As the winners of the 2013 Design is … Award Market Award, Shaw Contract Group winning firms interviewed as part of a section of Shaw Contract Group blog which will last a year. Throughout the year, readers can learn more about the 48 winning projects and the individuals who perform them. These are their stories.
Robin Lalonde, Interior Designer, discussed re-examining the learning process, focusing on sustainability and creating a “school in the park.”
What was the happiest moment of the project?
Walking through the finished school, seeing it full of children and being used the way we had envisioned. Most importantly, seeing the excitement of the children who were involved in the initial envisioning & planning sessions speak about the process and the finished school, and their enthusiasm for it.
Tell me something that was unusual about the project.
The newness of the education model and the structural innovations developed for the education curriculum were unique opportunities for this project. The client was willing to push the boundaries on sustainability and quality of the space to design something that was different. Regina Public Schools had not built a new school in over 15 years, and was excited to re-examine the learning process and plan a cutting edge school based on 21st Century learning environments.
Tell me about the selection process for this project. What do you think made them select you for this work?
Our office has a great team and background in both educational and sustainable design. We have a lot of experience with LEED projects and work well in collaboration with other architects and firms. We have also done significant research in the past into sustainable schools. Although our main office is based out of Winnipeg, MB we also have a local office in Regina, which aided significantly with project delivery.
What sort of sustainable elements did you use in the design? Has it achieved LEED Silver?
Sustainable design is a central focus at Douglas Park. On site, stormwater is collected and stored for irrigation, highly reflective materials are used in parking lot paving and roofing to minimize the heat-island effect, and elements of the existing school building were both diverted from landfill and reclaimed for re-use. A portion of the existing foundation is even retained for use as a new “ruin” site feature. Inside the building, radiant heating & cooling in combination with a heat pump system, high efficiency boilers and a heat exchanger provide both energy efficiency and improved student comfort. A kiosk at the schools’ entry provides a cut-away view of these systems at work and a touchscreen display shows the building’s energy consumption in real time. In addition to these active systems, several passive features are also used. Three central roof monitors draw natural light into the school’s interior zones and allow for “free cooling” with automated operable windows. Ample glazing at the building’s perimeter is reflected deeper into the learning studios with “light shelves,” further minimizing the need for artificial lighting. Shade on the south side is provided by a prominent trellis at the heart of the school, and a special diffusing glass is also used in areas to minimize glare. On the large south facing wall of the Gymnasium, a “solarwall” pre-heats fresh supply air for use in the mechanical system. Interior materials were also carefully selected to maximize recycled and local content and to minimize off-gassing.
The project is still under review for LEED certification. It is targeting LEED Silver, but is actually on track for LEED Gold.
What inspired the ‘A School in the Park’ theme?
There were a number of factors that contributed to the theme, but the concept started in our early visioning sessions when talking with the community about the site location. It is located very close to a beautiful parkway system next to Wascana Lake, a natural “signature feature” of the neighbourhood to be developed further. Another appealing aspect was the counterpoint that the idea of a park offers to all of the technology that is so much a part of our lives and curriculum. The idea that our children are experiencing a “nature deficit” is something we’re all increasingly aware of, so to put nature at the heart of the concept of the school’s design provided a great way to introduce a sense of calm and informality – the building’s natural wood structure, warm coloured materials outside and in, and the use of green coloured glass all contribute to this theme.