The new 60,500 SF Mount Nittany Elementary School, built on the site of the existing Panorama Village Elementary School, was designed to house 400 K-5 students and allow for future expansion to accommodate 500 students. The overall design of the learning spaces focuses on having a centrally-located learning resources center surrounded by large group instruction areas which in turn branch into the classroom learning areas. The classroom cluster structure presents opportunities for several levels of social and academic interaction for the students, providing individual and group learning as well as typical classroom settings.
The school, which is one story at the entrance, expands to two stories linked by a series of ramps centrally located within the facility. The multi-story design follows the slope of the existing topography and consequently minimized the amount of site work required.
The planning process for the project included a Community Project Touchstone Dinner, a day-long goal-setting workshop, and two days of design charrettes that brought together over 200 members of the school community, administration, faculty, staff and student body.
As a result of the community-based planning process, the design team became aware of issues of great importance to the community. As such, a portion of the building is available for public use every evening and weekend. A continuous trail connects the surrounding neighborhoods with the facility and the building is situated in a way that creates an open playground environment for community use. Further, the new bus loop serves as a walking /running track during non-bus hours. The placement on the site also helps to promote a true campus environment around the new facility and existing neighboring middle school.
Designed to function as a teaching tool, the building features a ‘Building Dashboard’ that helps students to be aware of how much energy is being used by the building; rain gardens and butterfly gardens visible through windows; and a building compass built into the floor surfacing.
Sustainable features include a ground source heat pump, gray water system, solar hot water heater system and reflective roof systems. Roof monitors allow for bilateral daylighting within classrooms and greatly reduce the need for artificial lighting. Rain gardens were created to aid with storm water control. Also, the project utilizes high value wall insulation systems, low flow fixtures, exterior light shades and shelves, as well as reused, renewable and recycled materials. The School District is pursuing LEED certification.
Location: State College, PA, US