At the annual meeting of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Council of Educational Facility Planners (CEFPI) last week, Hutton Architecture Studio was fortunate to receive one of their most prestigious awards.  It was the Peak Award for Outstanding New Project for our Institute of Science and Technology (IST) at Cherry Creek Schools.  We started work on the IST in January 2009, when I attended a STEM conference in Washington D.C. with nine members of the Districts leadership team.  That team included principals, IT experts, educators, and administrators.  In addition to attending the conference we visited STEM schools in the Washington area.

Building on the shared vision and sense of team established during that trip, we moved rapidly into programming and design.  The process was unique in that the program was far from determined as we began to shape the building.  Normally, we start design with a very precise programmatic statement from the client.  Because this was the District’s first foray into a STEM specific facility, they were still creating the program.  That’s when things got really interesting.  We noticed that our design proposals started to influence the shape of the program, even as the program was informing our efforts.  This does not follow the typical linear process of Program – Design – Construction – Occupancy.  Fortunately we were working with an enlightened District and talented educators.  They gladly took clues from the design effort and incorporated what was possible architecturally into the curriculum.

To cite just one example of this dynamic interplay of program and design, one of the five career concentrations is Natural Resources and Energy.   This is a consequence of the building being the most sustainable and energy efficient in the District.  Among other features, the building has roof mounted PV panels, ice storage, two story daylighting tubes, and an active daylight tracking device.  All of these components are learning opportunities and they help inform this career concentration.  I hope that more of our future educational facilities will present the opportunity for program and design to interact in this synergistic fashion!