Gaines Group Architects

Eastern Mennonite School

Project Location: Harrisonburg, Virginia

General Contractor: Harman Construction


The Eastern Mennonite Elementary School renovation project had a straightforward goal, convert an existing three-story office building into an Elementary school. The added challenge with any of our non-profit clients is using their budget as efficiently as possible and creating opportunities through architecture to highlight their culture. Therefore, this project focuses on sustainability / creation care, an important element of the culture of the school. Using our understanding of building science, we were able to save an existing building, incorporate environmentally sensitive design strategies, as well as highlight those elements for the students in the building.  The design of the facility maximizes daylight into all classrooms, provides multiple points of exterior access to allow for environmental teaching opportunities, and flexible room sizes for diversity of class settings. The existing building footprint provides 9 classrooms, a teaching kitchen, teacher workroom, and restroom facilities. The additions to the existing footprint houses circulation towers, the administrative wing and a phase II of the project will allow for large scale gatherings. Working together with teachers, administration, and students the design evolved into a space that will enhance learning opportunities as well as highlight building systems. Viewing windows allow for students to explore “how a building works.” This experiential learning component marries sustainability and building science with traditional math, science, and social studies. Creating unique opportunities using architectural elements is a key component of our design strategies for our clients.

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