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August 9, 2013

Fort’s net-zero middle school wins design, energy conservation awards at state, national, international levels

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Gabrielle Kuholski
Staff Writer

The exterior and landscape features of Colonel Smith Middle School received critics’ praise in several award categories. Its wind turbines were cited as energy-saving demonstration elements during the 2012 Sustainability and Innovation Awards.

When it comes to receiving architectural and design awards, corporate headquarters buildings, hotels and homes come to mind, and not schools or their interiors. However, this didn’t stop Colonel Smith Middle School, or CSMS, from winning design, energy conservation and sustainability awards at state, national and international levels.

Colonel Smith Middle School was featured in the publication, “School Planning & Management,” as a grand prize winner of the Education Design Showcase, 2013. CSMS was the kindergarten – 12th grade grand prize winner for Outstanding Design and Architecture in Education. “School Planning & Management,” highlights projects submitted by the Council of Educational Facility Planners Association, headquartered in Tempe.

Additionally, CSMS won the “School Planning & Management” 2012 Judges’ Choice Award in Energy Conservation in the publication’s Sustainability and Innovation Awards division and was the 2012 Green Judges’ Choice winner in the Education Design Showcase’s category of Green Design,
Critics praised the technology used throughout the school, the emphasis on energy conservation and sustainability, furniture selection and building layout in the June 2013 magazine, The article also described how the design aspects at CSMS will have positive effects on the students, such as supporting a hands-on and project-based learning environment.

For Arizona, CSMS also received the Real Estate and Development Most Sustainable Award, sponsored by the Arizona Commercial Real Estate Association. The school was praised as a “great example of Net-Zero Education by both building standards and curriculum offerings.”

CSMS won a Design Citation in the 2013 Exhibition of School Architecture, presented by the National School Boards Association, and the 2013 Silver Citation Award from the Educational Interior Showcase. The showcase jury stated that CSMS has “lots of opportunities for student collaboration and engagement. It’s a place where we would want to learn.”

Besides the Education Design Showcase, CSMS took the 2012 International Dark Sky Association Lighting Design Award for its exterior lighting.

School praised for energy efficiency
Several awards touched on CSMS’s aspects of energy-efficient lighting using a projected 80-percent less energy for this purpose than an average school building, and the concept of having windows in every occupied room as natural light sources.

From left, Ronda Frueauff, Ph.D., former Fort Huachuca Accommodation Schools superintendent, and Bonnie Austin, current Fort Huachuca Accommodation Schools superintendent, describe the exhaust systems like the one pictured inside the eighth grade Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Lab. Much like the moveable science stations found in the lab, this overhead unit also supports flexibility.

Two 25,000-gallon underground harvesting water tanks store rainwater used to irrigate the native landscape. This represents a water savings to Fort Huachuca and the San Pedro River aquifer as no groundwater has to be pumped in order for the vegetation to flourish. Award critiques also emphasized how the building supports a science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, curriculum.

Building design benefits students
Critics commented that the building’s internal and external design and energy-conservation features provide unique educational opportunities to students. Bonnie Austin, Fort Huachuca Accommodation Schools superintendent, agrees. It’s the students who benefit.

“All of those [awards] are going to filter down most … to the students and their learning because the whole design of the building is worked around the fact that … [both inside and out,] every square inch of the school is really designed for learning,” Austin said.

“The significance of the awards means other school districts will seek out Colonel Smith Middle School as an example of their future school design,” said Tim Quinn, Fort Huachuca Accommodation School Board president, when reflecting on the honors.

“If more schools are built following the same design features as CSMS, that will be great for the students, the parents and, with respect to energy conservation, for our environment,” he added.

It began with a vision
The initial vision of CSMS began in 2009 with a concept paper written by Ronda Frueauff, Ph.D., former Fort Huachuca Accommodation Schools superintendent. Its content focused on defining the school function and design for the Fort Huachuca community and school board members.

“[The paper] also was a tool for the contractors and consultants as they began the process of creating a very unique learning environment as there were no models for such a school in the United States,” Frueauff said.

Her paper incorporated research related to the educational and career-ready needs of students in grade school through high school. According to Frueauff, she combined this research with the most recent research on acquisition knowledge and learning.

As a result of the paper, three major goals were set for the school design. It had to be: future-proof, adaptable and flexible; a welcoming and engaging learning environment; and student-centered, STEM-focused, and high-tech.

The design and development teams worked on meeting these goals. Frueauff described the teams as diverse and synergistic.

“As the process unfolded, the entire team expanded upon my vision by perfecting the design components and creating new design elements that resulted in a unique school design with multi-dimensional impact,” she said.

Frueauff hopes with the school winning these awards, the accolades will continue for the contractors, vendors and consultants who made up each team. She feels these awards tell the Fort Huachuca community that a great feat has been accomplished, and it will impact students in the years to come. Frueauff mentioned that the awards should also keep CSMS faculty and staff motivated.

“This kind of recognition keeps the staff members focused on the good work they do each day, and it encourages them to continue to approach their jobs with creativity and optimism,” she added.




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