Evie Garrett Dennis E-12 Campus

Design Achievement - Set amidst 35 acres of prairie in suburban Northwest Denver is a unique, innovative E-12 campus delivering excellence in education, health and wellness, technology and sustainability. DLR Group's design for the Evie Garrett Dennis Campus includes a central Student Union flanked by five separate buildings: Primary Academy, Intermediate Academy, Secondary Academy, Multiple Pathways Center, and Community Center. The campus buildings offer features critical to successful 21st century learning and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum: large, state-of-the-art classrooms, accessible gathering areas, exceptional lighting, clean air, comfort, flexibility, advanced technology and communication systems, and wireless connectivity. The facilities are designed and built as a total learning environment that invites education and activities to take place beyond the walls of the traditional classroom. The site design welcomes students to a variety of program areas and facilitates student socialization with informal study spaces.

Scope Summary - The campus accommodates 1,600 students in Pre-K through 12th grade. A variety of sustainability initiatives, including geoexchange system, daylight harvesting, and high R-value of the building envelope minimize operational costs and the environmental impact of the school. The first phase of the campus achieved LEED Gold Certification, Denver Public School's first LEED project. Photovoltaics on the roof also allowed the campus to have two net-zero energy usage buildings. The campus serves as a demonstration project to showcase how schools can be optimally designed, built and operated by blending educational excellence with integrated technology and high performance thinking. DLR Group provided planning, architecture and interiors services for this project in design-build delivery with Saunders Construction.

Why This Campus?
A population explosion in the district, coupled with outdated school facilities, prompted Denver Public Schools to build a new campus to accommodate 1,600 students. The original plan was to build a new high school and a new elementary school on separate sites. After realizing this plan was too costly for taxpayers, the district conceived an idea to combine the schools on a single site, which cut the cost in half. The multi-building campus consists of:

  • A central Student Union for 1,600 students
  • 38,000 SF Primary Academy for Pre-school-5
  • 33,000 SF Intermediate Academy for grades 6-9
  • 33,000 SF Secondary Academy for grades 10-12
  • 30,000 SF Vista Academy for grades 6-12
  • 47,000 SF Z Place multi-use facility

The shared Student Union (a hub for dining, athletics, media/music and other collaborative resources) eliminates more than 100,000 square feet of repetitive space.

“The design and language of the campus intentionally creates a college-type atmosphere, allowing students to explore multiple buildings on a shared site. The design also drives smaller learning communities to encourage relationship building by and among students, faculty, and staff.” 

- Kelly Leid, Director of Operations for Denver Public Schools

Guiding Principles
During initial planning meetings,designers impressed upon the district that today’s learning environment expands beyond traditional classroom walls. District officials concurred and challenged designers to create a culture of innovation, creativity and problem-solving skills to prepare EGD students for their futures.

Members of the project team, including the turn-key developer and architect, participated in a series of conversations with district officials over a two month period to set design goals for the new campus. From these meetings, the district and project team set the following Guiding Educational Principles for EGD: Educational Flexibility & Adaptability; Sustainability; Integrated Technology; and Health & Wellness.

Additionally, an integrated team consisting of the architect, general contractor, turn-key developer, DPS administration, DPS sustainability coordinator, representatives from the Colorado Governor’s Energy Office, professionals from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, individuals from the Colorado State University Institute for the Built Environment and members of the Colorado Green Building Council Green Schools’ Advocacy Committee conducted a three-day eco-charrette to confirm sustainability goals and strategies leading to Denver Public Schools’ first multi-building, LEED-certified facility.

The end result is a world-class teaching and learning laboratory that supports student engagement, exploration and critical analysis about the world in which we live.

Educational Flexibility & Adaptability
EGD responds to the needs of today’s students, and prepares the district for future educational delivery models. The open nature of the academy design enhances a learning anytime, anywhere atmosphere.

“The academy buildings and Student Union create this intimate space that has a collegiate and celebratory feeling that is like no other K-12 school facility I have every visited. Students are utilizing flexible areas for one-to-one interaction, small group gathering and large group assemblies that encourage both formal and informal learning.”

- Kelly Leid, Director of Operations for Denver Public Schools

Large group collaboration areas and nooks for individual or small group learning can be found throughout the campus. At the heart of each academy is a two-story atrium. On the second floor, an additional small group assembly space jets out over the vestibule below.

Identifiable entrances and wayfinding are apparent through the use of color. The Primary Academy follows a green color scheme; the Intermediate Academy boasts a purple color scheme; and the Secondary Academy has a gold scheme. This scheme can easily be seen on the exterior prows as students and visitors approach the campus. The theme of each academy continues to the interior through colored acoustical panels, accent paints, tiles and carpet.

Academy classrooms average 750 to 850 square feet. To maintain maximum flexibility, built-in furnishings and fixtures are minimal. Only two areas are tailored for their specific uses: art rooms feature kilns and science classrooms contain extra piping, casework and storage.

Currently, the P-5 Primary Academy is fitted with scaled-down versions of counters, sinks, lavatories, and storage lockers for young students. These features can easily be reconfigured to meet future needs of the building. The district anticipates EGD will be devoted exclusively to high school students in several years.

A campus focal point is the Legacy Tower, a gift from the project team to students, staff and community who helped make the campus a reality. As students complete their academic journey through EGD, they will place a small plaque on the tower to celebrate their accomplishments and claim their legacy as part of the campus tradition.

As a showpiece for its community, EGD is proud to highlight support from local individuals and businesses. Stained glass pieces by Denver artist Lynn Heitler are displayed at the entrance to the gymnasium and throughout the campus.

“Like some of our early 20th century school Garrett Dennis campus to celebrate important images of Colorado, the city of Denver, and the broader mountain region. From a holistic perspective, our goal is to use art to create inspired places for learning. There is something about well placed art, especially in an academic environment, that helps students dream about what is possible.”

- Kelly Leid, Director of Operations for Denver Public Schools

Certified LEED Gold, the campus inspires future green global citizens to a high level of environmental awareness. Simple design elements allow students to experience responsible energy consumption.

Wall cutaways offer students an inside look at efficient electrical and mechanical systems in operation. Informational signage scattered across the campus highlights numerous sustainable features of EGD. Visitors gain a better understanding of how the four buildings integrate with the site to be sustainable, how plantings contribute to sustainable landscapes, and how material choices affect health and the environment.

“One of our primary goals was to create a laboratory for learning. We are pleased with the implementation of informational signage to help students and visitors learn how the building and its various complex mechanical systems operate.”

- Kelly Leid, Director of Operations for Denver Public Schools

The campus features a geothermal heat pump system for maximum energy efficiency. Nearly 68 miles of sealed coiled pipin (a slinky coil loop) are buried 12’ under the athletic fields. This loop reconditions piped water and transfers it back to the building for heating and cooling needs. Up to 80 percent of the energy supplied by the geothermal system comes directly from the earth — clean, free and renewable.

Additionally, photovoltaic panels totaling 30,000 square feet are situated on the Student Union rooftop. This collection uses the sun to generate 300 kilowatts annually, essentially taking the 33,000 square foot 6-9 and 10-12 academy buildings off the grid.

The multi-building campus allows for better daylighting and views for every classroom. With each academy oriented on an east-west axis to follow the sun’s path, windows harvest light into classrooms on the north and south sides of the each building.

Other sustainable features include:

  • Native landscaping and drought-tolerant species;
  • Minimal pavement to increase on-site infiltration of snow and rain water, which reduces pollution from stormwater runoff;
  • Light tube system to harvest daylight from the rooftops and transfer it to key spaces;
  • Low VOC products;
  • Local and recycled materials; and
  • Water saving features, such as low-flow restroom fixtures and dual-flush toilets.


Integrated Technology
Designers incorporated the latest technology at EGD. Interactive whiteboards are in every classroom and flat screen TVs for impromptu use by students and staff are scattered throughout the four buildings. Wireless capability allows students to gather anywhere on campus, inside or outside, to collaborate on academic activities. The district’s goal is to provide a laptop for each student within the next few years to encourage learning anywhere.

Energy kiosks with interactive touch screens are positioned at the main entrance of each building to offer students, staff and visitors a glimpse into sustainable features at EGD. Touch screens offer multiple options. Individuals can view educational lessons depicting how heat recovery ventilation provides fresh air to breathe, or how the geothermal system works to efficiently heat and cool buildings. They can read about green strategies on campus, including green cleaning chemicals, recycled materials or stormwater management, and they can also view a LEED checklist that illustrates the design and construction process of securing a LEED certified facility.

Students utilize these devices to monitor and compare energy performance across campus. A leader board ranks each building’s energy performance daily, weekly, monthly and yearly, to prompt friendly competition between academies while educating students about responsible energy consumption.

Health and Wellness
The multi-building campus encourages students to travel from their home academy to the Student Union for both fresh air and exercise. It is the first DPS school that features exterior circulation routes. Outdoor gathering and collaboration areas also get students moving throughout the day. Wii game consoles add some fun to the Student Union fitness room.

Students of all ages can utilize the Denver North Athletic Complex, situated at the north end of the campus. The complex features a football stadium with synthetic turf, 9-lane competition track, baseball and softball diamonds and a multi-purpose field for soccer, lacrosse and other sports. These first-rate facilities allow the district to host tournament competitions for the Denver metro region and the state of Colorado.

“Another goal was to integrate a variety of key health and wellness concepts. First and foremost, students have to walk around campus given its design. Second, we incorporated several fitness areas, from the traditional gym to the upper fitness room that features Wii stations and an I-dance center.”

- Kelly Leid, Director of Operations for Denver Public Schools

Alternative transportation is popular at EGD. Numerous pedestrian pathways connect to the campus to promote walking, and bike racks are available for students who prefer two-wheeling. Both are healthy, environmentally friendly modes of transportation for students and staff.

In August 2010, Denver Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services launched a new healthful foodservice initiative for students called H4 Foods -- Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids, Healthy Community and Healthy Planet. The district is changing its food service from “heat and serve” menu items to “from scratch” production. School gardens will allow students to grow produce and herbs that will be used in their daily lunches. This initiative is a recipe for healthful eating habits that will have a lasting impact on students’ health and wellness for many years.

Escalated Schedule
Site cast tilt-up concrete construction resulted in significant thermal resistance on the building envelope and also contributed to an expedited project schedule. Tilt-up walls are created horizontally as large slabs of concrete panels. Tilt-up construction begins with the building foundations and concrete slabs. After slabs are placed and cured, numerous forms are constructed horizontally on the slab surface. Rebar, embeds, and form liners are incorporated into the forms. Concrete is then placed poured and sets for five to seven days. Next, a crane tilts the wall up into position on the foundation where it is braced and welded securely into place.

Any exterior architectural finishes or treatments are included in this process. Exterior walls at EGD exhibit various attributes, including inlaid brick, form liners that represent Colorado landscapes and integral color concrete to offer aesthetic appeal. Each characteristic was added to the slabs prior to pouring concrete. Regardless of the exterior finish, the tilt-up process produces a complete and finished wall once raised into place.

This construction method resulted in significant cost and time savings to the district. EGD was completed $5.5 million under budget, and the campus opened in August as promised to the voters during the bond referendum campaign.

Awards & Recognition

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  • Peak Design Merit Award

    Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI), Rocky Mountain
  • Sustainable Design Award, 3rd Place

    Colorado Sustainable Design Awards
  • Gold Hard Hat Award

    McGraw Hill Mountain States Construction magazine
  • "Top Project" Award

    McGraw Hill Colorado Construction magazine
  • Award of Excellence

    Rocky Mountain American Concrete Institute

Evie Garrett Dennis E-12 Campus

Denver Public Schools (CO)