Nestled amidst a patchwork of farm fields outside of Madison, Wisc., the design of the new Waunakee Community School District Intermediate School expertly melds the agrarian culture of it's students with a cutting-edge educational environments and next-level flexibility that will allow the building to repurpose and grow as the needs of the curriculum and community evolve. It did it so well, in fact, that the 156,000-sq ft. facility has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2017 ASID Wisconsin Gold Award.
According to CEO Rich Tenneessen of Eppstein Uhen Architects, the building and design decisions, including the lighting, were made to emulate the surrounding farms and agricultural setting. Repetitious patterns are found throughout the building, similar to the rows of crops found in the nearby fields. "Natural daylight and integrated ceiling light were important to give an organic feel to the linear space," Tennessen said.
Just take a look at how the lighting was designed in the library. Linear luminaires provide the lion's share of the overheard ambient illumination, but the orientation of the lighting fixtures is not uniform across the ceiling plane. Instead, some of the fixtures run perpendicular to the large window wall in the room, while others, installed on a dropped, dark-toned ceiling surface above the free-standing book shelves, run parallel. Above the informal reading and conversation space adjacent to the window wall are ceiling hung fixtures with filigree green shares that differentiate the space from its neighboring areas.
One of the ways the design of this school differs from the typical single classroom approach is its organization into villages. "It's a large school, but there are small schools within the school. They're called villages," explains Chis Michaud, Senior Design Architect, Eppstein Uhen Architects.
Randy Guttenberg, Superintendent, Waunakee Community School District, agreed that LEDs should be used throughout the building for functional lighting and wayfinding, helping to guide students to these learning villages. The lighting also highlights collaboration spaces and other specialized areas as part of the wayfinding system.
Sustainability was another aspect of the design that was important to the community. Rooftop solar panels generate power, while high-performance glass minimizes heat gain and glare. Geothermal heating contributes to energy savings. Beyond these energy-savvy systems, the school has an online tool that tracks the energy footprint of the building and students and faculty are able to view it.
Tennessen is pleased with student reception of the online tool that gauges the pace of the power being generated and used for the building's mechanical and electrical functions, including the lighting. "They can see for themselves the amount of power being generated and become familiar with the efficiency of its operations," he said.