WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two teams emerged victorious from this week’s School of the Future Design Competition, which challenges students to imagine and design environmentally friendly schools.
The competition, which saw proposals for schools under sand dunes, on landfills and in Africa, was the centerpiece of the Council of Educational Facility Planners International School Building Week.
The Awards of Excellence went to Imago Dei Middle School of Tucson, Ariz., and Teeland Middle School of Wasilla, Alaska. Meanwhile, the Award of Distinction was given to Highfield Humanities College of Blackpool, Lancashire, U.K., and Awards of Merit went to Newtown Middle School of Newtown, Conn.; Seneca Middle School of Macomb, Mich.; and University Middle School of Waco, Texas.
“Facing a formidable 22-person jury would be a daunting experience for most adults, but these students took them on without a moment’s hesitation,” said David C. Edwards, Council of Educational Facility Planners’ board chairman. “The students continue to raise the bar each year in the rigorous competition. This year’s submissions epitomized project-based learning and demonstrated a deep understanding of the planning process and creating a sustainable future.”
The annual competition aims to strengthen public awareness of the importance of well-planned, sustainable school buildings that enhance student and teacher performance and contribute to community culture and vitality. It is sponsored by the council and the National Association of Realtors in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the American Institute of Architects, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and more than 20 other associations and private companies.
“Schools that foster student achievement, conserve resources and enhance the surrounding community are vital to every neighborhood nationwide,” said Moe Veissi, president of the National Association of Realtors. “Realtors care deeply about improving communities and these creative designs produced by six outstanding teams of middle school students do just that.”
Imago Dei and Teeland middle schools each received $2,000 as the top winners. Students from the former designed a school for children in Niger, a landlocked country in West Africa, with “polybricks” made from plastic water bottles and bamboo walls to repel malaria-carrying mosquitoes. The building would also be powered by solar energy and use shade sails of woven bamboo to offer relief from the extreme heat.
Using the same materials, the students also designed a portable school to bring to communities whose children cannot travel to the main school.
Members of the Teeland Middle School team imagined a facility for an unusual site: a landfill. They proposed creating walls from materials mined from the landfill and covering them with solar wallpaper. The main cement building would be built with carbon nanotubes, one of the strongest available materials synthesized from carbon-rich compounds such as plastic, which act as rebar. In addition, its roofs would collect stormwater and insulate, and food would be grown on campus. Another school building built to withstand the strong Alaskan winds would house the homeless and provide education, career guidance, use of community facilities and three meals a day.
Highfield Humanities College received $1,500 for its Award of Distinction. Coming from a seaside resort community in northwest England, the students designed a building inside a sand dune on the waterfront with the hope it would encourage tourism and boost the local economy. Its glass facade would be built to withstand the pressure of the waves, so students could observe sea life when high tide covers the building. In addition, the building would be powered by renewable energies like wind and wave power. Dormitory space in the rear of the building would accommodate students, community members and tourists.
As recipients of the Award of Merit, Newtown, Seneca and University middle schools each received $1,000. Newtown’s campus would house all its district’s schools and encompass two community gardens, a rooftop and an orchard. The traditional buildings include solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling, and the classrooms would be equipped with “aerobic ball” seating for easy exercise.
The Seneca team proposed to repurpose Henry Ford’s old factory site, a community icon, in an effort to bring the surrounding impoverished neighborhood to the school. Low-cost housing would be provided on-campus for families with school-age children, who would have access to work on the campus and 24-hour use of the facilities. Harkening back to the old Ford days, each class level “house” would be named after a famous Ford car.
Finally, the design team from University Middle School placed the main body of its school underground. The school is currently located on a major highway, which makes for a danger to children as well as a noisy classroom environment. By placing the gym and performing arts on the side facing the highway, the team would shield the interior classrooms from noise.
Administrative offices and community space would occupy the above ground floor. The design also includes an atrium and light wells to provide daylight to the “underground” school, and white roofs, geothermal heating and cooling to stabilize temperatures at a relatively low cost.
“Chairing the jury affords me one of the best days of the year,” said David Schrader, a board member of Council of Educational Facility Planners International. “As we watched the presentations, it was clear that no matter how knowledgeable and talented each of the jury members were, the children’s message, knowledge, passion and enthusiasm humbled each and every one of us. This remarkable day left us all aware that these students truly represent tomorrow’s leaders and our future is in good hands.”