Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School
After a thorough review of all design directions, a panel of decision makers and educators unanimously elected to build a new state-of-the-art high school building to meet the needs of its growing and overcrowded student population. The new building is situated adjacent to the site of the existing high school. The phased construction process allowed students to occupy the former school building during construction and avoid most of the safety, noise, dust, fumes, and indoor air quality issues associated with renovation and addition projects. It also shortened the construction period by about a year-and-a-half. Upon completion of the new school, construction crews demolished the old building. In commemoration, the new parking lot is formed from its footprint, with courtyards from the existing building still in tact.
The new 383,000 sf facility accommodates 1,850 students. To help reduce its apparent size, the four-story school is divided into three smaller buildings connected by glass paneled links. Each section is built into the natural slope of the site so that only two floors are visible from street level. The three smaller buildings form academic pods that are grouped around their respective administrative support offices and shared core spaces. Core facilities include a state-of-the-art library, computer labs, four gymnasiums, a cafeteria, a large multipurpose meeting space, and a 750-seat auditorium.
Administratively, the population is separated into four “houses,” effectively creating four smaller high schools to help build relationships among students, faculty, and administrators while retaining the benefits of large central facilities. The administrative houses, as well as other administrative and faculty programs, are distributed throughout the building to increase passive supervision.
At night the building glows, alive with community meetings, adult classes and leagues, and performances in the main theater. The division of the school into three buildings helps support community usage because it allows custodial staff to entirely shut down and lock sections of the school without interfering with events happening in other areas. The school’s extensive programmatic facilities: jewelry making classrooms, dance spaces, wood and auto shops, AutoCAD stations, athletic spaces and large, flexible theater also lend to its appeal as a community gathering space.
The building is compact and energy efficient which helps to reduce current and future energy costs. Infrastructure to make a future conversion to geothermal heating is built into the design, while alternative photovoltaic energy sources are being explored to supplement the building’s electrical power. Heat pumps recycle air to reduce heating and air conditioning expenses and exterior windows are properly sized and located to meet rigorous energy use criteria. High transom glass panels and large light wells located throughout the facility infuse the space with indirect natural light to minimize lighting costs. This natural light also creates bright, airy, and transparent classroom and corridor spaces.
Our high school opened in the fall of 2004, and though we do not yet have our certificate of occupancy, we have essentially been in full operation throughout the 2004-05 school year. The architects spent considerable time with the various user groups–that is departments–in developing the design for the building, and this was time that was extremely well spent. Each department has its own culture, as well as curriculum, and the architect was able to create spaces that, while consistent enough to be efficient, each meets individualized needs of each department. The school’s history and culture, in terms of student learning and progress, is to give students a great deal of freedom and flexibility, and to foster very close relationships between adults and students. The building that was designed and built has been very effective in furthering these goals. It is unusual, with a faculty that is very demanding and even finicky, to discover that the new building is receiving high marks across the board. One of the key issues for teachers was bringing in a lot of light, and emphasizing and accentuation the relationship between the school and the environment in which it is situated. While this is not strictly speaking about “learning,” it certainly is in a more general and important sense, as the culture of the school is expansive, outreaching, and tends to promote relationships between the school itself and the town, the state, the world. Again, teachers have found the space very easily usable, the resources impressive, and the kind of learning that we foster to be physically and spatially supported by the building.