Arlington's Third Net-Zero Energy School

Scheduled to open in September 2021 as VMDO’s third net-zero energy (NZE) school in Arlington, Cardinal Elementary School sets new standards for design excellence in sustainability, energy performance, and innovative learning environments for Arlington Public Schools. Cardinal Elementary follows in the footsteps of the NZE milestone established by Discovery Elementary and the four-story NZE school precedent established by Fleet Elementary. However, different from these previous projects, Cardinal is actually an addition to an existing school and library and features a significant renovation scope that optimizes existing building stock to achieve net-zero energy. Building on lessons learned in NZE design and construction, this project features the lowest embodied energy of VMDO's previous NZE projects.

Undergoing an intensive year-long community engagement process, Cardinal Elementary reflects the often-repeated desire among Arlington residents to “build up and not out.” A fully accessible walkway stretching around the perimeter of the school includes space for outdoor classrooms alongside new fields and playgrounds that are open to community use outside of school hours. The addition includes school administrative offices, classrooms, a gymnasium, kitchen, cafeteria, and teacher support areas. The renovated areas include new music/art rooms, a library, classrooms, teacher support areas, and other building support spaces.


Arlington's Third Net-Zero Energy School

Scheduled to open in September 2021 as VMDO’s third net-zero energy (NZE) school in Arlington, Cardinal Elementary School sets new standards for design excellence in sustainability, energy performance, and innovative learning environments for Arlington Public Schools. Cardinal Elementary follows in the footsteps of the NZE milestone established by Discovery Elementary and the four-story NZE school precedent established by Fleet Elementary. However, different from these previous projects, Cardinal is actually an addition to an existing school and library and features a significant renovation scope that optimizes existing building stock to achieve net-zero energy. Building on lessons learned in NZE design and construction, this project features the lowest embodied energy of VMDO's previous NZE projects.

Undergoing an intensive year-long community engagement process, Cardinal Elementary reflects the often-repeated desire among Arlington residents to “build up and not out.” A fully accessible walkway stretching around the perimeter of the school includes space for outdoor classrooms alongside new fields and playgrounds that are open to community use outside of school hours. The addition includes school administrative offices, classrooms, a gymnasium, kitchen, cafeteria, and teacher support areas. The renovated areas include new music/art rooms, a library, classrooms, teacher support areas, and other building support spaces.


Reed Elementary School

Anytime, Anywhere Learning

The design includes a variety of learning spaces that articulate the positive relationships between pedagogy, community engagement, modern architecture, and educational landscape strategies that promote health, accessibility, and collaboration. The connection between spaces inside and outside the building occur in a variety of ways to activate sensory responses and provide views, daylighting, and access to the outdoors. Specialized learning classrooms and extended learning areas are interwoven throughout the school to provide programmatic flexibility in supporting individual needs while fostering an enduring sense of learning as a community. The design of the school responds to the existing neighborhood context and will give back to the community in energy savings and improved, shared spaces.

Every Space is a Learning Place

The layout accommodates the need for flexibility as educational methods and practices evolve to allow more opportunities for personalized learning experiences. A variety of space types – classrooms, hubs, team rooms, conference rooms, nooks and crannies, and outdoor classrooms – foster collaboration, interaction, innovation, and invention. Designed as a living lab for sustainable practices, Cardinal Elementary School encourages creativity, curiosity, and joy within an actively engaged community.

Anytime, Anywhere Learning

The design includes a variety of learning spaces that articulate the positive relationships between pedagogy, community engagement, modern architecture, and educational landscape strategies that promote health, accessibility, and collaboration. The connection between spaces inside and outside the building occur in a variety of ways to activate sensory responses and provide views, daylighting, and access to the outdoors. Specialized learning classrooms and extended learning areas are interwoven throughout the school to provide programmatic flexibility in supporting individual needs while fostering an enduring sense of learning as a community. The design of the school responds to the existing neighborhood context and will give back to the community in energy savings and improved, shared spaces.

Every Space is a Learning Place

The layout accommodates the need for flexibility as educational methods and practices evolve to allow more opportunities for personalized learning experiences. A variety of space types – classrooms, hubs, team rooms, conference rooms, nooks and crannies, and outdoor classrooms – foster collaboration, interaction, innovation, and invention. Designed as a living lab for sustainable practices, Cardinal Elementary School encourages creativity, curiosity, and joy within an actively engaged community.

Reed Elementary School
Reed Elementary School

“The new design provides world-class learning environments for future students, including bringing natural lights into spaces whenever possible. The committee especially appreciates VMDO’s flexible and versatile designs which allow reconfiguration of classroom and shared spaces, ensuring the new building can serve future, unplanned demands and uses. VMDO’s experience with educational spaces and attention to detail is obvious throughout the design.”

– Mr. Hans Bauman Chair of Building Level Planning Committee (BLPC) for Cardinal Elementary

Client: Arlington Public Schools

Location: Arlington, VA

Discipline: Primary + Elementary Schools

Completion: 2021

Size: 110,672 SF

Filed in:

, K12, Primary + Elementary Schools