The Silverland Middle School in Fernley, Nevada was developed through a number of local design charrettes in order to hit upon the best concept for the area. Inspired by the natural context of the Great Basin area, as well as contemporary educational facilities, the middle school is a shining local example of best practices in design. Tate Synder Kimsey, who is responsible for the school's design, employed energy efficiency, daylighting and renewable energy throughout, and included a large outdoor courtyard for community events, including outdoor movie screenings. How many kids can say their school has a movie theater?!
The school utilizes traditional planning patterns found throughout the American Southwest and is organized around a central courtyard. The core contains the common areas, a cafeteria, gym, media center and library. Classroom wings shoot off from the center, each with access to lots of windows and natural daylighting. The protected and enclosed central courtyard provides flexible spaces for educational and social activities, as well as space for community events. At night the courtyard can easily be transformed into an outdoor movie theater, which is safe and protected for students and their families.
Regional materials were chosen based on the hues associated with the surrounding desert and plains, but are punctuated with bright and bold colors to identify classroom areas. Daylighting and passive solar design help reduce energy usage and mitigate the large swings in thermal activity throughout the day and night. Solar hot water and a series of wind turbines provide renewable energy for the facility. Overall, the sustainable and energy efficiency strategies have reduced the power demand of the school by 33%, and have set a baseline for the Lyon County school district for all future projects.
Images ©Tom Bonner