Great Falls Elementary School

After a three-year search, the Building Committee located a rural site that would provide for town water and sewer and underground voice/data utilities. The 23.5-acre parcel is historic farmland adjacent to protected conservation land. The school design responds to view corridors, solar orientation, and an existing residential neighborhood.

The academic classroom wing separates the student population into five small learning communities, three on the first floor and two on the second. The learning communities are oriented around the school library, which has access to a wide outdoor courtyard.

The school library and the PK/kindergarten classrooms form the heart of the academic learning communities. Each learning community has its own "educational commons" for exploratory projects related to science, ecology, and the arts.

The building consciously maximizes northern and southern orientation for daylight harvesting for all classroom areas. This high-performance school incorporates automatic daylighting controls, geothermal ground source heat pumps, solar hot water vacuum tubes for domestic hot water, CO2 on-demand ventilation, and a high-performance building envelope with air barrier system and extra insulation. The community's desire for a building with extensive pitched roofs gave us large attic mezzanines, to allow mechanical equipment to be brought indoors, where it is protected from the weather and reduces noise transmission.