Neenan’s innovative solution creates LEED Gold for students and community
Alamosa School District is located in one of the most economically challenged areas of southern Colorado in the San Luis Valley. Three existing elementary schools lacked community accessible facilities and forced kids to change school buildings between 1st and 2nd grades, and again between 3rd and 4th. In addition, energy and operating costs for the schools needed to be reduced. Colorado Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grants were available, but the District needed help with the pre-bond, the BEST grant, as well as the design and construction of the project.
Bringing jobs to the region, using local materials and lining up with the American Recovery and Re-Investment Act (ARRA) timelines were key concerns. Shooting for LEED Gold would help insure that the buildings’ operating costs were kept in check, and Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) was part of the chosen solution. Through energy modeling, Neenan found that the building could be designed without air conditioning—and still be comfortable.
The two identical 72,500-square-foot buildings, connected by playgrounds and landscaping, serve kindergarten through 5th grade students.They were designed and built in just 19½ months,which gave the district credit for wages paid under the ARRA. Neenan helped write the BEST grant, which funded two-thirds of the project, and assisted the District through the local bond election that paid for the remainder.
The buildings were designed to serve as a community center that is safe and welcoming to both community and students. In addition, the location provides good traffic flow in the neighborhood. The high quality structure employs innovative energy saving techniques, such as reflective roofs and hardscapes, daylit classroom spaces, high efficiency water fixtures, recycled materials and FSC certified woods. Construction waste was even recycled into the new playgrounds.
Conditions of Satisfaction:
The Alamosa School District Conditions of Satisfaction for the project included:
- Quality structure
- Safe and welcoming for students and the community
- Flexibility to use building in different ways: K-2 and 3-5 or K-5
- Incorporate passive and active solar design
- Cost savings relative to operating costs (details on our results when the data is in)
- Safe location, and good traffic flow around school
- Built for the future with expansion and technology in mind
- Cozy corner in classroom—private “soft” place for downtime for kids
- Provide break out space for 6-8 kids shared between classrooms to serve as small group teaching and testing area
- Elements that honors history and culture of area
- Art display area—corridor walls, other areas in school, bulletin boards, museum area, display case area, exhibit area
- Keep community members and staff involved in the process
- The Neenan Company and the Alamosa School District created stellar Gold LEED elementary school buildings that will serve the community for many years into the future. By learning from past mistakes, creating innovative solutions and working with and listening to the needs of the community, together they found the money and built schools that make Alamosa proud.
- Innovative use of cutting edge construction technologies, such as ICF, earned the project a tie for first runner up in the commercial, heavy division 2010 ICF Awards at the World of Concrete. Extensive energy modeling helped owners and designers make bold steps to save energy (and money) by eliminating air conditioning.
- The Neenan Company engaged subcontractors early in the process so complicated structural elements were executed properly.
- Homage was paid, in both exterior and interior design, to the rich Hispanic heritage of the region. Earthy textures and bright colors create a clean, modern feeling, while practical commons areas encourage presentations, and large and small gatherings for the community.
Alamosa School District Superintendent Robert Alejo says that “The new schools were definitely advertised as being ‘community buildings.’ The cafeteria areas are huge and are set-up to facilitate wonderful A/V presentations.”
Alejo describes the community response to the new schools as, “Incredible and more incredible! I have yet to come across anyone who is not excited and taken by the new school construction. We continue to provide tours of the new schools to whoever requests the same. There is genuine anticipation and gratitude.”