ILLINOIS SCHOOL BOARD JOURNAL
EEE awards put emphasis on quality learning spaces
by David Henebry
David Henebry is a principal with LZT Associates, Inc ./Larson & Darby Group. He is also chairman of the IASB Invitational Exhibit of Educational Environments on behalf of the IASB Service Associates, which sponsors the school design awards program at the Joint Annual Conference. Also serving on the EEE committee are: Mark Jolicoeur, principal with Perkins+ Will, and Glenn Eriksson, president, Eriksson Engineering Associates.
After several years of participating and observing the jury process for IASB’s annual Exhibit of Educational Environments (EEE), combined with the evolution of knowledge about what education environments should be, the committee in charge of this conference event decided to revisit how the submissions are made and juried.
Much of the evaluation previously was based on technical aspects and architectural appeal of the school design. However, these criteria did not fit well into the actual jury discussion once the field of projects was narrowed.
In addition, too many of the photographs submitted with the projects focused on the building lobby or exterior, often leaving the jury guessing and searching the floor plans to determine if the design provided a quality learning environment.
To clarify the process both for the judges and the entrants, we have returned to the true intent of the EEE awards program. We started with the title: “Exhibition of Education Environments,” which we believe was and is very clear in its intent.
Next, we examined what the term “Award of Distinction” implied. As the highest of three awards given in this program, we believe it clearly indicates that a certain standard of excellence must be met to qualify for the recognition.
The primary purpose of the jury is to recognize districts that have invested in providing the best learning environments for students to succeed. That’s why we refocused the judging criteria to look at each school project as a pliable, flexible instrument for educators to use and adapt with future shifts and change. With an occasional exception, we have found that most architectural firms delivering these qualities tend also to have exceptional skill at creating aesthetic solutions.
While we know several new schools and major additions always will be submitted to the program, the other categories tended to vary from year to year. Therefore, the committee decided to expand the categories in order to: (1) improve the opportunity for recognition and; (2) encourage submissions that otherwise would not be entered or would have difficulty competing.
Although the EEE program now has three additional categories, there is no guarantee that an award will be made in each category. With that said, here are the six categories for school design projects:
• New Schools
• Major Additions
• Minor Additions (under 10,000 gross square feet)
• Major Renovation or Adaptive Reuse
• Special Project — Historic Preservation or Sensitive Rehab
• Special Project — Small Projects under $4 million or single spaces
Moving from the submissions to the jury side of the discussion, the committee also reorganized and weighted how the jury scores each project. This serves two purposes: (1) to clearly communicate to school boards, administrators and architects what is expected to achieve an Award of Distinction; and (2) to give appropriate weight to a project’s ability to create an exceptional learning environment.
To accomplish this, each entrant is required to write a short synopsis for each of the five criteria. By following the suggested characteristics as guidance, submitters have a chance to “tell the story” behind their project. Here are the five criteria, weighted grades and characteristics:
Program/Challenge (0-30 pts)
- Functional relationships
- Special challenges met
- Community partnerships
- Context: urban/suburban/rural
How the facility meets 21st century education environmental needs (0-30 pts)
- Project-based learning
- Integrated curriculum
- Integration of technology with curriculum
- Learning styles/multiple intelligences
Design (0-20 pts)
- Pleasant learning environment
- Age appropriate
Unique energy efficiency or green features (0-10 pts)
- Green power
- Innovative design
Safety (N/A to renovation/rehab/special projects) (0-10 pts)
- Passive security design
- Traffic patterns
In addition to these narratives, projects are judged by the submitted drawings and photographs that support the “story” of how they successfully designed and implemented an educational environment to meet the needs of that district.
While architectural features and elements significantly affect the culture of the school, the EEE jury looks primarily at the learning spaces and how the district and architect met the challenge of providing students the best and most effective opportunity to learn, through visual stimulation, interaction and expression of systems.
One final change has been made to the 2012 exhibition. Although the committee has traditionally recognized specific “green” projects, we acknowledge that even poorly designed schools can achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. With that in mind, the committee has elected to identify all exhibited projects that are LEED-certified Silver or higher with a green tag designation.
The Exhibition of Educational Environments is an important part of the Joint Annual Conference because it recognizes that it requires an entire “team” to create a solution worthy of distinction. It begins with the school district making a commitment to provide exceptional learning environments and a willingness to invest in their creation. And it continues with the architect providing an exceptional response to the opportunity to create a solution.
Good luck to all of this year’s entries. Entries for the 2012 Exhibit were due at the IASB office by July 20 and preliminary materials by September 10, to be evaluated on September 13. The judging will be done in Springfield on a blind basis by a jury of three school board members or administrators and three architects, appointed by IASB and experienced in school facilities or design.
All awards will be announced at the conference, with awards of distinction to be featured and presented at the first general session. All entries chosen by the jury will be displayed all three days of the conference, Nov. 16-18, in the Columbus Ballroom hallway at the Hyatt Regency, East Tower, next to the conference bookstore.
For more information about the annual Exhibit of Educational Environments, visit the IASB website at: https://www.iasb.com/jac12/eee.cfm.
For more information about IASB Service Associates, visit their link at: https://www.iasb.com/associates/.
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Although the IASB Web site strives to provide accurate and authoritative information, the Illinois Association of School Boards does not guarantee or warrantee the accuracy or quality of information contained herein.