• PHOTO BY GEORGE LAMBROS
  • PHOTO BY GEORGE LAMBROS
  • PHOTO BY GEORGE LAMBROS
  • PHOTO BY GEORGE LAMBROS
  • PHOTO BY GEORGE LAMBROS
  • PHOTO BY GEORGE LAMBROS
  • PHOTO BY GEORGE LAMBROS
  • PHOTO BY GEORGE LAMBROS
  • PHOTO BY GEORGE LAMBROS

Sparking curiosity and excitement for learning and lifelong educational success through appropriately scaled architecture.

Forest Elementary School & Early Learning Center
Des Plaines CCSD 62
Des Plaines, IL

Wight & Company was hired to provide design-build services for the renovation of Forest Elementary School and the addition of an Early Learning Center (ELC). The project was one component of a three-phase, $109 million, District-wide “Renaissance” of 11 school facilities focused on meeting the growing needs of the Des Plaines School District.

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Project Challenge

There were two distinct programming challenges. The first challenge was to take two schools serving students of differing program needs and age groups and combine them under one roof, while maintaining distinct identities and operations. The second challenge, specific to the ELC addition, was to create a welcoming and nurturing environment for students while fostering the efficiency and benefits of shared equipment and support spaces for the faculty.

Our Solution

Our design centered on a site development plan and building orientation strategy that allowed the separation of vehicular traffic, building entrances and an architectural solution that gave each school its own identity.

The two-story elementary school’s floor plans were reconfigured so that all student-occupied spaces could be accommodated on the first floor. In this way, we were able to move all of the second floor functions to the first floor and renovate the second floor into a boardroom and training rooms with a separate entrance for staff. We also relocated the main office to a more accessible location and added a new security vestibule.

The ELC addition features an appropriately scaled welcoming environment for young learners, and spaces for both mainstream preschool services and early learners with speech, hearing, and physical disabilities. We arranged the ELC’s floor plan into three zones. The public zone and courtyard playground allows for secure outdoor instructional activities. The semi-public zone includes the corridors that connect the interior spaces and support spontaneous and informal educational opportunities in an enclosed setting. The private zone provides formal space for instruction and active learning. Each of these zones was inspired, designed and developed with the natural landscape of a forest as the guiding metaphor.

Sustainability

 

The center courtyard contains two key stormwater management strategies to collect, filter and maximize surface water runoff. The first strategy involves a 30-percent recycled material that serves two purposes. The poured-in-place playground surface is the primary water collection system. This porous material, which serves as a safety cushion around and under the playground equipment, allows water to pass through its membrane and travel under the pitched surface to selectively placed catch basins. The second strategy performs dual purposes as well. During inclement weather, rainwater is directed down the pitched roof into the courtyard. We turned this challenge into a learning opportunity by creating fiberglass splash blocks in the form of leaves at the four corners where the shed roofs meet. The water runoff is partially collected and discharged underground through permeable pavers surrounding the leaves. 

 

 

Awards & Recognition

  • 2014 Citation of Excellence, Architectural and Interior Design Showcase, Learning By Design
  • 2013 Citation, Exhibition of School Architecture, National School Boards Association
  • 2012 Best K-12 Education Project, ENR Midwest
  • 2012 Merit Award, AIA Educational Facility Design Award