Long Beach Takes New Approach to Education Design

LONG BEACH, Calif. — As the first new school in the district in nearly two decades, the design of Ernest S. McBride Senior High School will bring not only a sustainable state-of-the-art building, but also new methods of education.

The $75 million high-tech campus consists of three Career Technical Education academies including engineering, health and medical, and legal services and forensics. The school was designed by Irvine, Calif.-based LPA Inc. and constructed by Hensel Phelps Construction Co. of Oakland, Calif. Though it recently welcomed only 210 freshmen for the school year, the 150,000-square-foot school is designed for 1,080 students.

McBride High School is the first project funded by Measure K, a $1.2 billion property tax initiative passed by voters in 2008 to build, modernize and renovate Long Beach Unified School District schools.

“It was important that this be done right and it be a great, shining example of what can happen in the district so there could be an opportunity for it to happen again,” said Wendy Rogers, AIA, LEED, design principal with LPA Inc.

The former middle school has been transformed into a modern education facility unlike any other in the district. Whereas other comprehensive schools in the district serve up to 5,000 students, the smaller student population at McBride High School will connect core curriculum with their distinctive learning academies.

The site consists of seven buildings surrounding the campus promenade. Each academy is situated along the campus’ main street and offers unique spaces for each individual mission. The three academies offer hands-on spaces, such as the medical field’s hospital beds, and outdoor spaces to conduct classes accordingly.

Though the campus aims for connectivity, there were also movements to create singular spaces for each academy to incite a sense of ownership among the students.

“They’re all identified by a different color so it allows that academy to have a special kind of identity along the main street,” Rogers said.

The school is designed to meet Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) guidelines. Sustainability features at the new high school include a 277-kW rooftop solar grid to generate 57 percent of the site’s energy use, a high efficiency water-cooled central plant, an energy management system 40 percent below state energy requirements, overhangs to protect windows southern exposure and operable windows that are electronically connected to the school’s HVAC system.

Students have an opportunity to learn from the buildings sustainable features as well.

“We have sustainable signage throughout the campus so we’re conveying to all students and visitors what’s going on,” Rogers said.

The lobby also holds a control panel that provides immediate data expressing how much energy is being collected by the solar rooftop panels.

The storm water system on the site, which was formerly a middle school, was antiquated, Rogers said. But by using the green surrounding space, the school now has the ability to treat and manage water before it goes into the storm water drain system.

“We’re using the play fields for ground water regeneration and cleansing without having to burden the existing public storm rain system,” Rogers said.

The school is set to be the first in a new wave for the school district to provide LBUSD students with a 21st century education.

“I think for us the success of the learning commons in terms of really having a great project that showcases the clustering of classrooms around a shared collaborative workspace is our greater success in this project,” Rogers said. “Everything about 21st century learning is about creating the kinds of spaces where students can engage, learn and access technology together and this space is doing that very well.”