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****   Merit Award   ****
****   Citation - Savings by Design   ****
Playa Vista Elementary School
(# 516)
Images Description Credits
Playa Vista Elementary School is a new campus within the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). The program consists of 26 classrooms, admin. area, multipurpose room, kitchen, joint-use library, and play areas. The design for the school leverages a rigorous program, tight urban site, bold sustainability agenda, and demonstrable environmental engagement to encourage and inspire.

The project is an interesting collaboration of partner organizations. LAUSD operates over 600 sites, has never built to LEED, but is interested in a next generation of facilities. Loyola Marymount University (LMU) overlooks the site and facilitated a relationship between the school and their Education Department. This project will be a teacher training site for their students. The Playa Vista development is a relatively new community. They donated land to the District and had a voice in decisions. They, with the community members, brought high expectations.

The project’s success emerged from negotiations between the design team’s aspirations, the community’s interests, and the infrastructure of maintenance in the school district. The LAUSD maintenance team looked critically at all proposed elements.

This project was able to leverage a number of unique conditions that enabled it to take a position as a potential test ground for new strategies. One of the unique conditions of the site is its position against the bluffs below LMU. The roof of the building is a 5th façade which encouraged us to rethink the use of the roof. Rooftop HVAC units (District standard) were omitted and Water Source Heat Pumps were located in closets outside the classrooms. This system is a natural fit with a Geothermal Heat Exchange, which was appropriate at this campus due to the excellent conductivity of the soil. Clearing the roof of mechanical units allowed us to maximize the space for photovoltaic panels.

The building reveals a contrast between the regularity of the district’s program and the unusual shape of the site. The program relies on a collection of standard-sized volumes, 960 square foot classrooms. A regularized steel frame structure is broken by braces for lateral resistance – exposed along the length of the building. Systems and structure are exposed in the interest of facilitating learning experiences.

The serpentine structure maximizes natural ventilation and daylight with passive separation of distinct site areas. Landscape is striated into “learning landscape” zones: vegetable gardens, meeting areas, outdoor classrooms, and water zones. A sustainability treasure hunt further encourages exploration of the green features.

This project successfully provides a different interpretation of rigorous District standards in mechanical systems, educational technology, recycled water, usable landscapes, classroom configurations, passive campus security, reactive energy management systems, and onsite energy generation. The design leverages an interest in a site that can be a learning tool for sustainability and a diversity of spaces that facilitate innovation in teaching and learning.

PVES is on target for LEED Platinum and one of the first LEED-accredited schools in the LAUSD.


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