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Blanco Elementary School

Completion: May / 2013
Construction Cost: $5,885,000
Building Area: 37,000 Sq.Ft.
Cost per Sq.Ft.: $159
Awards: TASA/TASB 2013 Award in Value
  • Architectural solutions and aesthetics  
  • Safety and security impact  
  • Flexibility, adaptability, and/or expandability  
  • Creative use of materials  
  • Community multipurpose use of space  
  • Space relationships (student and staff)  
  • Site development  
  • Traffic flow/planning 
The challenge:  Integrating new building materials & systems with building components preserved after 130 years of use. New & old fit seamlessly, but with subtle distinction of each. Split-face CMU, limestone veneer & historic limestone blocks are in a complementary arrangement. The library, located in what has been an assembly space since 1885, will be used as a community gathering space. A renovated vestibule provides a secure public entry for the campus. The site plan segregates bus, car & pedestrian traffic, & maintains heritage trees; ramped access transverses 13' of grade change.
Educational Appropriateness 
  • Design of learning spaces 
  • Instructional program delivery  
  • Space relationships (student and staff)  
  • Technology integration  
  • Safety and security impact  
  • Activity appropriateness  
A gallery hall with rotating exhibits is located at the main entry to offer students a walk-thru history lesson built around found artifacts & photos of their school building's evolution over the past 130 years. Classroom wings flank common use areas for upper grades in the new building, while the cafeteria is relocated to a more campus -central location. By replacing all construction within the historic stone walls, all building systems & technology are fully integrated into the architecture. The central court provides students a naturally shaded refuge from the Texas sun.
  • This is your opportunity, tell us what is innovative about your project 
Most communities have iconic school buildings which are either difficult to maintain or have fallen into severe disrepair.  Planning for these structures is rarely pragmatic & is usually governed by a broad range of emotional responses.  The hometown grandmother has a vastly different viewpoint than the new urban commuter.  Negotiating this divide is a challenge but can create a rich common vision, as is evident in this project.
Process of Planning   
  • Student, parent, teacher, and community collaboration 
  • Structure of the collaboration process  
  • Evaluation of the educational program 
We began with a "subjective analysis" to determine the prioritized perceived needs of the district.  Separate workshops were held with: 1) site based committee, 2) district admin & 3) school board.  The results were reviewed & developed further with a broad based citizen committee.  It quickly became evident that the 1885 schoolhouse was THE master plan keystone. By preserving the 1885 facade & walls as part of a state of the art educational environment, the district had a win-win solution that bridged divergent segments in the community & became a positive focus for the project.
  • Site development/environmental solutions  
  • Water efficiency  
  • Energy efficiency  
  • Innovative use of materials and resources 
  • Indoor environmental quality  
  • Innovation in sustainable design 
  • Environmental educational outreach 
Of course we met energy code requirements (not listed here). Beyond that... historic materials have been recycled extensively: roof joists planed into wall paneling, the librarian's desk is built of old floor boards, gallery display tables are built of paneled doors, the bell display is a reconstructed limestone arch, old stones made new walls. The thermal mass of the 2' thick solid masonry tempers interior heat/cool. Sprayed polyurethane foam roof insulation provides a superior vapor barrier & insulation. Heritage oaks were preserved & provide shade. Low-flow plumbing throughout.
  • Life-cycle cost efficiency 
  • Flexibility, adaptability, and/or expandability  
  • Community use of space 
  • Site development  
  • Maintenance cost
Is there any better life-cycle-cost efficiency than a 130 year old building functioning as new? All materials & systems were selected based upon their durability appropriateness & maintainability. Each classroom HVAC is zoned separately with an automated control system to minimize utility cost. Not only the public use library, but the entire project has become a focus of community pride & solidarity. Total construction cost: $169/SF.