The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) recently ran an open, two-phase competition that invited architects and designers to prototype a 30,000 sq ft academic building for a number of pilot schools. Gonzalez Goodale Architects devised a system for building flexible, affordable, expandable, and sustainable prefabricated schools. The concept does a remarkable job of addressing classroom shortages at overpopulated schools, and it was selected as one of three winners alongside other local practices Hodgetts+Fung and Swift Lee Office.
The number of students at a given school changes over time, and since many schools are overcrowded now, districts are looking towards more efficient and flexible building options. Gonzales Goodale proposes a school prototype that is a flexible – a repurposable ‘box with a hat’ that features generous glazing and a signature profile that connects the teaching areas with the nature and the surrounding community. The prototype is composed of a series of prefabricated parts (as opposed to prefab modules), which allow the district and architects to pull from a standardized toolbox for a streamlined, efficient and flexible design process.
Gonzales Goodale has designed both a two and three-story version of their prefab school that can include classrooms, labs, expanded team-project teaching spaces, libraries, local district offices, and multi-purpose spaces. The use of economical prefabricated components like, curtain walls, elevators, rain-screen finish panels, and more can lead to significant savings over repeated projects. The design of the buildings hinges upon a state-of-art prefabricated structural steel joint that allow for the construction of an economical clear-span rigid steel frame. This system creates a shear-wall free exterior and a nearly column-less interior.
As for sustainability, the prefab schools are designed for both longevity as well as flexibility and stand to minimize the need for excessive expansions or alterations. Large curtain walls bring natural daylighting into the space, and rain screen exteriors improve the durability of the building. The school’s garden would feature permeable paving strips with no-mow grass-crete. Additionally, rooftop solar collectors would generate power for the building and increase its energy efficiency.