Category I Life Cycle of a School

The story is all too familiar: Housing developments are increasing in suburban regions, families are moving in droves to take advantage of larger spaces and newer homes. An elementary school is built to accommodate this growth. A generation passes and the once child filled neighborhood is akin to a retirement community. The elementary school is shut down due to lack of attendance and funding and the remaining kids are shipped off to a school miles away in a new development similar to its predecessor some 25 years earlier. 

The problem of urban growth and decay is larger than an individual building. Therefore, architects should consider the life cycle while designing buildings so that they may accommodate change. Buildings of the 21st century need to be designed and built to accommodate varied life times, disassembly, deconstruction, reuse, prefabrication, and temporary structures. In addition, buildings need to be used more than just during the day. Twenty-four hour use cycle that offer more than one purpose will serve the larger community through varied programs morning, afternoon and evening.

The ACSA/AISC 2008-2009 Steel Competition calls for students to design an elementary school for the 21st century that critically examines its life cycle and proposes an innovative solution in steel.

The site for the competition is the choice of the student or Faculty Sponsor. The locations of the ACSA member institutions are diverse; however the program of a school facility is ubiquitous. It is recommended that students and faculty select sites that will foster a dialogue in their respective communities regarding the current state and future of school design and construction. Sites for schools should have access from a myriad of transportation options, be accessible on foot, and be safe. In addition, outdoor recreation, access to natural air and sunlight is important for children and should be considered in the development of the project.

The program is for a school that examines the life cycle of an elementary school in theoretical manor. All aspects of the life cycle including lifetime, reuse, durability, etc. are not required to be met nor should this be attempted; rather the jury will evaluate the projects based on the strength of the argument and the respective projects’ ability to support the life cycle concept being proposed. 

It is suggested that students and faculty sponsors seek out local school boards, government agencies, or private institutions with whom they may investigate and collaborate in order to construct the program and site parameters for the competition. Many school boards are struggling with the issues of life cycle for their elementary schools. By collaborating with these invested groups each student submission will have a unique set of life cycle issues to be addressed in design for their individual project. The school designed may be private, public, or otherwise, but must be for a school that accommodates at least K-5 grade years. Architects will continue to design schools in the future; this competition will provide a much needed theoretical and practical education in resilient school design.

The following data is a speculative space allocation for students and faculty that may be used for the competition. The square footages are based on precedents. If participants desire not to use the square footages they should include their own program in brief as an addendum to the competition boards. Please include general square footages for the spaces identified in the graphic boards. As the competition subject is concerning rethinking the elementary school programs, the data below should be seen as a beginning to understanding fundamental space uses in a school. The following program items may be elaborated, shortened, combined or entirely rewritten based on the concepts of the design regarding life cycle assessment.

Number of Children = 400-450
Recommended Site Size = 5-10 acres

Front Office

Entry Lobby = 500 s.f.
Administrative Offices 2 @ 120 s.f. each = 240 s.f.
Nurses Office = 150 s.f.
Teacher’s Lounge = 500 s.f.
Teacher’s Restrooms 2 @ 20 s.f. each = 40 s.f.
PTA / Volunteer Room = 200 s.f
Public Restrooms 2 @ 200 s.f. each = 400 s.f.

Gathering Facilities

Gym 50 x 84 = 4200 s.f.
Cafeteria = 2000 s.f.
Kitchen = 1000 s.f.
Music = 500 s.f.
Art = 500 s.f.
Media = 500 s.f.
Science = 500 s.f.
Library = 2000 s.f.

Classrooms 3 per grade @ 500 s.f. each = 10,500 s.f.

Total Gross = 23,730 s.f.

Total Net Square Feet Plus 10% Allowance

For mechanical areas, circulation, structure, etc. 26,000 square feet

Refer to the International Building Code and the local zoning ordinance for information on parking requirements, height restrictions, set backs, easements, flood, egress, and fire containment. ADA is applicable for this competition.

The design project must be conceived in structural steel construction. A strategy should be considered that evaluates a method for taking advantage of steel’s properties and characteristics in order to conceptualize and propose a critical evaluation of the life cycle of an elementary school.

Steel Competition Program (PDF)