CEFPI Program Honors Young School Designers

PORTLAND, Ore. — Six teams of middle school students from across the globe competed in October to design schools that could potentially change the way we think about education. The School of the Future Design Competition, hosted in Portland at the Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) Annual Conference, challenged student designers to plan and design tomorrow’s 21st century learning environments.

Sponsored in collaboration with Tandus|Centiva, Interface, Shaw Contract Group, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Green Building Council, Cuningham Group Architecture Inc., SCHRADERGROUP Architects Inc. and MB Kahn Construction, the competition promotes schools that enhance student and teacher performance and contribute to community culture and vitality. It also focuses on enhancing innovative ways of teaching and learning, promoting health, conserving resources, engaging the surrounding community and responding to the environment.

More than 3,000 students representing nearly 100 school districts from all over North America and the United Kingdom participated in the 2014 School of the Future design program, which was recently rebranded as SchoolsNEXT. This 21st century learning program engages and empowers students through a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) curriculum to master the skills needed to succeed in the global economy. It also teaches students how to follow a facility planning process from concept to completion, with thorough documentation. The six top teams then presented their resulting projects to conference attendees.

Michael R. Null Middle School of Houston received the program’s Award of Excellence, while Sutter Middle School of Folsom, Calif. took home the Award of Distinction. The team from Norwalk Middle School in Norwalk, Iowa, was honored with the Award of Merit. Teams from iTech Preparatory in Vancouver, Wash; St. Michael’s Academy in Springfield, Mass.; and Thoreau Middle School of Vienna, Va. each earned Awards of Commendation.

Null Middle School’s winning design took both students and the broader community into account by establishing partnerships between multiple stakeholders. Constructed on the site of an abandoned landfill using recycled building materials, the proposed school exemplified reuse, recycle and repurpose, minimizing its effect on the ecosystem. It included a student café and homeless shelter, while also providing for a variety of learning styles, work-study programs and job training partnerships.

The Sutter Middle School team took a similar approach by integrating housing for foster and homeless children into their design, and including spaces for community learning partnerships and simulation workrooms for project based learning. Green technologies such as solar trees, self-repairing concrete and an aquaponics system also earned the team points.

Meanwhile Norwalk Middle School’s environmentally friendly design, essentially a 700-acre community master plan, employed Smart Growth principles that would equip students for life and serve as an economic engine for the community.

“Creating schools that inspire changes in education, empower students and engage the community, these young designers demonstrated great passion, enthusiasm, remarkable research and exceptional teamwork,” said David Schrader, AIA, LEED AP, jury chair and chair-elect, CEFPI. “Our future looks much brighter with them at the helm.”

Judy Hoskens, REFP, LEED AP, School of the Future Competition chair and CEFPI board member, added, “What these students did this year that was so powerful was to imbue their design solutions with empathy and meaning, and a desire to make a difference in the world.”