Stantec designs first WELL Gold certified high school in the U.S.

Susan Bender
May 2, '22 10:25 AM EST

Sandy Spring Friends School’s new Pen y Bryn Upper School, designed by global integrated design firm Stantec, recently earned WELL Gold certification recognizing a commitment to occupant health and well-being.

Stantec provided architecture, interior design, and engineering for the Upper School, located on the 140-acre Sandy Spring Friends School campus that houses multiple educational buildings for more than 650 students from preschool to 12th grade. The Upper School serves students in grades 9-12 as they prepare for college and further learning.  

Stantec’s design reflects the school’s Quaker values – Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, and Stewardship – and creates a harmonious space for teaching and learning. The architecture aligns with the school’s core values through a simple, elegant design that celebrates the Upper School’s sense of community, collegiality, and respect.

Students and teachers have access to a wide variety of educational environments – traditional classrooms, open or closed collaboration areas, and social spaces – that offer dynamic lighting solutions and flexible, ergonomic, and adaptable furniture.

The school’s WELL Building Gold design features a biophilic strategy that captures nature through:

Environmental elements

The new building offers many outside views from classrooms, offices, social areas, and stair towers. A covered front porch next to the meditation garden, a sunny maker-space patio to the west, and a quiet roof terrace on the third floor extend learning to the outdoors. The interior palette is inspired by the school’s ropes course, a well-known local amenity amidst a beautiful natural setting, and incorporates large areas of ash wood walls created from trees reclaimed onsite.

Energy solutions

Interior rooms have expanses of floor-to-ceiling glass to provide daylighting and exterior views through large windows in classrooms, collaboration areas, offices, and social areas. The lighting design uses high quality LED lighting compliant with WELL Building standards. Lighting in the main commons and adjacent conference room echoes the “tree canopy” interior design scheme and resembles an abstract tree branch.

In addition to its WELL Building Gold design, the Upper School is engineered as a Net-Zero energy ready facility, where the total amount of energy used by the building annually is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site or nearby.

“Seeing the new building come to life has been an amazing planning and design journey, showcasing our team’s commitment to healthy design and innovation,” said Laura Sachtleben, global education sector leader for Stantec. “We’re proud of the results of our partnership with the school community and are excited to see the students, teachers, and staff embrace this new learning environment.”

Stantec is ranked as a top ten design firm by Engineering News Record, a top ten architecture firm by Architectural Record, and a top four K-12 education firm by Building Design + Construction.

For more information about Stantec’s education expertise and projects, visit