Owner: N4C-New Columbia Community Campus Corporation
Architect: Dull Olson Weekes Architects—John Weekes, AIA, partner-in-charge; Karina Ruiz, AIA, project architect; Mathew Braun, Barry Deister, Brian Greenwood, Thea Wayburn, Michael Monnier, John Schupp, Pamela Brown, design team
Consultants: KPFF (civil); ABHT (structural); Mazzetti & Associates (mechanical & plumbing); Reyes Engineering (electrical); Atlas (landscape architecture); SSA (acoustics); Walsh Construction (general contractor)

MASONRY: Mutual Materials
CURTAINWALL: Kawneer Storefront
Paints and stains: Sherwin-Williams (interior); Themec (exterior)
Kitchen appliances: General Electric
Carpet: Shaw

Building Great K-12 Schools in Economically Challenging Times
In these tough times making good school design decisions has never been more difficult or more important. To find out how some of the nation’s top architects and administrators are coping with these challenges attend Architectural Record’s Schools of the 21st Century Symposium. It will be held Friday, April 9th, at the Hyatt McCormick Place in Chicago, the day before the NSBA Conference. The event is free of charge and is being presented with the support of McGraw-Hill Education and the American Architectural Foundation.

Click here for more information.

CASE STUDY: Rosa Parks School, New Columbia Community Campus Corporation

A Successful Marriage
Multiple partners work together to create an environmentally sustainable school with a strong community focus
By B.J. Novitski

<< Return to case study index

A team of architects and educators in Portland, Oregon tackled an ambitious set of academic, social, and sustainable goals with limited resources and have reaffirmed that the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts. By combining the programmatic needs of several institutions and cooperatively sharing spaces and financing, they have produced a gem of a school for 550 kindergarten through 6th grade students living in the recently redeveloped New Columbia subsidized housing complex. A collaborative team, led by Dull Olson Weekes Architects (DOWA), along with the Portland Public School District, the city's housing authority, and the local Boys & Girls Club, designed the $13-million Rosa Parks School.

On the west facade (top), direct sunlight is blocked by sunscreens that are offset from and parallel to the plane of the windows. A sundial is incorporated into the paving pattern of a courtyard (above) to help students better understand the role that orientation plays in building performance.
Photos: © John Weeks

The school is unusual in its configuration of four multigrade "learning neighborhoods," each including five classrooms clustered around a commons area. This configuration supports educational collaboration, according to Tamala Newsome, the school's principal. Teachers use the common space for group activities and presentations by visiting specialists. "As creative as teachers can be, that's what we use it for," she says.

Perhaps more unusual is the degree of collaboration between school and community. John Weekes, DOWA principal, and Karina Ruiz, project architect, worked with the client team to figure out how to share costs by sharing spaces. "It was an interesting challenge," recalls Weekes, "because there wasn't an institutional history of approaching projects this way." Newsome agrees: "At first, everyone was protecting their turf, reluctant to share. But then we realized we had a lot in common."

The result is a pair of connected buildings, totaling 67,000 square feet, with the school to the south. To the north is the Boys & Girls Club, where activities continue after school and during the summer. Art, music, computer, and food-service rooms are housed in the club building but shared by the school. Prominently anchoring the school's entry lobby is a family resource center that offers technical and educational support to parents. All the project collaborators recognized the center's importance, says Ruiz. "In order for this project to succeed at the desired level, we knew we needed to provide support services for the child, the family, and the community."

First Floor - click to enlarge.
1) General classroom 2) Collaborative classroom 3) Media center 4) Literacy center 5) Family resource center 6) Administration 7) Commons 8) Kitchen 9) Art 10) Technology 11) Music 12) Multipurpose 13) Media 14) Learning center 15) Teen lounge 16) Weight room

The school/club site is part of the New Columbia Community Campus, with a new gym, shared by school, club, and the city's Parks and Recreation department. An existing gym is currently under renovation and will serve as a community center for all groups. By eliminating redundant spaces, the cooperating institutions nearly halved construction costs. An umbrella nonprofit corporation manages the partners' agreements and responsibilities.

The collaborative planning and design process produced an environmentally friendly building, one that earned a Gold rating, the second highest possible, under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. LEED provides a benchmark for evaluating a building's performance in areas such as site development, energy efficiency, and indoor air quality.

The most visibly "green" aspect of Rosa Parks School is its celebration of daylight. Site constraints mandated a less-than-ideal north-south configuration, but window treatments maximize usable daylight while minimizing unwanted heat gain and glare. On the east facade horizontal, exterior sunscreens, along with interior light shelves reflect daylight deep into the spaces. On the west, direct sunlight is blocked by sunscreens that are offset from and parallel to the plane of the windows. Interior glazing between classrooms and collaborative spaces enable daylight sharing. The system includes sensors that switch off electric lights under the right conditions. Principal Newsome enthuses about the effect: "Even in the winter, the school feels bright, open, and airy."

Anchoring the school's entry lobby (top) is a family resource center. The grounds include a stormwater detention feature (above), as well as three 30-foot-deep dry wells. Retained runoff gradually leaches into the water table rather than flowing into the municipal stormwater system.
Photos: © Gary Wilson

Interior glazing allows daylight sharing between a general classroom (top) and an adjacent collaborative area. The Boys & Girls Club (above) connected to Rosa Parks, offers after-school and summer programs. Club facilities such as spaces for art, music, and computer instruction are used by the student body during regular school hours.
Photos: © Gary Wilson

The building's "displacement ventilation" mechanical system is energy efficient and provides good indoor air quality. It introduces high volumes of 65- to 68-degree air at floor level. The air rises on warming and is expelled, minimizing redistribution of pollutants. For heating, a high-efficiency condensing boiler feeds perimeter radiators. Rosa Parks needs no connection to the city's stormwater grid since runoff collects in dry wells and gradually leaches into the water table. These features and a demonstration photovoltaic system play a role in the school's environmental curriculum.

To crown the school's other measures of success, it received the Richard Riley Award through a joint program of the American Architectural Foundation and Knowledge-Works Foundation that recognizes design and educational excellence in schools that serve as centers of their communities.