October 2019

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OCTOBER 2019 | 71 Meadow Ridge School PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY THE FOOTHILLS SCHOOL DIVISION Meadow Ridge School by NATALIE BRUCKNER T he construction of the new K-9 Meadow Ridge School in Okotoks, Alberta, is considered to be the most engaging and comprehensive collaboration for a school division and municipality in the history of the province. "It has been a very collaborative effort, beginning with The Foothills School Division [FSD] and the Town of Okotoks jointly announcing on October 27, 2015, the purchase of 40-acres of land, by the Town of Okotoks, for the allocation of school development. FSD worked with Alberta Education for funding and Alberta Infrastructure managed the capital building of the school," explains Candace Denison, manager, communications and PR, Foothills School Division. Group2 Architect, the prime con- sultant on the project, and Graham Construction, the general contractor, received extensive input throughout from a representative team of stu- dents, teachers, staff, administration, trustees, and community, through an FSD Planning Advisory Team and open houses. The result of this mass collabo- ration is the two-storey Meadow Ridge School – a perfect example of 21st-cen- tury learning. Graham Construction broke ground in March 2018 and was able to hit the ground running. "We had to clear snow off the site, but were fortunate as there wasn't a lot of frost and the water table was low. Being a greenfield site, we needed to build a temporary access road, which gave us plenty of laydown area and parking for construction per- sonnel," says Graham Kaptein, project manager at Graham Construction. The school has been built on a par- cel of land that has preserved wetlands to the north and has panoramic views of the mountains to the west, which makes for a natural setting for student learning. For the design of the school, FSD Design Meetings and Planning Advisory Team set a very comprehen- sive set of guidelines that included flexible and open spaces for team teach- ing and collaboration, indoor/outdoor classroom spaces, acoustic control between those spaces, and to ensure the design would inspire the students in a learning laboratory-style setting. Sustainability and access to natu- ral light were also key elements of the design in order to maximize the beauti- ful views of the mountains and integrate the school's solar technology program. Materials chosen for the exterior not only complement the surround- ing vista, but respect the site on which it stands. "The school is a combination of brick veneer, red aluminum com- posite panels, Longboard cladding, and galvanized and grey corrugated metal cladding," explains Kaptein. "The shape of the building has some intri- cate curves, and features what we call a butterfly roof, where the joists are installed on a 30-degree angle." This butterfly roof acts as an accent to the building and draws you into one of the entrances where natural light streams into the two-storey atrium through the clerestory windows. The open entrance and sitting area to the main floor creates spaces that are both welcoming and engaging for students. Central to the main floor is the learning commons that creates a natu- ral flow and wayfinding through to the other parts of the school. Spaces such as the art studio have been intention- ally located to the front of the school with a wall of windows facing east for the morning light with the start of the school day. The gymnasium also features an extensive use of glazing to allow the observation of play within. Central stairs lead you up to further classrooms and flex spaces. When it comes to finishes, Kaptein says that it is one of the "nicest school projects" he has constructed. "Rather than masonry in the hallways, which is common in school buildings, the architects chose tile, which acts as a wonderful statement. The columns are wrapped with slate and tile, there is an acoustic wood baffle system in the atrium area, and the gym wall is con- structed with split face block. These materials act as an acoustic dampening system, so much so that when you step into the atrium there is no echo." For the mechanical and electrical systems, sustainability was again top of mind, even down to the air handlers that feature a heat wheel in order to recover heat energy. A solar technology system in the building gives teachers and students access to the data for learning aligned with environmental sustainability. It's clear that every detail of the new school has been carefully considered and included what the new superinten- dent, Christopher Fuzessy, refers to as "wiser practice" – a reflection of con- stant learning and evolution. When it came to the naming of the school, this same extensive collabora- tion was used to lead to a great outcome. "This was a very significant legacy decision that required thoughtfulness and engagement from everyone includ- ing the community and the Okotoks Museum and Archives, who provided a report on the history of the land along with considerations of former one-room schools, to people, to general geographic terms," explains Denison. "Meadow Ridge School reflects the wetlands that are immediately west and north of the school, the outdoor learning environment for the students, and the property setbacks in place for the stewardship of an environmental legacy, and is a reflection of 'coming south from the valley to the ridge.'" As the community of Okotoks con- tinues to grow, Meadow Ridge School is a project that everyone involved can be extremely proud of and one that sets a new benchmark for learning environ- ments in the province. "We have had the opportunity to design for future intersections of intention and purpose and integration of learning and envi- ronment, while interacting with nature and the community. The opportunity for the design and build of this new K-9 Meadow Ridge School has established a new level of engagement and collab- oration with municipal partners and community. It has been the catalyst to provincial recognition of engagement and partnerships with the local school divisions, municipality and commu- nity," says Fuzessy. A LOCATION Okotoks Community Campus, 32nd Street North, Okotoks, Alberta OWNER/DEVELOPER The Foothills School Division ARCHITECT Group2 Architecture GENERAL CONTRACTOR Graham Construction & Engineering LP STRUCTURAL CONSULTANT Williams Engineering MECHANICAL CONSULTANT Remedy Engineering ELECTRICAL CONSULTANT SMP Engineering CIVIL CONSULTANT MPE Engineering Ltd. TOTAL COST $20 million 2019-01-09 9:26 AM 2:15 PM 9:47 AM 4:06 PM

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