Hands-on Green

Hands-on Green

Bell Prairie Elementary School, Kansas City, Mo., is the second LEED certified building in the North Kansas City School District and the first to be certified LEED gold. The 86,000-square-foot building is designed to welcome visitors and showcase student success, with its light-filled main hallway lined with display cases. The gym, cafeteria and media center are off this main hallway for community access in the evenings. Classrooms are contained in two wings that can be closed off after hours. The classroom wings provide a variety of teaching spaces equipped for the digital learner.

The $16.5 million school is designed to be a living-learning tool. It not only will house desks, chairs, computers, teachers and students, but also will provide flexible learning spaces where signage and building systems themselves educate students, staff and visitors about the global community. Students will give tours to visitors stopping at 14 stations that explain the sustainable concepts the building incorporates.

Two of the most hands-on stations are the cistern and the roof garden. Water from a portion of the roof is collected and stored in a cistern by the front entry. A windmill pumps this water up to the roof level. At the roof, a classroom area is in the midst of a modular rooftop garden system. Here, children can water the plants and see them grow, knowing that the water came from the sky and not just from the tap. The roof area adjacent to the garden has a white reflective coating to reduce the heating load on the building. A small section is typical black modified bitumen roofing, enabling students to measure the temperature differences among the white roof, dark roof and roof garden.

Hollis + Miller Architects (Overland Park, Kan.) is architect for the project.

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