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Experts project U.S. schools will need to accommodate an additional 2.8 million students by 2024. At the same time, as the average age of educational facilities at every level has increased—and as rapidly evolving student needs and technology place new pressures on administrators—repair and renovation have become critical for schools striving to remain relevant.
The U.S. Department of Education reports that 39 percent of public schools had plans for major renovations to at least one building by 2015.
In the past, cinder-block or other forms of concrete construction were used to satisfy educational institutions’ needs for quick-turn construction. Today, however, schools are placing a premium on organic materials, sustainability and brighter, more open interiors—all areas where wood construction thrives.
Designing and building with wood can help architects and developers capture their share of the expanding educational building market while simultaneously addressing some of the common challenges that come with those types of projects:
Environmental charter school Common Ground High School in New Haven, Connecticut, wanted its new addition to reflect the values of the school and its curriculum. So its new space was designed using wood, including panels of cross-laminated timber (CLT) as an exterior skin and interior finish, and glue-laminated timber (glulam) and timber trusses to carry loads. A crew of five framed the structure in just four weeks from prefabricated components. The project met all code requirements and since opening has received excellent reviews from school officials, the staff and students.
Spending on education building construction is predicted to grow by 4.8 percent year-over-year in 2018. Although demographic trends will be a drag on growth potential in this sector, it is still considered to be a healthy market. —American Institute of Architects Consensus Construction Forecast
Studies show that wood construction offers several benefits conducive to a positive learning environment. Wood has been shown to reduce stress levels among building occupants while improving their productivity and increasing their comfort. The material has acoustical properties that can be used to control sound and thermal properties that help ensure comfort while remaining energy-efficient.
Washington Latin Public Charter School, in Washington, D.C., was able to create a structure that met a wide range of technical demands while also serving as an appealing space that students enjoy. The gymnasium building uses CLT inside and out, helping the project achieve budget, schedule, code and sustainability demands.
Another area of major demand in the educational marketplace is for student housing. Colleges lack enough on-campus housing, and off-campus housing is often aging and outdated, even as enrollment is increasing. Today, students want to live closer to campus—in denser, multiuse structures near retail, fitness and other amenities.
Wood construction offers rapid, modular assembly and allows designers to create open, fluid floorplans, making the material a strong solution for student-housing projects. Wood’s fire resistance, durability, and acoustical and thermal properties are of particular benefit to high-density buildings. With today’s tight project timeframes, wood can help designers, engineers and developers get student-housing facilities online in time for the new school year.
Project Details for Martha C Cutts Gymnasium at Washington Latin School and Common Ground High School
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