Monarch School Design Helps Students Grow

HOUSTON — A chrysalis is the term of the pupa stage of a butterfly’s life cycle, named for the hard skin developed once the outer layer of skin comes off for the first time.

It is also the name of the new facility at the Monarch School in Houston. Founded in 1997, the school aims to provide a safe, nurturing atmosphere and development program for children and young adults with neurological differences.

The school prides itself on offering a unique, therapeutic learning environment where “active minds are challenged, all are treated with respect and dignity, learning is a joy; and wisdom is the outcome,” according to the school’s vision statement. Curriculum covers art, history, language arts, math and other core subjects.

The school opened with 23 students and 15 staff members and now serves more than 100 students with a dedicated faculty and staff of more than 50. It was originally split between two rented campus locations: three portable classrooms on one campus and three suites in an office park.

In light of steadily increasing enrollment, the Monarch School expanded its accommodations in 2006. The school bought land about five miles away from the original campus and hired Houston-based design firm Jackson & Ryan Architects to draft a plan for a new campus.

The new layout included three facilities: the Chrysalis, the Monarch and the Butterfly, along with an outdoor classroom. The school has completed the Chrysalis building, with plans for the second and third units underway.

The design, which included input from school administrators, required careful attention to absolute light, sound and color control, with the design firm selecting MBCI roof systems for the project, according to company officials.

The Chrysalis building is designed to house children still in early developmental phases, whose sensory perception is still incredibly delicate, company officials said. Muted green wall tones and high placement of windows were selected to evoke a calm and easy-to-focus ambiance, according to officials from MBCI.

The choice of building materials was also a crucial concern.

School administrators wanted to maintain a rustic, natural, Texas-style environment while promoting a green and energy-efficient structure that would stand the test of time — criteria met by metal roofing.

“MBCI played a very critical role in helping develop it because the way that it was originally designed, there would have been leakage problems and water buildup,” said Erin Zaske, brand manager for MBCI.

Zaske said temperature control was also a design factor in building the school given its Houston location, where they have sunshine most of the year.

The school wanted the new building to meet LEED standards, and with 25 to 30 percent recycled materials in its composition and 100 percent recyclable material after its lifetime, MBCI roofs made the cut.

The facility earned LEED Gold certification in August 2009.

“The overall roof plan consisted of a multitude of angles and inverse pitches, making it a particularly complex project,” officials from the roofing company said. “MBCI was involved early in the design process to help ensure the proper roof system and weather-tightness warranty were specified and that the details were worked out ahead of time to ensure it could be installed on the roof with complete confidence in its performance and weather-tightness.”

MBCI also provided Jackson & Ryan Architects with a list of roofing contractors in the Houston area that were certified in the proper installation of their standing seam panels.

“We guarantee metal roof panels last 40 years, but oftentimes they last longer than that,” Zaske said. “They’re very durable and withstand extreme weather conditions.” Maintenance on metal roofs is minimal, she added.

“In terms of payback, it’s definitely initially more expensive than a flat roof or asphalt shingles, but the payback is quick and significant,” she said.

The school serves students aged three through 29, with programs to help graduates find jobs after they complete their primary schooling.

MBCI selected the SuperLok standing seam roof system, a mechanically field-seamed, vertical leg standing system that combines a slim rib profile and with “exceptional” uplift resistance — a crucial factor in a city prone to hurricanes, Zaske said.

A Galvalume finish adds to the natural environmental look and feel. The Energy Star-qualified product met the reflectivity requirements set forth in the original design.

MBCI suggested 20,000 square feet of SuperLok roof panels for the project, designed to provide both a modern aesthetic and durable protection from the elements along with matching details.

Fundraising continues for construction of the additional two buildings.

“Our new campus is a people miracle. Hundreds of people made our dream their dream, our passion their passion,” said Dr. Marty Webb, head of the school.