Clark Nexsen

Clark Nexsen

Virginia Beach, VA


Laurel Park Elementary School Adaptive Reuse

Laurel Park Elementary School is a new, 900-student school crafted from the adaptive reuse of an existing pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Apex, North Carolina. Clark Nexsen determined, through a feasibility study, that the existing manufacturing and office building could be converted into an operational elementary school for the Wake County Public School System.

The existing building contained a high-bay cleanroom manufacturing area that was converted into physical education, child nutrition, and media center spaces. Classrooms and administration spaces were located within the two-story office area. A new floor plate was constructed within the existing high-bay area to provide an adequate number of classrooms. Because the building envelope consisted largely of insulated metal panels with windows mostly at the clerestory level, new openings were created within the skin for windows and stair construction to meet the life safety requirements of the building code. A large portion of the existing mechanical equipment was reused for the new function, reducing project costs.

The existing structure was completely gutted leaving only the structural frame, exterior walls with metal panels, roof systems, cooling tower, and boiler. While there were very few existing windows and doors, all were removed and recycled. The lower 7′-0″ of metal panels were removed and used to patch areas of the existing facades that were damaged. This 7′-0″ datum was replaced with cement panels for durability purposes. New windows were located to provide optimal daylighting in the classrooms and offices. Car and bus canopies were added to indicate main access to and from the school. On the interior, a new second floor level was fitted inside the warehouse sized spaces. All new interior walls, doors, glazing, and finishes were also added.

The existing building was not ideal for classroom layout, which resulted in a somewhat confusing circulation pattern. Classrooms line the perimeter of the exterior, while group spaces (library, multipurpose, dining) occupy the center of the school. The resultant “leftover” space provided for two circulation paths, a primary route that cuts through the main group spaces and a more circuitous route with access to classrooms. Color was used to orient users to the primary and secondary circulation paths, while new and existing skylights allowed natural light to penetrate into the group spaces in the heart of the school. An interior circulation ramp was added to connect floors of varying heights at the second level. This ramp is located at the intersection between the primary and secondary paths. Tucked inside the ramp is a special space used for quiet reading or student art projects.

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Status: Built
Location: Apex, NC, US
Firm Role: Architecture, Interiors, Sustainable Design