Florida Firm Designs 21st Century Schools

ORLANDO, Fla. — SchenkelShultz Architecture, is helping the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) build 21st century schools for 21st century learners. The Florida-based firm is currently designing more than 1.5 million square feet of high performance, 21st Century Schools for the DoDEA in both the United States and Europe, helping the department to modernize its sprawling educational infrastructure. These new and renovated facilities will significantly simplify and compliment the DoDEA’s new educational focus.

According to the DoDEA, 21st Century Schools specifically support 21st Century Teaching and Learning, a student-centered approach to education that builds on responsive and inclusive teaching to engage students through technology and the environment. As such, DoDEA seeks to develop schools that are both flexible and adaptable, facilitating new and innovative ways to deliver instruction and meet the educational needs of all students. Also emphasized are curriculum delivery, use of technology and the growing expectations for sustainability and energy conservation.
Educational facilities that support the 21st Century Teaching and Learning model are built to function as teaching tools, with systems and components exposed to provide real world relevance and examples to reinforce STEM curriculums. Building designs and standards as related to the DoDEA’s 21st Century Educational Facilities, are guided by “prudent, fiscally responsible thought processes that will result in flexible, adaptable, student-centered and technology infused learning environments that will have an anticipated lifespan of nearly 50 years,” according to department literature.
These student-centered, energy-efficient facilities also accommodate multiple learning modalities, and allow the buildings to grow and adapt with the school programs. The DoDEA plans to transition the majority of its schools across the United States and Europe to the 21st Century Teaching and Learning model.
SchenkelShultz has already designed more than 50 million square feet of K-12 schools, including more than 4.3 million square feet of DoDEA 21st Century Schools. The firm’s previous work for the department includes the newly constructed Evans and Oak Ridge High Schools, in Orange County, Fla., as well as the recently announced University of Florida P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School’s New Middle/High School Building.

Currently, SchenkelShultz is designing four new schools on U.S. Army and Air Force bases in Germany, and is in the programming and planning stages for six additional projects within the U.S. and Europe. The expansion has required SchenkelShultz’s Orlando-based education design team to add two new employees to accommodate its state-of-the-art workload. SchenkelShultz President and COO, Tom Chandler, AIA, estimates the firm’s partnership with the Department of Defense has created a $3 million to $4 million economic impact in central Florida architectural and engineering fees, including those to local sub-consultants.

The DoDEA is now in the midst of a major construction and renovation program that will eventually result in the replacement or renovation of more than 70 percent of its 194 schools. DoDEA currently has 49 projects in design, with eight more in construction. During the last year DoDEA has initiated 40 school designs and made five school construction awards. In the upcoming year, the department anticipates an additional 21 designs and 13 construction awards. The Department of Defense and Congress have allocated a nearly $3.7 billion increase to the DoDEA construction program over the next five years.