EducationBlended LearningGroup WorkPersonalized LearningProject Based LearningSocial/Emotional DevelopmentColorLightingNaturalSignageOrganizationChairsTablesSoft SeatingLaptops

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