How Does Good Design = Good Business?

Tags: Renovation/Addition Educational High Sustainability

How does a project’s good design result in good business? It means that the inherent value of good design is evident to both the public at large and decision-makers in many industries. Organizations utilize architecture to maintain and attract high quality workforce and student body to improve the health and welfare of the community and uplift the immediate environment.

As the winner of AIA Baltimore’s 2020 Excellence in Design, Good Design=Good Business Award, we wanted to share how the Forest Park High School design embodies good business.

The Forest Park High School project is a renovation of and addition to an existing four-story urban high school into a state-of-the-art learning environment symbolic of the district’s investment in its youth and the 21st Century vision for their community.  Intense design collaboration with the 21st Century School Buildings Program, Baltimore City Public Schools, Maryland Stadium Authority, community stakeholders, educators and users was critical to convert the dark brutalist urban fortress into an open, welcoming, naturally lit, LEED Silver Certified academic and community environment.

The design team collaborated with educational stakeholders to reprogram the 21st century learning pedagogy within the existing building shell, provide natural light and views to all learning spaces, and maximize efficiency.  Circulation was improved by carving a central stair atrium through the existing four-story structure, requiring a creative design solution to frame and develop a passive smoke evacuation system for Life Safety.  The vertical volume is now a defining feature of the school providing needed circulation, natural light into the buildings dark core, and an amphitheater style collaboration space.

The once dated and inadequate high school now features a variety of learning environments extending beyond the classroom promoting all learning styles, student collaboration, and a variety of learning group sizes.  Designing for specialized Career Technology Education programs produces highly skilled graduates prepared to immediately enter the local workforce as positive contributors to our local economy or continue their educational process embodying Forest Parks’ College Going Culture.

The project offers added value as a community hub and center for lifelong learning. The all-hours facility features performance venues, a natatorium, media center, athletic facilities, an urban green space with produce garden, public health facilities, family care, and adult education spaces all planned to serve both educational and community needs.

A holistic and integrated approach to efficiency and sustainability required design disciplines to continuously challenge one another to develop simple passive methods to impact initial and life cycle costs and energy consumption while minimizing complexity and cost of operation.

Cross disciplinary collaboration implemented the energy model and life cycle cost analysis as evolving tools for evaluating consequential impacts of site, structure, architecture, constructability, cost, and sustainability to the mechanical design. Consistent with the theme of passive approach, a geothermal water source heat pump system was implemented to take advantage of the earth as a free heat sink.

Correcting a structurally failing, poorly insulated veneer which was riddled with thermal breaks was resolved within budget by replacing masonry, insulation, light gauge, and windows with a single trade curtainwall system.  The solution was refined with input of the structural engineer, commissioning agent, mechanical energy model and the CM to maximize value and performance. Ultimately the failing veneer offered the opportunity to reinvent the façade of the school as a reflection of the activities within.

The renovated school combines an energetic, forward-thinking architectural aesthetic with an aggressive design solution to deliver a prized and cherished community institution on time and on budget.  Indeed, helping to re-enfranchise the overall community.