Open Elementary

Transparent Design for Elementary School in Surrey, British Colombia

by Heather West, president, Heather West Public Relations

Edgewood Elementary School welcomes students, parents, and faculty to the Surrey School District in British Columbia.  Its sustainable, contemporary facility provides space for more than 650 students from kindergarten to Grade seven in the burgeoning Grandview Heights neighborhood.

         Thinkspace, Surrey, British Colombia, designed the building to meet LEED® Gold criteria and specified Alumicor™ aluminum-framed systems.  Transparent Glazing Systems, Burnaby, British Colombia, installed Alumicor curtainwall, projected window vents, sliding doors, and swinging entrance doors.  Combining these systems, the new school conveys a modern aesthetic and atmosphere of inclusiveness, openness, and transparency.  Complementing the building’s generous use of glass and metal, the new materials emphasize warm wood, bright white, blue, and grey wolf accent colors to generate a continuity of visual expression from the exterior façade through the interior finishes.

         “It’s an astounding building.  You notice the architecture as soon as you walk into the front entrance,” shared Edgewood Elementary School’s principal, Shaun Nelson.  “The design is very open and expansive, and there was an incredible amount of thought into traffic flows coming into the school.  Just that whole idea of bringing everyone together under one brand new roof, people are beyond excited.”

         Greeting all students, staff, and visitors, the two-story curtainwall defines the school’s main entry foyer.  Jenna, a seventh grade student at Edgewood Elementary, highlighted the importance of the curtainwall and windows to her “because on sunny days they make the school feel big and happy.”

         At the street level, the entrance doors are engineered and manufactured to withstand high-traffic and continuous use as the students’ gateway to outdoor playgrounds, athletic fields, and pick-up/drop-off zones.  Alumicor products also provide high thermal performance suited to Canada’s cold climate and LEED-level energy-efficiency.

         LEED and other green building programs also recognize the value of outside views and daylight to health, well-being, and sustainability.  Schools with these attributes demonstrate better student performance and test scores, higher teacher job satisfaction and retention, and other positive attributes.

         Embracing these proven qualities, Edgewood Elementary invites exterior views through expansive Alumicor curtainwall and windows.  Glass sliding doors and interior framing systems line the corridors to carry in natural light.  Optimizing daylight more deeply into the school, each classroom’s interior walls feature fully glazed sliding doors that open into a shared project space.

         “Our school design is unique and modern with many open spaces where we can all work together,” shared Sonya, a seventh grade student.  “At first, we weren’t sure about our glass classroom walls, but now, we can’t imagine being without them as they really make our classrooms feel bright and airy.  We enjoy having the option to open the walls so that we can collaborate with other classes.”

         The school hosts 27 classrooms organized into “learning neighborhoods,” plus multiple collaboration spaces, a library, learning commons, and maker laboratory.  Flexible spaces are incorporated into every part of the school to accommodate different learning styles and instructional methodologies.

         Additional community-use amenities, such as the gymnasium, multi-purpose room, and meeting space, are separated from student education areas to allow for quiet learning in classrooms and after-school public access.  Designed and built during the pandemic, the school includes allowances for social distancing protocols, such as the exterior classroom entrances, wide sidewalks, and hand washing sinks near the doors.

         D.G.S. Construction, Surrey, British Colombia, completed construction on Edgewood Elementary in late 2020.  Staff worked throughout the winter break to prepare a warm welcome for students, and classes in their school began in January, 2021.  The majority of funding for the new elementary school was provided by the British Columbia Ministry of Education.  The school also honors the First Nations’ territory on which it is built with a permanent acknowledgement plaque and the inclusion of Coast Salish peoples in the opening ceremony.

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