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School of the Future Design Competition 2012 Highlights & Photos

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Six teams of middle school students met in Washington, DC this week to compete in the final leg of the School of the Future Design Competition, centerpiece of the Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI). The competition challenges students from across the globe to think creatively as they plan and design tomorrow's green schools to enhance learning, be healthy, conserve resources, be environmentally responsive and engage the surrounding community.

Sponsored by CEFPI and the National Association of Realtors® in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the American Institute of Architects, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and more than 20 other associations and private companies, the annual competition strengthens public awareness of the importance of well-planned, healthy, sustainable school buildings that enhance student and teacher performance and contribute to community culture and vitality.

"Facing a formidable 22-person jury would be a daunting experience for most adults, but these students took them on without a moment's hesitation!" remarked David C. Edwards, REFP, CEFPI chairman of the Board. "The students continue to raise the bar each year in the rigorous competition. This year's submissions epitomized project-based learning and demonstrated a deep understanding of the planning process and creating a sustainable future."


The Awards of Excellence went to Imago Dei Middle School, Tucson, AZ and Teeland Middle School, Wasilla, AK. Capturing the Award of Distinction was Highfield Humanities College, Blackpool, Lancashire, UK. Newtown Middle School, Newtown, CT, Seneca Middle School, Macomb, MI and University Middle School, Waco, TX received Awards of Merit.

"Schools that foster student achievement, conserve resources and enhance the surrounding community are vital to every neighborhood nationwide," said NAR President Moe Veissi. "Realtors care deeply about improving communities and these creative designs produced by six outstanding teams of middle school students do just that. Along with realtors in every community, I am honored to recognize each team in the School of the Future Design Competition."

Imago Dei and Teeland Middle Schools each received $2,000 as Award of Excellence winners. Imago Dei students acknowledged that they were fortunate to receive a good education and caring teachers so they designed a school for the children of Niger in West Africa who did not have the same opportunities. They constructed their school from local, sustainable resources creating "polybricks" assembled from plastic water bottles and using bamboo walls to repel malaria-carrying mosquitoes prevalent throughout the area. Powered by solar energy, the building also makes great use of natural light and employs shade sails of woven bamboo to offer some relief from the extreme heat. The students’ research efforts were impeccable, leading then to also design a portable school made out of the same materials to bring to communities where children cannot travel to the main school.

Imago Dei Middle School

The Teeland Middle School team chose to build their facility on a landfill – truly embracing "renew, reuse, recycle" by creating walls made of materials mined from the landfill and covering them with solar wallpaper. The cement building is constructed with carbon nanotubes, one of the strongest materials available synthesized from carbon-rich compounds such as plastic, which act as rebar. The green roofs collect storm water and provide insulation. Again exemplifying "renew, reuse, recycle", one of the three “aerodynamic” school buildings constructed to withstand the strong Alaskan winds houses the homeless, providing them with educational opportunities, an introduction to careers, use of all the community facilities and three meals a day. Food for the facility and community was grown on campus.

Teeland Middle School

Award of Distinction winner, Highfield Humanities College, UK, well-represented the International middle schools, receiving $1,500. Coming from a seaside resort community in northwest England, the students designed a building constructed inside a sand dune on the waterfront that would serve as a space for all learners. Hard hit by the current economy, the team hoped that their unique school would encourage tourism and add to the local economy. The front of the building is constructed of glass that can withstand the pressure of the waves, allowing students to observe underwater sea life when high-tide covers the building. The building is powered by renewable energies including wind and wave power. Dormitory space in the rear of the building can accommodate students as well as community members and tourists.

Highfield Humanities College - UK

Capturing the Award of Merit, Newtown, Seneca and University Middle Schools each received $1,000. The Newtown Middle School campus housed all the district schools and encompassed two community gardens, a rooftop and an orchard. The traditional buildings were in keeping with their community heritage, and focusing on academic excellence for all types of learners. The students included solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling in their plans. Realizing that students need lots of exercise and the ability to move around, they incorporated “aerobic ball” seating in the classrooms.

Newtown Middle School

The Seneca team demonstrated a clear understanding smart growth and how a school can positively impact a community. They chose to repurpose the old Henry Ford factory site, a community icon, and economically stabilize a very challenged community. Low cost housing was provided on the campus for families with school age children, bringing the neighborhood to the school, offering employment on the campus and 24-hour use of the facilities. Harkening to the old Ford days, each class level "house" was named after a famous Ford car.

Seneca Middle School

Hailing from Waco, TX, the University Middle School design team placed the main body of the school underground. University Middle School is located on a major highway presenting a danger to children as well as creating an extremely noisy classroom environment. By placing the gym and performing arts on the side of the building facing the highway the interior classrooms were shielded from blaring sounds. Administrative offices and community space occupied the above ground floor, serving as further protection from intruders. The students felt very connected to their community and although the school site was less than desirable, they did not want to disrupt their strong community ties. Their thoughtful and well executed design included an atrium and light wells to provide daylight to the "underground" school, white roofs and geothermal heating and cooling providing constant temperatures at relatively low cost.

University Middle School

"Chairing the jury affords me one of the best days of the year," remarked David Schrader, AIA, CEFPI international board member. "As we watched the presentations, it was clear that no matter how knowledgeable and talented each of the jury members were, the children's message, knowledge, passion and enthusiasm humbled each and every one of us. This remarkable day left us all aware that these students truly represent tomorrow's leaders and our future is in good hands."



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