Environmental Stewardship in Christian Schools in Katy, Texas: A Guide for Architects

We spoke to some of the country's leading architects to understand the key principles in designing K-12 schools. Architectural transparency, or the principle of visual interconnection, is an increasingly popular standard for constructing new schools. Fanning Howey, for example, built the British International School in Houston, Katy, Texas - a private school from preschool to 12th grade - with the intention of making learning visible. In Whitestown, Indiana, Fanning Howey designed a moisture retention basin - a pond that collects stormwater - as an outdoor laboratory for Zionsville West High School, a public school. The safety and protection of students has become a priority in school design since the tragic events in Columbine (Colorado) and Parkland (Florida).

At Ecole Kenwood French Immersion School, a public magnet kindergarten to sixth grade school in Columbus, Ohio designed by Fanning Howey, the staircase has been expanded to include carpeted seating for students and is equipped with an overhead projector, a large projection screen, a sound reinforcement system and wireless access. Lady Bird Johnson High School in Irving, Texas is the largest public school with zero net emissions in the country; it generates more energy than it consumes and the building itself is a learning laboratory. Having a single point of entry to the school is now standard protocol for limiting unwanted access; however, many schools are now installing double-locked entrances and two locked doors to enter and often require logging in and using video surveillance systems to monitor visitors before they enter the campus. Each academic wing has classrooms that connect to a central collaboration space and a teacher design laboratory that allows teachers to observe students from virtually anywhere in the learning environment. Bullying is an even more pervasive and everyday problem that poses its own architectural challenges.

According to a recent study by the National Center for Education Statistics, students between the ages of 12 and 18 reported almost twice as many incidents of harassment in hallways and stairwells - where they spend only a fraction of their time - than in other school areas such as cafeterias or playgrounds. At Daugherty Elementary School, a public school in Garland, Texas, the architectural and design firm Corgan created a learning playground that offers a variety of educational zones related to Texas state standards. Perkins+Will used a cheaper alternative: strategically placed glass windows on the International School Campus - from kindergarten to sixth grade of a magnet-type public school in Cleveland - to create a continuous line of sight throughout the space. For example, sixth graders can collect data and learn practically about energy transformation by comparing the efficiency of fossil fuels with solar, wind and geothermal energy - all energy sources used by the school. Architects have an important role to play when it comes to environmental stewardship in Christian schools. By designing buildings that are energy efficient and promote collaboration among students, architects can help create an environment that encourages learning while also reducing energy consumption.

Together, these companies make hundreds of millions of dollars worth of construction work per year and have built or renovated thousands of schools across the country and around the world. The effects can be far-reaching; reducing students' dependence on teachers, promoting peer collaboration and expanding learning from within classroom walls to encompass the entire school campus.

Miguel Skoog
Miguel Skoog

Infuriatingly humble tv fanatic. Extreme beer evangelist. Amateur food guru. Amateur pop culture buff. Lifelong coffee buff.