Elementary School Architecture and Design
Buckingham County Elementary School Architecture & Design
Buckingham County Elementary School Architecture & Design

In 2009, the Buckingham County school community decided to do something different about the future of their youngest learners: prioritize health and design to deliver a cutting-edge, holistic learning environment for students and teachers. In collaboration with public health researchers, the design team co-authored healthy eating and physical activity design guidelines (HEDG and PADG) as an antidote to the childhood obesity epidemic (published, respectively by the CDC in 2012 and PLOS ONE in 2015). These replicable design guidelines provide research-based strategies for school planners, architects, and educators to use in promoting healthy eating and physical activity as school-based obesity prevention. This design-research collaboration has yielded a healthy, LEED Gold school that is contributing evidence towards our collective understanding of the intimate connections between architecture, health, learning environments, and academic success.

The existing school campus was re-designed as a 14-acre sustainable landscape that promotes active and diverse opportunities for play, exercise, and learning to serve 1,000 children in grades K-5. Themed around health, the school highlights natural ecologies and local resources to spark environmental awareness, stewardship opportunities, and hands-on active learning.

In 2009, the Buckingham County school community decided to do something different about the future of their youngest learners: prioritize health and design to deliver a cutting-edge, holistic learning environment for students and teachers. In collaboration with public health researchers, the design team co-authored healthy eating and physical activity design guidelines (HEDG and PADG) as an antidote to the childhood obesity epidemic (published, respectively by the CDC in 2012 and PLOS ONE in 2015). These replicable design guidelines provide research-based strategies for school planners, architects, and educators to use in promoting healthy eating and physical activity as school-based obesity prevention. This design-research collaboration has yielded a healthy, LEED Gold school that is contributing evidence towards our collective understanding of the intimate connections between architecture, health, learning environments, and academic success.

The existing school campus was re-designed as a 14-acre sustainable landscape that promotes active and diverse opportunities for play, exercise, and learning to serve 1,000 children in grades K-5. Themed around health, the school highlights natural ecologies and local resources to spark environmental awareness, stewardship opportunities, and hands-on active learning.

Buckingham County Elementary School Architecture & Design
Buckingham County Elementary School Architecture & Design
Buckingham County Elementary School Architecture & Design

Inspired by local ecologies and the five physiographic eco-regions of Virginia; the color system, graphic identity, and branded wayfinding communicate playful and sophisticated themes related to sustainability, health, and energy conservation. Certified ergonomic furniture promotes dynamic sitting and comfortable, flexible settings in which children are free to move. Reading nooks and open learning hubs transform pathways into active, child-centric “learning streets” while day-lit views and access to gardens and eco-paths foster inquiry, creativity, and curiosity. The Dining Commons serves the heart of the community by re-orienting school breakfast and lunch within the context of a healthy food-based learning environment.

The design of the school strives to tap into the inherent intelligence of students to inspire a sense of well-being and a love of learning. The building works to make ‘all things seem possible’ by rendering educational moments visible and celebrating learning and health in all its diverse forms. This holistic design approach, based on HEDG and PADG strategies, has undergone a 2-year longitudinal mix method research analysis by public health researchers at the Universities of Nebraska and Virginia, resulting in numerous peer-reviewed publications.

Inspired by local ecologies and the five physiographic eco-regions of Virginia; the color system, graphic identity, and branded wayfinding communicate playful and sophisticated themes related to sustainability, health, and energy conservation. Certified ergonomic furniture promotes dynamic sitting and comfortable, flexible settings in which children are free to move. Reading nooks and open learning hubs transform pathways into active, child-centric “learning streets” while day-lit views and access to gardens and eco-paths foster inquiry, creativity, and curiosity. The Dining Commons serves the heart of the community by re-orienting school breakfast and lunch within the context of a healthy food-based learning environment.

The design of the school strives to tap into the inherent intelligence of students to inspire a sense of well-being and a love of learning. The building works to make ‘all things seem possible’ by rendering educational moments visible and celebrating learning and health in all its diverse forms. This holistic design approach, based on HEDG and PADG strategies, has undergone a 2-year longitudinal mix method research analysis by public health researchers at the Universities of Nebraska and Virginia, resulting in numerous peer-reviewed publications.

Buckingham County Elementary School Architecture & Design
Buckingham County Elementary School Architecture & Design
Buckingham County Elementary School Architecture & Design

“Preventing childhood obesity and helping to educate 'food smart' children is so important in today’s society.... The value and potential results in offering unique features such as Buckingham’s Food Lab, a Teaching Kitchen, Edible Native Landscaping, School Garden, Fresh Food Storage and Exterior Dining are obvious to me.”

– Todd B. Haymore Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry
Buckingham County Elementary School Architecture & Design

Client: Buckingham County Public Schools

Location: Dillwyn, VA

Discipline: Primary & Elementary Schools

Completion: 2012

Size: 134,015 SF Renovation & Addition

Awards Received

2014 Education Facility Design Excellence Award
AIA Committee on Architecture for Education (CAE)

2014 Education Sector - Design Is ... Award
Shaw Contract Group

2014 Excellence Award (Inaugural Award)
AIA Central Virginia

2014 Honor Award For Design Excellence In Architecture
AIA Central Virginia

2014 Innovation Gold Award
Virginia Chapter of the Association for Learning Environments

2014 Juror’s Choice For Outstanding Project Of The Year
Greater Virginia Green Building Council

2013 Award For Excellence in Architecture
AIA Virginia

2013 Outstanding Project
Learning By Design

2013 Project Of Distinction / Lee J. Brockway Award
Association for Learning Environments

2012 Prize for Design Research + Scholarship
AIA Virginia

2012 Gold Design Award
Virginia School Boards Association

2012 People's Choice Award
Virginia School Boards Association

2012 3rd Place in Childhood Obesity Challenge
American Journal of Preventative Medicine