Defense Media Network

Newest Defense Media Network Promotion

DODEA Schools: Highlighting Europe District

 

 

Ross explained that the emphasis is to shift away from a traditional classroom setting to more of a community focus, with multifunctional common areas as the “heart of the school.” A “neighborhood” concept composed of a central hub and several adaptable learning studios provides flexible learning spaces. “We’re incorporating moveable walls that you can partition, so there’s flexibility in the instruction and they can combine classrooms to instruct based on the 21st century community focus,” Ross said.

There are also changes to the building architecture. “There’s an emphasis on integrating technology and also there’s a focus on energy and sustainability. Part of the requirements for constructing these facilities is that we achieve LEED® Silver certification,” said Ross.

europe-district

Steve Ross, Europe District supervisory project manager, visits the Wiesbaden high school construction site in Wiesbaden, Germany, Aug. 11, 2016. Europe District designed and is constructing the Department of Defense Education Activity 21st century learning school, anticipated for completion in summer 2017. U.S. ARMY PHOTO BY SARAH GROSS

As an example of energy efficiency, he said that based on models prepared during the design of the Wiesbaden high school currently under construction, “there’s an estimated 55 percent reduction in annual costs for maintaining and operating that school.” Features like LED lighting, high-efficiency pumps, and façade optimization all contribute. “I think the key is that there’s a significant calculated savings on these schools based on the energy and sustainability features that are in the design.”

Additionally, the infrastructure itself is utilized for instructional purposes. Ross explained that energy dashboards, which can show various parameters like water flows and energy consumption, are included in the design. “We, in some cases, have cutaways or windows showing mechanical systems for education purposes,” he said, adding that some of the designs could have a demonstration of wind or photovoltaic technology connected to the dashboard showing how much energy is produced by that method. These aspects also augment and integrate STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education, a priority of both USACE and DODEA.

The 21st century criteria also emphasize the importance of indoor environmental quality, incorporating elements such as low-emitting materials in furniture, enhanced natural lighting, and noise reduction.

In describing how these facilities impact the students who will learn in them, Ross said, “I think it will encourage them to be more collaborative and to improve critical thinking, communication, innovation, and creativity. That’s the idea behind the 21st century concept.”

Ross identified several challenges Europe District faces in various phases of the school projects, including host-nation building codes and regulations, such as fire and safety codes, that can differ or even conflict with U.S. codes. “We get all the appropriate technical folks together and work it out, and we find solutions,” Ross said.

Additionally, many of the documents they work with are in the host-nation language and require translation, and cultural customs, such as traditional monthlong summer holidays, for example, can affect project time lines. Fluctuating exchange rates can also affect a project’s budget.

Ross recalled one of his visits to the completed Stuttgart schools as creating a sense of professional fulfillment. “I was assigned as the project manager at the beginning of construction, in July 2013, and I worked for just over two years on those projects,” he said. “I got to see the construction from moving dirt to seeing the kids in the school. One day we had a meeting at the school, and I looked out the window and I saw the kids leave school and get on the buses, and it really touched my heart. It was just very rewarding to see the schools being used after years of very hard work.”

“Another aspect to these schools is that it takes a tremendous team,” said Ross, citing the necessity of ongoing collaboration with many entities including host-nation representatives, the USACE DODEA Design Center in Norfolk, Virginia, and the customer, DODEA. Interaction with school leaders and teachers provides valuable input into the design process. “There’s just a tremendous amount of effort from a lot of different partners working together to complete these 21st century schools.”

Ross said the significance of this program is that they’re building facilities that will educate future leaders of tomorrow with more collaboration and more community-type education. “Being able to provide a facility that’s providing students with a learning environment that really promotes critical thinking and problem-solving and really being better leaders for tomorrow is, I think, a very positive thing for the nation,” he said.

Ross recalled one of his visits to the completed Stuttgart schools as creating a sense of professional fulfillment. “I was assigned as the project manager at the beginning of construction, in July 2013, and I worked for just over two years on those projects,” he said. “I got to see the construction from moving dirt to seeing the kids in the school. One day we had a meeting at the school, and I looked out the window and I saw the kids leave school and get on the buses, and it really touched my heart. It was just very rewarding to see the schools being used after years of very hard work.”

This article was first published in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Building Strong®, Serving the Nation and the Armed Forces 2016-2017 Edition magazine.

Prev Page 1 2 Next Page