American Institute of Architects (AIA) honors LPA design of Environmental Nature Center Preschool as ‘dynamic learning center and an example of the sustainable values it teaches.’

IRVINE, CALIF. – For the second year in a row, integrated design firm LPA Design Studios has been recognized with the industry’s highest national award for educational facility design.

The American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) Committee on Architecture for Education (CAE) honored LPA with an Award of Excellence in its annual Education Facility Design Awards for the Environmental Nature Center Preschool – a LEED Platinum, net-zero facility in Newport Beach, California. The ENC Preschool, which was honored last year with a national AIA COTE Top Ten award, the industry’s top honor for sustainable design, delivers nature-based education for children ages 2 ½ to 5 by seamlessly blending indoor and outdoor spaces.

ENC Preschool was one of only six projects nationally selected for the Award of Excellence. In 2020, LPA was honored with the award for the campus expansion of Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School, an independent K-12 school in Irvine, California, focused on a student-centric curriculum.

Both projects were developed through LPA’s unique integrated design approach, which includes in-house engineers, landscape architects and interior designers from the start of the process.

“We would not have been able to achieve these results without a collaborative process that included the educators and the community,” said LPA CEO Wendy Rogers. “We’re honored to be recognized at this level and to support the goals and standards of the Committee on Architecture for Education.”

LPA’s design for the Environmental Nature Center focuses on cost-effective, passive controls, including building orientation and natural ventilation. The classroom spaces are open, flexible and flow into the outdoors. A tricycle path connects three distinct outdoor zones, each named after a national park—Sequoia, Joshua Tree and Yosemite.

“This project is both a dynamic learning center and an example of the sustainable values it teaches,” the AIA CAE jury said.

The jury specifically cited the project for incorporating biophilia and “children-centered spaces that support play-based and hands-on learning,” as well as LPA’s support for the AIA’s Framework for Design Excellence, including sustainability, resiliency and inclusiveness.

“This project is an excellent example of how to apply the Framework for Design Excellence to a small space,” the AIA jury said. “This space is well integrated and serves a hugely impactful mission.”

To date, the Environmental Nature Center and Preschool has won 19 additional local, state and national industry awards, including honors from engineering and landscape architecture industry associations.

“Working with LPA has been a great collaborative process,” says ENC executive director Bo Glover. “The focus was always on sustainability, energy efficiency and our mission to create an effective nature-based learning environment for children.”

The Education Facility Design Awards honor designs that enhance learning in classrooms; balance function with aesthetics; establish a connection with the environment; are respectful of the surrounding community; demonstrate high-level planning in the design process and integrate sustainability in a holistic fashion.

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