Best Practices in Educational Facilities Investments

École Lawrence Grassi Middle School, Canmore, Alberta, Canada

Exemplary design categories: community use and involvement, flexible learning settings, green school

How the facility meets the needs of education and communities:
The design of the school seeks to create a functional and modern school consistent with the prevailing architecture of the Canadian Rocky Mountain communities. This was achieved through the use of indigenous materials both inside and out.

A main feature of the building is the student gathering space located at the centre of the school. This warm, inviting space features natural lighting through clerestory windows and exposed wood structural members. This area is an informal gathering space for students and is also used for presentations and assemblies and serves to strengthen the school community. The educational emphasis was placed on creating ancillary spaces that support strong band, art, drama, and shop programs. To allow for varied teaching and learning activities small teaching breakout rooms were provided alongside general classrooms.

The integration of technology into these specialty teaching spaces was an important part of insuring the future flexibility of the spaces. Overall the school provides a bright, inviting learning environment that can adapt to serve many different subject areas and methods of teaching.

A strong mandate to incorporate sustainable building principles was created at the outset of the Ecole Lawrence Grassi project informing many of the decisions made during design and construction. To reduce the long-term environmental impacts of operation, the building was designed to have an energy performance that is 50% less than the baseline defined in the Model National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings. In conjunction with a high-efficiency HVAC system, the design employs motion detectors, occupancy sensors, and low-flow plumbing fixtures to achieve energy savings. Wood was chosen as the primary building material due to its local availability and the presence of a local labour force skilled in wood construction. The use of materials originating from regional manufacturers minimized the environmental impact from transportation energy and produced a durable building adapted to local climactic conditions. Sustainable principles were also emphasized during the construction process. A waste management plan drafted in advance of construction had an objective of recycling or re-using 75% of the waste produced during construction. This included the waste generated by the demolition of an existing school located on the site. The project exceeded this objective by diverting 85% of the waste from the landfill.

The facility is used in the evenings and booked as community facility for a variety of uses including a community band, cadets, town volleyball, basketball and badminton leagues, community soccer and art classes.

Involvement of users and the local community in the planning and design process:
Local residents, parents, students, teaching staff, and town officials were engaged during the design process through formal meetings and informal open houses. Two students spent time in GEC Architecture’s office developing designs for the school that were later presented to their classmates and teachers.

Activity Areas: 6 general classrooms, 12 modular classrooms, wood workshop, mechanics workshop, computer lab, art classroom, library, music room, science room, home economics room, multi-purpose room, gymnasium, administration offices, and various support services

Project costs: CDN 15,500,000.00

Source: Submitted to OECD for "Designing for Education: Compendium of Exemplary Educational Facilities 2011" in 2010

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User perspectives (4)

“The school truly feels like a community space. Visitors feel welcome and there are many areas within the school for use outside of school hours”.
Parent
“The school is well lit and feels safe at all hours. With our early nightfall, this is important to community users”.
Parent
“I really like the way the design of the school is such that the halls radiate out from the central student gathering area and gym. It is so nice to have the little grade 5 students away from the bigger students so they can move more freely, have separate exits to the school grounds. Halls are less congested with the classrooms in separate hallways".
Grade 5 teacher
“The central location of library, computer lab, science lab, gym, music, office, resource center make it easier for students and teacher to move throughout the daily schedule".
Learning Support Teacher

Images (5)

Drawings (4)

Cross section (Registration required)
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Credit: GEC Architecture
Floor plan (Registration required)
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Credit: GEC Architecture
Furniture plan (Registration required)
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Credit: GEC Architecture
Location plan (Registration required)
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Credit: GEC Architecture