DALLAS — The new Wilmer-Hutchins Elementary School, designed by KAI Texas, is nearing completion and is set to open for the fall of 2011. This new campus, the first in the Wilmer-Hutchins area in more than 25 years, will host as many as 840 students in Pre-K through the fifth grade.

The $15 million structure, being constructed for the Dallas Independent School District (Dallas ISD), covers 103,000 square feet. It features a multipurpose auditorium, media center, gymnasium, cafeteria, arts rooms, and two two-story classroom wings.

KAI Texas collaborated with the residents and members of the Wilmer-Hutchins community before creating a design for the new school. Dallas ISD hosted several community meetings and the history and pride of the former students and staff was evident as participants offered ideas. After these meetings, “our design team knew they had to incorporate the key components of community, spirit, pride, tradition, and sustainability into the design solution for the school,” said Darren L. James, AIA, president and COO of KAI Texas.

With community at the top of the list, KAI Texas’ design team created an open and inviting school. It welcomes both students and the public for events and serves as a community center for residents. In addition to creating a true community space, the designers incorporated the “Mighty Eagles” mascot and corresponding school colors into the building, bringing together school spirit, pride, and the tradition of the previous communities’ school district. The flying roof plane emulates an eagle’s wings in motion, and the school colors were incorporated throughout.

Sustainability also was a major factor in the design, with a focus on energy efficiency, daylighting, and sustainable materials. Daylighting is essential in academic environments and numerous studies prove the positive effect of sunlight on performance. The building is situated in a natural environment with trees and greenery, thereby allowing students to connect with the outdoors through the careful placement of windows and glazing. A geothermal well system increases the energy performance of the school, while the use of low-VOC emitting materials that are durable and have long lifecycles adds to the sustainable aspects of the project.

The floor plan is a unique pinwheel design, with two-story classroom wings with grades Pre-K through first grade on the first floor, and second grade through fifth on the second level. A two-story library connects the two classroom wings. The center of the pinwheel is the lobby; this double-volume space creates a landmark to orient students and to enable administrators to monitor visitors and student activity as well as a pre-function area for community events that will take place throughout the school year.

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