Kara Aylesworth, AIA, LEED AP
A large group of architects and educators convened in Las Vegas for the annual CEFPI Southwest Region Conference. The first day was a tour of four Clark County public elementary schools that had been built within the last 7 years. Eight architect teams designed the schools in a competition format, and all were constructed to meet aggressive energy standards. New technologies were employed in cooling these buildings such as turbo core chillers that use small turbines for centrifuging and separating hot and cold water, and adsorption chillers that create cooling from heat through vacuum and desiccant systems. The buildings themselves varied in design, with some more utilitarian than others. The most successful designs included deep south-facing overhangs to provide protection from the heat and internal courtyards that provided plantings and opportunities for school communities gather and learn outside. Courtyards at Ruby Duncan and Wallin Elementary Schools are pictured. Amphitheaters are used for evening concerts and gatherings and the spaces between the buildings provide shaded areas for small group use.
The second day of the conference dawned sunny and bright. University of Nevada, Las Vegas hosted the group on campus for a day of seminars. Keynote speaker Marcus Orlovsky with Bryanston Square gave a dynamic presentation about the way that design teams need to communicate and listen to their clients to create better outcomes. He proposed that every project owner should have an operational group, a strategic group and a change group to begin thinking about what we are preparing students for, creating environments of constant improvement, and being outward focused for idea gathering. Design teams should interact with the client in a number of settings, such as structured interviews, focus groups, meetings and surveys. Spending time in classrooms with teachers and involving students in all aspects of the project was strongly encouraged.
Following Orlovsky were presentations from master students who were enrolled in the Educational Facilities Research and Design Studies program. UNLV is partnering with the University of Kentucky to explore high performance prefabricated classroom design that follows CHPS guidelines. Masters students have been exploring these forms over the last two years and a number of options were shown with better dimensions for classroom arrangements and projection surfaces as well as higher roof forms for daylighting. Small group areas were worked into the classrooms. The objective of the project is to be cost competitive with a longer lifespan product for school districts who may need to use these buildings for decades.