- Project Name
- Bluestone Elementary School
Bluestone Elementary School
750 Garbers Church Rd.
- VMDO Architects
- Harrisonburg City Public Schools (Virginia)
- Project Types
- Project Scope
- New Construction
- 103,000 sq. feet
- Year Completed
- Shared by
Bob Moje, FAIA, VMDO Principal-in-Charge
Kelly Callahan, AIA, VMDO Project Architect
Bryce Powell, AIA, VMDO Project Manager
Design Architect and Architect of Record: VMDO Architects,Electrical Engineer: (M/E/P) CMTA Engineers, Inc.,Structural Engineer: Fox and Associates,Civil Engineer: Gay and Neel,Landscape Architect: John Meaney Design,Construction contractor: Nielsen Builders
- Certifications & Designations
- LEED Gold
- Project Status
Bluestone Elementary School was designed specifically to meet the needs of an incredibly diverse, global student population and support families from all over the world while creating welcoming public areas that embody values of inclusivity, creative expression, and communal learning. The design embraces cultural diversity while highlighting the relationship between the school and its global context. The school is tracking LEED Gold and demonstrates numerous sustainability initiatives with high levels of energy efficiency and ‘net-zero ready’ design. These include reducing water and energy use, incorporating healthy low-emitting materials, promoting natural daylighting with abundant views to nature, ensuring healthy air quality, employing innovative stormwater capture and management, and providing a high-performance envelope design that includes a geothermal HVAC system.
Bluestone has ultra-low energy use of only 17 kBtu/ft2/year (70 percent below a national 2030 standard) making it more than 3X more efficient than an average school. Embodied energy was also a concern of the design team, reducing total embodied energy by 38%. The new school has helped spur the district to begin planning for rooftop solar/photovoltaic arrays on this and other district schools.
Serving 755 students, the school features 42 core learning studios organized into grade-level "neighborhoods" over 3 floors. These neighborhoods support differentiated learning by providing a variety of core learning spaces, breakout areas, and teacher resource rooms that can be leveraged in different ways to support desired levels of autonomy and collaboration. The designers, in partnership with the school principal, also implemented several innovative ideas to promote team-based instruction, such as allowing teaching in classrooms to expand learning activities into circulation spaces, and creating flexible dual studios with movable partitions.
Expansive views to the Shenandoah Valley are complimented by unique environmental graphics and wayfinding that celebrate Harrisonburg’s local geography and ecology, empowering students to become stewards of this special place. The 10.8-acre site affords dynamic opportunities for a place-based learning and project-based curriculum. Boulders and trees harvested during construction are re-purposed as natural play features and are paired with native grasses, trees, and wildflowers that reveal visible water conservation and stormwater management.
The welcoming Dining Commons features local wood and stone details to create a unique sense of place that emphasizes the significance of dining, sharing, and gathering as a community. Through a flexible program that promotes learning, activity, and community, the school’s architecture celebrates diversity while honoring core values of creativity, expression, and identity.
The architects also worked with the Center for the Built Environment to develop a custom POE survey to evaluate project goals related to safety, community, and connections to nature. This contributed to the top national Livable Building Award in 2019 that recognizes Bluestone’s high occupant satisfaction and excellence in design and sustainability. https://cbe.berkeley.edu/livable-building/bluestone-elementary-school/.
Other awards as of 2019 include:
- 2019 Livable Buildings Award Winner, UC Berkeley's Center for the Built Environment
- 2019 Project of Distinction, Association for Learning Environments
- 2019 2nd Place Academic Project, Virginia Energy Efficiency Leadership Awards
- 2018 Platinum Design Award, Virginia School Boards Association
- 2018 Best Design Award, Virginia Association for Learning Environments
- 2018 Outstanding Project, Learning By Design