Sustainability in its essence is about future generations. Ensuring that our children have the resources they need to thrive requires that we lead by example, and what better way to educate the next generation about sustainability than by giving them a hands-on environment in which to learn?
“Gloria Marshall Elementary School is an extraordinary campus where environmental sustainability and energy efficiency are exemplified in a beautiful facility that offers our students unique opportunities for learning about their world and how it works,” says Dr. Ralph H. Draper, Spring Independent School District superintendent in Spring, Texas.
With guidance from the district, the design team at SHW Group created Gloria Marshall Elementary School to be a model for a new style of teaching and curriculum called Discovery Approach Learning. Every aspect of the design focuses on supporting teaching and discovery, as the building encourages students to question and discover, while engaging in fun and exciting opportunities for learning.
All of the classrooms utilize daylight harvesting through windows
and tubular skylights. The windows on the south face are equipped with sunshades on the outside to bounce light into the classrooms while simultaneously shading the windows below from sun and heat. Inside, light shelves further reflect light into the rooms while an innovative lighting control system keeps electric fixtures switched off 70 percent of the time.
Rain water from the roof is harvested into a 20,000 gallon underground storage tank where it is filtered and then used to flush all toilets and urinals in the school. Another above-ground cistern in the science courtyard helps reduce runoff and feeds an eco-pond that is home to aquatic plants and animals used by teachers as a learning tool.
Materials were selected with occupant health and recycled content in mind, and many of the construction materials were sourced within 500 miles of the school. Durable materials were selected for easy maintenance and longevity over the life of the project. An indoor treehouse, benches, feature walls and conference tables were all made with wood harvested from the site.
The school building is a simple form with a basic structural system that allowed for efficient construction and limited waste. Over 95 percent of construction waste was diverted from local landfills.
Since opening, team members from the MEP consultant as well as the architect have taught fifth graders about construction documents, and second graders about the summer and winter
solstice and how daylight harvesting works in their school. Students are taking home messages of sustainability and conservation, and encouraging their parents to do more.
As Jody L. Henry, LEED AP, project manager for SHW Group so aptly concludes, “There is no greater advantage to a LEED school than using it as a teaching tool for our next generation.”