Centerbrook has designed a new academic and science wing for the University School, an independent high school for boys located in Hunting Valley, Ohio. Gently curving away from the school’s main academic and administration building and down the center of a peninsula in the school’s man-made lake, the rectangular structure’s windowed south wall harvests both natural light and solar heat. The three-story building, slated for LEED Silver, opened for the 2012-13 school year.

The upper two floors of the 52,000-square-foot addition house 25 classrooms for History, Math, English, and Foreign Languages, while the lower floor contains classroom-lab suites for Physics, Biology, and Chemistry, as well as a three-room Environmental Science Suite and a Special Projects Lab. Each of the five departments has dedicated common areas for students to hang out, study, and continue work with faculty after class.

Myriad energy-conserving and sustainable features are highlighted by a pond-source geothermal system for heating and cooling, a highly efficient insulating envelope, interior design to take advantage of thermal mass, and green roofs. Bio-swales collect and filter storm-water, and a new outdoor classroom focuses on the pond and its environment.

This initial phase of the two-stage project entailed substantial upgrading of the mechanical room of the original1969 building, including the installation of a code complaint sprinkler system. The connection of the new wing required the relocation of the administrative offices and creating a new student gathering place, the “Upper Commons,” in the core of the current building.

The second phase calls for the renovation of the main school building, highlighted by the construction of a new school entrance for visitors and students, as well as a new multi-story, glass-façade lobby that also will serve as a gallery and Arts Commons. Existing spaces will be renovated into a reception area, school store, and administrative offices, including the Alumni Development suite. The new lobby will connect directly to the Upper Commons.

These later renovations to the main building will also establish a new home for the Visual Arts and Music programs. Spaces will be open to one another to allow for complete flexibility and interaction within the Arts disciplines. An outdoor Arts Work Yard will be constructed on the north side of the building, immediately outside the woodshop and studios.

The grounds outside the lobby will be redesigned as a venue for cars and buses dropping off students, as well as a handsomely landscaped visitor parking area. New landscaping in Phase 2 also will improve the school’s environs, with additional bio-swales for student study of the environment and storm water management.

In addition to its facilities at Hunting Valley for grades 9 through12, the University School maintains a second campus for K-8 in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Photography © Peter Aaron/Esto