New Canyon View High School Opens in Arizona

The educational experience has forever changed for teachers and students in the Agua Fria Union High School District #216 in Arizona. On August 6, community members, students, staff, and district leaders celebrated the opening of the new Canyon View High School, a facility that enables innovation and measurable advancements in teaching and learning.

DLR Group’s design is comprised of forward-thinking spaces and places that empower teachers to advance their professional skills, and students to develop critical competencies through deep learning. By gaining real-world experience, students at Canyon View High School learn skills that are in demand and businesses are provided with a career ready workforce.

“The nature of learning continues to evolve with expanded blended learning options and non-traditional opportunities for curriculum delivery,” said Agua Fria Union High School District #216 Superintendent Dr. Dennis Runyan. “As this project has evolved it has become crystal clear the concept of learning will be seamless with the integration of applied real world applications. This school is designed to help teachers transcend this challenge successfully.”

“The entire project team-from district representatives, community and business leaders, to the design and construction partners-embraced the opportunity for Canyon View High School to become a catalyst for change and innovation,” said DLR Group Principal Pam Loeffelman, FAIA. “We introduced unprecedented concepts in our design, such as the Accelerator and the Agora, to raise the bar for teaching and learning locally and globally.”

Teaching and Learning Accelerator
A first-of-its-kind Teaching and Learning Accelerator is an open source incubator to advance the art of teaching and learning. Faculty from around the district and beyond use the facility to develop and practice modern pedagogies, visiting speakers are afforded opportunities to share their knowledge, and students and community come together to partner and explore. It serves as the nerve center for district professional development with enhanced staff training facilities and high-tech environments. The Accelerator also encourages partnerships with surrounding schools. It is designed to be utilized by both Canyon View staff and students, as well as the district’s other four high schools.

“One of the foundational needs for this project and the future of teaching was to design a place where teachers could experience working in new innovative teaching spaces with the understanding that the face of education is changing rapidly,” said Dr. Runyan. “During our research phase for the accelerator we were concerned how few existing staff development areas in the K-12 environment are truly reflective of the evolving needs for integration with technology and flexible student grouping options. These learning spaces will be more reflective of the educational spaces we currently see evolving in business and industry.”

DLR Group designed the Accelerator as two spaces working in tandem. The primary space is a theater featuring traditional fixed seating in the lower bowl and a flat floor retractable seating system at the back. The secondary space, nicknamed the “white box,” provides both theatrical and professional collaboration spaces for up to 260 people. Large overhead garage doors connect the two spaces and can be opened to shape a larger area for practitioners and students to use. An outdoor learning stair provides flexible open-air gathering and learning opportunities and directly ties into and extends the white box into an amphitheater by raising a 45’ X 16’ glazed hanger door. Together, these two flexible settings support purposeful areas for more than 137 activities identified as district priorities including district wide professional development, student competitions + exhibits, college fairs, and theatrical productions.

Flexible Indoor/Outdoor Learning Environments
“Access to nature is important to all students, especially in Arizona where the climate supports open-air learning throughout the year,” said Loeffelman. “Our campus design includes a series of buildings that form an outdoor marketplace called the Agora, which gives students a place to gather and socialize outdoors.”

The Agora also includes outdoor project rooms, a learning stair, student dining, and an athletic training corridor. It spans the entire length of the campus and is designed to be passively conditioned through green walls covered with plants. A 225 KW solar system covering the Agora provides shade to reduce solar radiation and assist in energy efficiency, contributing to 20 percent of energy needs for the campus. It consistently maintains a temperature of 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Four learning suites, each with a series of connected settings that can flexibly merge with one another to support varying learning activities, are situated at the north edge of the Agora. A blend of six primary learning settings is positioned around the perimeter of each suite with two labs and connections between. Each suite also provides a variety of flexible spaces that can change throughout the day depending on the specific small, medium, or large group activity scheduled, fostering an environment that is conducive to relevant learning. Classroom ownership is transferred to the collective school, giving students greater freedom to explore curriculum, wherever that may physically take them on campus.

“Canyon View’s unique design allows for innovative curriculum delivery that will expose students to a variety of learning environments. This includes initiatives such as Physics First, where freshman students begin high school learning conceptual physics in the numerous science labs and maker spaces as well as career and technical education pathways, where students can choose from courses such as graphic design, film and TV, coding, health sciences, bioscience and agriculture. The flexibility of furniture and design help promote a focus on science, technology, math and the engineering design process in an environment that supports learners from all backgrounds, ability levels, and interests,” said Phillip Nowlin, Principal, Canyon View High School.

New-Founded Sustainable Design Solutions
In addition to creating a next generation learning environment, DLR Group also is on the cusp of new discoveries related to sustainability, specifically thermal storage for heating and cooling buildings through the use of a Bio-PCM ENRG blanket on one building on the Canyon View High School campus.

“As a facility that embodies originality from its very core, Canyon View is the perfect project to incorporate new-founded sustainable strategies that could forever change the way we design schools in the future,” said DLR Group Global Sustainability Leader Premnath Sundharam, AIA, LEED AP BD+C.

In March 2018, DLR Group began measuring thermal comfort and will measure energy consumption during the 2018-19 school year. The goal is to pin down exactly the interrelationships of outdoor temperature, phase change charge-recharge cycle, amount, type and location of Bio-PCM, occupancy variations, and thermal comfort. The process involves one classroom building designated as the test facility and the second classroom building as the control facility. Bio-PCM is installed above ceiling tiles on the first floor in areas with ceiling tiles, and behind gypsum board on interior and exterior walls in the test building. Both buildings will measure HVAC energy, overall building energy, and thermal comfort in one room on each floor with thermocouples on all six surfaces. Additional thermocouples will measure the rate of heat transfer in ceilings and exterior walls.

The desired building outcomes are twofold: one, for Canyon View High School to operate 78 percent more efficiently than a traditional high school per EnergyStar benchmark in the same climate; and two, for a more comfortable overall user experience for students and staff.

Lean Construction
Chasse Building Team utilized the Lean construction process on the project, a method of production aimed at reducing costs, material, time and effort. Through this process, Chasse held weekly meetings with subcontractors and trade partners to collaboratively create work schedules, resulting in a reduction of the expected duration of the project by more than one month.

“Canyon View High School is Arizona’s flagship model for 21st century learning. We particularly enjoyed partnering with DLR Group, Arizona State University, and Agua Fria Union High School District to incorporate cutting-edge, energy saving techniques into the project,” said Barry Chasse, Chasse Building Team Owner. “We are very proud of the finished product and believe it will be looked to as a benchmark in design and construction of future High Schools.” Chasse Building Team served as the Construction Manager at Risk for the new high school.

The new $76 million high school was funded through a successful bond referendum vote on November 4, 2015.