Location: Monument CO [USA]
Client: Lewis-Palmer School District-38
Size: Site – 69 acres/ Built – 217,000 sft
Palmer Ridge High School was borne out of a desire to enhance the sense of the land. Inhabiting a trace — a datum, a tract inscribed by the North-South back and forth along the Rockies Mountain Range. This is the quintessential condition of the front range – the cardinal pacing. A trace recalling the probable debates of the merits and perils of going across the mountain range the early settlers of the front range had. While most in the mountain states of the US think of the mountain views, we were fascinated by this raison d’être that we see reiterated in the movement, infrastructure and in patterns that make up the land of this region.
This trace, cardinal and parallel to the mountain range is explored architecturally through the central spine. The spine becomes the element that navigates the slope of the site. It is conceived as a connector of the outdoors to the spaces within, as well as programmatically linking core learning areas to shared and social activities. It is designed to extend learning beyond the classrooms, with lounges, food service hubs, lobbies, courtyards, and an open library/media center. Courtyards punctuate the experience along the spine while extending the instructional areas outside.
The core learning areas are organized around “academic crossroads,” a dynamic hub fostering collaboration between students and teachers. Faculty neighborhoods provide dedicated workspaces to the faculty, an acknowledgement that school teachers are professionals. “Front porches” enable the neighborhoods to convey their unique identity through visual displays and digital messaging. Multi-purpose rooms at the heart of each “cross-road” are sized to bring two classrooms together for formal instruction and informal gathering during lunch breaks. The school is planned in a way that allows it to accommodate several teaching models ranging from small learning communities to the more conventional grade-based and departmental models. This flexibility in planning recognizes that teaching models change about once a decade.
The facility is designed to maximize energy efficiency and performance of systems. At the time of its completion, Palmer Ridge High School was the largest geothermal project in the State of Colorado consisting of 200 wells (400 feet deep) that heat and cool the school using earth’s stable underground temperature. The building as designed saves 40% energy (estimated energy use is 33.2 kBtu/sf-yr) compared to a baseline building. The design firm performed this analysis according to ASHRAE 90.1-2004, which is the requirement of LEED-NC Version 2.2. CO2 emissions will be reduced by over 500 tons per year (25% less CO2) compared to the average high school of this size. That is the equivalent of taking 83 cars off the road, the amount of CO2 caused by powering 40 homes, or the amount of CO2 sequestered by 103 acres of pine trees.