School of the Future Finale: Final Projects

By admin on February 19, 2016

School of the Future Finale: Final Projects
By: Elise Koufos

Halfway through the School of the Future project, we brought structural engineers Katy Briggs and Gokhan Akalan ofBase Design with us. While the students were dreaming of the ideal school, we wanted them to be challenged with the real-life collaboration and coordination that occurs between the different disciplines. Katy mentioned, “It was a lot of fun to interact with middle-school-aged students and to watch them realize that they actually know quite a bit about structural engineering once prompted to think about their projects from that perspective. I was impressed by the effort that they are putting into these projects and by all of the different aspects of design and construction they are juggling while creating their buildings. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the finished project!”

Fast-forward a few weeks, to a quiet classroom, with students dressed up and display boards lining the room. Final presentation day had come. Throughout the semester they had discussed public transportation, watershed, climate, and solar orientation, as well as structure, material, and space. Within each School of the Future class, the students chose a winning representative project that creatively incorporated all of these elements.

The winning project from second period was located on Quimby Oak’s existing campus as a re-imagination of what their current campus could be in the future. They were not only concerned about the outdoor spaces, but spent time researching the psychology of color and its effects on learning. The gym and other active spaces were oranges and yellows while the classrooms and study spaces were shades of green and blue.


Another project was located in Detroit, and envisioned the school as a safe haven for the community. Instead of thinking of the school as purely academic, the students incorporated family housing and shops to employ students’ family. They also incorporated language classes that reflected the diversity found in the surrounding community. A walkable, mini-city oriented around education started emerging as they shared their ideas.

What is fascinating about working with the students is to watch common themes emerge in their projects. School gardens, for example are rare on most campuses today, but were present in most of the students’ projects. There was also emphasis on technology in the classroom and large amounts of natural daylight. Apart from the common themes in the projects, each team had a unique take on what a school of the future might be.

IMG_20160112_102309-300x225Each year, our hope is to introduce students to the process of design and the importance of incorporating sustainability into that process. It’s so encouraging to watch the students grasp concepts and incorporate them into their projects. At the beginning of design, most students’ concept for sustainability was rows of photovoltaic (PV) panels in their parking lots, but by the end of the semester, they have researched and incorporated rainwater harvesting systems, gray water reclamation, and power-generating flooring (to name a few) in addition to more traditional PV. The framework of modeling the curriculum around the Living Building Challenge helped educate the students on regenerative design, and it was inspiring to see how it influenced their designs. Whether they become a part of the building industry or not in the future, we’ve been able to plant seeds on how buildings work, how they are made, and how they impact the world around them.


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