The new Mary Belle McCorkle Academy of Excellence in Tucson is a project that encourages creative thinking from the students who use it as well as the team that built it. That’s because the K-8 school’s design reflects the tenets of “21st Century Learning,” a contemporary educational approach that emphasizes skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, adaptability, effective communication, curiosity and imagination.
Sundt’s $22 million Construction Manager at Risk contract was for construction of seven buildings on the 25-acre site, as well as off-site improvement work that included a new, signalized traffic intersection. The project team is pursuing LEED Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
The facility is highly flexible, with classrooms, called ‘studios,’ organized into community buildings that contain various age groups. If you’re imagining a typical school organized around long, lonely hallways, think again. There are no interior corridors. Instead, the central spines of the community buildings are break-out spaces where students in different grades work together on projects.
“The project’s flexibility was challenging from a construction standpoint because the seven buildings aren’t typical, box-like structures and are extremely articulated in their design,” says Senior Project Manager Kevin Almquist. “In fact, the project contains relatively few 90 degree corners, which made the layout and construction work pretty challenging.”
The bottom line, he says, is that “in building an educational facility that encourages creative thinking, we’ve learned a thing or two as well.” The school opened last August.