Fleet Elementary School

Fleet Elementary School is the second of three net-zero energy schools for Arlington Public Schools that offers innovative approaches to compact site design, energy efficiency, sustainability, and learning. The school embraces the community scale of the residential neighborhood with a welcoming double-height entry while also situating a four-story educational wing on its compact, triangular site. The highly efficient facility features a 500kW rooftop solar array with geothermal heating and cooling as well as numerous design innovations that reduce the school's carbon footprint while also maximizing energy savings for the school district.

A thorough, transparent, and engaging community process allayed concerns about the new school – located on the site of Thomas Jefferson Middle School, Community Center, and Park – taking away green space on an already constrained urban site. The design team built community buy-in and confidence by ensuring a cohesive park was retained and that no significant loss of green space and no net loss of recreational programming occurred.


Fleet Elementary School is the second of three net-zero energy schools for Arlington Public Schools that offers innovative approaches to compact site design, energy efficiency, sustainability, and learning. The school embraces the community scale of the residential neighborhood with a welcoming double-height entry while also situating a four-story educational wing on its compact, triangular site. The highly efficient facility features a 500kW rooftop solar array with geothermal heating and cooling as well as numerous design innovations that reduce the school's carbon footprint while also maximizing energy savings for the school district.

A thorough, transparent, and engaging community process allayed concerns about the new school – located on the site of Thomas Jefferson Middle School, Community Center, and Park – taking away green space on an already constrained urban site. The design team built community buy-in and confidence by ensuring a cohesive park was retained and that no significant loss of green space and no net loss of recreational programming occurred.


Fleet Elementary School Landscape

Fleet Elementary has a compact footprint of 38,720 SF, yet still locates a full sized gymnasium, stage, dining commons, kitchen, administration, and all PreK and Kindergarten classrooms on the ground floor with direct access outside. Grades 1 and 2 are located on the second floor, grades 3 and 4 on the third floor, and the 5th grade is on a smaller fourth floor.

In deference to the neighborhood context, the building “steps back” as it “goes up” – placing the 4th story portion of the building closest to the center of the site and as far away from houses as possible. The building sits on a podium over a single level of structured parking that can accommodate 228 parking spots in addition to about 20 surface parking spots. Sited adjacent to a middle school, park, and recreation center, Fleet Elementary transforms a former parking lot into an educational landscape that improves accessibility, connectivity, and environmental conditions for the benefit of the entire 20-acre site.

Fleet Elementary has a compact footprint of 38,720 SF, yet still locates a full sized gymnasium, stage, dining commons, kitchen, administration, and all PreK and Kindergarten classrooms on the ground floor with direct access outside. Grades 1 and 2 are located on the second floor, grades 3 and 4 on the third floor, and the 5th grade is on a smaller fourth floor.

In deference to the neighborhood context, the building “steps back” as it “goes up” – placing the 4th story portion of the building closest to the center of the site and as far away from houses as possible. The building sits on a podium over a single level of structured parking that can accommodate 228 parking spots in addition to about 20 surface parking spots. Sited adjacent to a middle school, park, and recreation center, Fleet Elementary transforms a former parking lot into an educational landscape that improves accessibility, connectivity, and environmental conditions for the benefit of the entire 20-acre site.

Fleet Elementary School
Fleet Elementary School
Fleet Elementary School

Ambitious planning goals for this elementary school included a comprehensive approach to universal design, the creation of a zero energy building, as well as pursuit of LEED certification at the Gold level. The proposed “pedestrian mall” between the parking structure and the existing middle school will allow the three building entrances primarily used by the students to become fully accessible and bring more natural light into the lower levels of buildings. Park amenities will also be greatly enhanced as a surface parking lot is transformed into an engaging landscape for students, neighbors, and the citizens of Arlington.

Traffic, parking, and pedestrian walkways / bikeways were closely studied and designed to provide streamlined transportation options and optimal safety and security. The building’s design was influenced by the WELL building standard, which supports the wellness of building inhabitants and the environmental health of the site – which is being improved with strategic pedestrian connections and storm water strategies. Daylighting, views outside , and connections between spaces infuse the school with life and vibrancy.

Ambitious planning goals for this elementary school included a comprehensive approach to universal design, the creation of a zero energy building, as well as pursuit of LEED certification at the Gold level. The proposed “pedestrian mall” between the parking structure and the existing middle school will allow the three building entrances primarily used by the students to become fully accessible and bring more natural light into the lower levels of buildings. Park amenities will also be greatly enhanced as a surface parking lot is transformed into an engaging landscape for students, neighbors, and the citizens of Arlington.

Traffic, parking, and pedestrian walkways / bikeways were closely studied and designed to provide streamlined transportation options and optimal safety and security. The building’s design was influenced by the WELL building standard, which supports the wellness of building inhabitants and the environmental health of the site – which is being improved with strategic pedestrian connections and storm water strategies. Daylighting, views outside , and connections between spaces infuse the school with life and vibrancy.

Fleet Elementary School
Fleet Elementary School
Fleet Elementary School

Energy: The project was always conceived as a net-zero energy facility. Site layout, building massing, envelope design, and systems design were driven by the zero-energy goal of maximizing the on-site solar array while optimizing the building’s EUI, which is becoming a standard practice in our office. We implemented a process of integrated design and iterative modeling from the beginning of design through the end of CDs.

Materials: Fleet Elementary School is building on and furthering the work we’ve done to revamp our specifications and put material health at the forefront of our work. The project was an opportunity to add to our preferred materials list and update our specification template to strengthen and clarify the sustainable components and begin to integrate additional material ingredient criteria like the WELL Building Standard.

Site Ecology: The design team facilitated community buy-in and built confidence by ensuring a cohesive park was retained and that no significant loss of green space and no net loss of recreational programming occurred. In addition, traffic, parking, and pedestrian walkways / bikeways were closely studied and designed to provide streamlined transportation options and optimal safety and security. All parking is under the building and integrated stormwater cleansing and retention is provided on-site through best management practices.


Energy: The project was always conceived as a net-zero energy facility. Site layout, building massing, envelope design, and systems design were driven by the zero-energy goal of maximizing the on-site solar array while optimizing the building’s EUI, which is becoming a standard practice in our office. We implemented a process of integrated design and iterative modeling from the beginning of design through the end of CDs.

Materials: Fleet Elementary School is building on and furthering the work we’ve done to revamp our specifications and put material health at the forefront of our work. The project was an opportunity to add to our preferred materials list and update our specification template to strengthen and clarify the sustainable components and begin to integrate additional material ingredient criteria like the WELL Building Standard.

Site Ecology: The design team facilitated community buy-in and built confidence by ensuring a cohesive park was retained and that no significant loss of green space and no net loss of recreational programming occurred. In addition, traffic, parking, and pedestrian walkways / bikeways were closely studied and designed to provide streamlined transportation options and optimal safety and security. All parking is under the building and integrated stormwater cleansing and retention is provided on-site through best management practices.


Fleet Elementary School
Fleet Elementary School
Fleet Elementary School Landscape

Client: Arlington Public Schools

Location: Arlington, VA

Discipline: Primary + Elementary Schools

Completion: 2019

Size: 109,988 SF

Key Team Members

Additional Resources

Materials Transparency in Practice

Awards Received

2021 Second Place Technology Award for New Educational Facility
ASHRAE International

2020 1st Place Technology Award
ASHRAE National Capital Chapter

2020 Citation of Excellence
Learning By Design

2019 Merit Award
DESIGNArlington

2019 Building Construction Project of the Year
Construction Management Association of America National Capital Chapter

Filed in:

, K12, Sustainable Design, Primary + Elementary Schools