Wilburton Elementary is measured not only in the overall architecture but how it fits in within the community and is responsible to the climate, positively utilizing the natural environment to generate power and heat while reducing its overall carbon footprint. The planning and design process established goals and ensured that every decision moved the project in the intended direction bringing it to a cohesive whole. • Project goals were to create an innovative learning environment that was responsive and responsible for future generations. • District mission was to provide new high tech and innovative teaching and learning space taking the burden off three surrounding over-crowded Elementary schools. • Community and neighborhood goals framed traffic control to this park like site; Not compromising buffers; Thoughtful site responses and extended on-site vehicle queuing. All were mitigated during the public process. • City criteria pushed the design to enhance the character of this arboretum district and meet strict tree protection, traffic counts, and safe pedestrian connectivity parameters. Both the District and the City held community meetings to understand the concerns of the immediate community. The site is one mile from the center of downtown Bellevue. It is in an established residential neighborhood and its empowered citizens were concerned about increased traffic and the safety of the pedestrians.
Two types of visioning occurred at Wilburton Elementary – Architectural and Educational. The Architectural visioning lead through the School District Maintenance and Facilities office together with the Architect, Landscape Architect, Wetlands Biologist, Civil engineer, community members and City planning worked through complex site issues to utilize this complex site to its fullest potential. The architecture maintains the district standards which require innovative ways harvest and re-distribute energy on a site that was nearly 60% covered in wetlands. This is the first completely new school on an undeveloped site in the Bellevue School District since the 1970s. As such it required a whole new approach to teaching and learning.
Educational planning was led by a progressive Principal, Beth Hamilton-backed by major tech company (Microsoft)- and her carefully chosen team to broaden educational delivery with progressive space. The early partnership with Microsoft expanded the reach and meaning for BSD administration. The Principal and her team took on the challenge to create a brand-new way of innovative teaching and establish something new where there were no preconceptions. Microsoft employs the most advanced technology throughout the school and sees this as a “lighthouse school” formulating new learning technology and distributing it to the surrounding schools. Wilburton attracts Ministries of Education from around the world to view progressive teaching and learning as it happens.
Other partnerships which enhance learning opportunities are found within the neighborhood – an example is the Bellevue Botanical Gardens is just South and adjoining the school with unprecedented botanical education both at the gardens and within Wilburton Elementary School’s own walls. Trails, paths and an elevated walk along the wetland provides connectivity to first class athletic facilities at Wilburton Hill Park. Active, healthy choices for children are supported by research data to enhance the cognitive, social and emotional intelligence of early learners.
The campus is set up for learning in flexible and adaptable ways. On entering the school there is a spacious lobby capable of having school gatherings utilizing the multi-level surrounding balconies down to smaller group or community use with flexible furnishings on the ground floor. Each grouping of classrooms surrounds shared learning spaces with flexibility for team teaching, break out, and individual instruction. Tackable walls and technology throughout encourage the innovative staff to take full advantage of their surroundings.
The project team was required to design a school which operates at a very low EUI. Typical 80,000 sf. elementary schools in the region operate around an EUI of 28. Wilburton Elementary is operating at approximately 14.4 EUI through an advanced system utilizing Solar PV to generate energy and a separate system of solar panels to heat the water; Geo-Exchange wells assist to heating and cooling the building; generous natural lighting throughout the building reduces the need for artificial lighting; and natural ventilation . The AIA 2030 challenge, WSSP milestone and the ethos of reduced total cost to ownership became a metric to frame design decisions.