School Design

The ease of use, cost effectiveness, aesthetics, and structural benefits of engineered wood make it a first-class choice for school design.


El Dorado school

Engineered Wood Inspires with Cost-Saving Designs

Engineered wood designs are saving school districts time and money in three new school projects in Arkansas. In El Dorado, the school board trimmed $2.7 million from the estimated costs for a new high school by changing the building type from structural steel to wood frame. The Fountain Lake School District saved $1 million when it converted a two-story middle school design from steel to wood. And in Newport, cost savings of $20 per square foot were achieved with a 125,000 sq. ft. elementary school. In each project, wood design affords greater design flexibility, with long spans, dramatic angles, and large open spaces.

Glulam used at Gunter Primary School

Wood Achieves Great Spans

In the usually quiet streets of Gunter, Texas, the town is paving the way for its younger generation with the construction of Gunter Primary School. Completed in March 2007, the 59,700-square-foot, wood-constructed school includes classrooms, a computer lab, a cafeteria and kitchen, gymnasium, and administration offices. For the architect, choosing materials for the building was easy.

"With wood, the deliveries are fast and frame assembly moves quickly," said Fred Sahs, principal with SAI Architects and architect and construction manager for Gunter Primary. After shop drawing approvals, the engineered wood products were on the ground in about four weeks. In other projects using steel, the steel delivery required 15 weeks, according to Sahs. “I also like the increased design flexibility when using wood,” Sahs added.

The schools unique design concept features wood in exposed and hidden structural applications. The pitched roof design, with long spans and dramatic angles, used a variety of lumber and structural engineered wood products, including a large glulam beam, measuring 12-inches wide by 7 feet deep and 82 feet long.

Albert Lea High SchoolAdding Warmth

As public school enrollment continues to grow, school districts, architects and builders remain mindful of the need to build quality, durable school buildings with warm spaces that encourage learning. Designers in many parts of the country are turning toward engineered wood products like these glulam beams, manufactured by Alamco Wood Products, to answer the needs for structural integrity as well as warm, friendly design.

Jonathan Crump, principal architect for the Minneapolis offices of DLR Group, used wood in the new Albert Lea High School building in Albert Lea, Minnesota, to add warmth to a very large (270,000 square feet) facility. “The structure was built with cost effective pre-cast tilt-up concrete panels, so we needed something that would help us avoid a big warehouse look," said Crump. "By using glulam and leaving the beams and columns exposed in the common areas, we were able to soften the interior spaces,” Crump added.

The ability of exposed wood to soften what could otherwise be a cold, institutional facility is undisputed.

Chloe Clark Elementary School

Blending into the Community

The Chloe Clark Elementary School in Dupont, Washington, offers an example of design consciously aimed at integrating with the style of houses in the neighborhood. Craig Mason, principal architect in charge of educational facilities in the Seattle offices of DLR Group, said the community wanted an educational facility that would fit in with the 1920s bungalow style of the surrounding homes.

“The front entry to the school was designed to look like the front porch of a home to help the children feel welcome," said Mason. "The community also wanted a sloped roof to help the school fit in with the neighborhood. So we framed the roof structure using glulam beams and left many of them exposed to the space below. The result is a school that integrates very well into the surrounding area.”

Glulam in Thunder Mountain Middle School

Providing Quality and Durability

Tom Bates, vice president of Burr Lawrence Rising + Bates architectural firm in Tacoma, Washington, said school administrators are pleased with the maintainability, durability and longevity of engineered wood products. “Schools get so much abuse. What drives school design from our perspective is the need to use products that are easy to maintain. Wood is a quality, durable product that can cost effectively meet seismic design issues. That’s what sells here in Washington.”

Glulam’s quality and durability made it a good choice for the beams in the popular “town center” atmosphere of Thunder Mountain Middle School in Enumclaw, Washington. The ability to safely leave exposed glulam beams also adds to the overall cost effectiveness of the building.

Chase Lake Community School

Chasing Opportunities

Bassetti Architects designed Chase Lake Community School in Edmonds, Washington, both to serve as a center for the entire community and to encourage participation by the community in the education process. As pictured, the areas of the school are zoned to facilitate after-hours access to the stage and commons, library, media center, and gymnasium spaces. A community room for parents and community volunteers is located near the administrative area.
—Photo Courtesy Bassetti Architects

Good Shepherd Elementary School

Computing Aesthetics

In designing the computer lab at Good Shepherd Elementary School in Edmonton, Alberta, architects chose glulam trusses to bring out the artistic value in the room. The 375-student Catholic school wanted to create a powerful and meaningful atmosphere for learning, and modified bowstring trusses from spruce and lodgepole pine did the trick. The 75-foot glulam beams frame the environment well, making the space large enough to accommodate everyone while still retaining the intimate atmosphere necessary for learning.
—Photo Courtesy Western Archrib

J.R. Robson Junior High School

Encouraging Uniqueness

The J.R. Robson Junior High School in Vermilion, Alberta, declares that their mission is to encourage personal and educational growth during the difficult middle school years. This philosophy is not only reflected in their teaching style, but in the building style as well, as the school chose to build with pitch-tapered glulam beams. The series of 30-foot beams make the commons area a unique and welcoming entrance to the school, encouraging both learning and individuality for the junior high setting.
—Photo Courtesy Western Archrib

Quileute Tribal School Gymnasium

Remembering Tradition

The Quileute Tribal School Gymnasium in La Push, Washington, was a design/build effort under Bassetti Architects and Mortenson Construction Co., designed to provide flexible, multi-use spaces for athletic, educational, cultural and community activities. The building’s architecture reflects unique aspects of Quileute heritage, values and identity with the goal of promoting tribal healing and pride. A series of shed roofs at different elevations is meant to evoke the traditional Quileute ceremonial longhouse design and the action of the ocean, central to Quileute life. Large glulam beams projecting from the upper roofline recall seagoing canoes cresting a wave.

Bassetti Architects's Shannon Murphy gives nods to both its appearance and, at 66 feet, beam credibility. "Working for a Native American client, we were creating a connection to nature inside the building. The Douglas fir beam and truss girder system supported our approach."
—Photo Courtesy Bassetti Architects

Nipisihkopahk Middle School

Exhibiting Excellence

Once the architects for the Nipisihkopahk Middle School discovered the unmatched versatility of glulam, they realized its value for the school in Hobbema, Alberta. The Nipisihkopahk Middle School, a Samson Cree Nation educational facility for 450 students, used round glulam columns, glulam beams, and knee braces throughout the school, as the picture of the hallway demonstrates. Additionally, a full-sized gymnasium employed a 75-foot span of pitched glulam trusses, all made of spruce and lodgepole pine. The result is a beautiful educational building that demonstrates the overall excellence of glulam for use in schools.
—Photo Courtesy Western Archrib