Simonsdale Elementary School
CLIENT: Portsmouth Public Schools
Portmouth, Virginia

The newly opened LEED Gold Simonsdale Elementary School is an 80,000-square-foot one- and two-story building for 700 students.  The decision to pursue sustainable building practices originated with Portsmouth Public School's desire to reduce long-term costs and eventually expanded to full LEED certification. The design includes highly insulated wall systems, geothermal heat pumps, abundant natural light, and low-flow plumbing fixtures to reduce utility bills.

From the main lobby a teacher can see each corridor of the first floor. Security was an important component of the design.

While environmentally conscious design can be made to look more traditional, it was important that the school be visually striking to call attention to its "green" aspects. The vegetated roof is visible from the street, and louvers and overhangs protect windows on the south side of the building. The unusual metal skin provides nearly double the insulation of a normal wall construction. Splashes of bright primary colors break up the facade and highlight special areas. Long, sloping roof lines emphasize length and imply movement.

Creek and nature views are afforded by the large windows in the cafeteria, media center, art classroom, and science classroom.

Recycled material and responsibly harvested wood products lesson the building's draw on natural resources. Rain water is filtered prior to returning to the nearby creek by the vegetated roof, rain gardens, and pervious concrete pavers in the parking areas.

The building serves as a beacon for environmental responsibility in both the city and the region in general; it also inspires community pride and is a sign of the upward direction in public education in Portsmouth.