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Western Maricopa Education Center (West-MEC) Southwest campus entrance. A 2 story grey and yellow building with solar canopy

Revolutionized Concepts for STEM Education


Western Maricopa Education Center


Across southern Arizona


322,900 SF


International Living Future Institute’s Zero Energy

Western Maricopa Education Center is a unique school district comprised of multiple school districts designed to deliver specialized career and technical education. West-MEC’s multiple campuses cover 3,685 square miles in the Phoenix metro and DLR Group has designed technical classrooms, labs, sustainable building systems, and administrative spaces that impact more than 37,000 students from 468 Phoenix area high schools.

The Challenge
For the past two decades, Phoenix West Valley business and industry leaders expressed concerns about the lack of trained workforce. They believed public schools were dismissing career readiness by limiting vocational education opportunities, and were placing more emphasis on college ready courses and training.

The Solution
In 2003, business and industry leaders in Maricopa County, Ariz., united to create the Western Maricopa Education Center, a partnership between 12 school districts, business and industry partners, and a governing board in Maricopa County.


West-MEC supports the partnership between education, industry and community. In addition to serving high school students, West-MEC facilities accommodate evening adult education, training, and industry certification programs which fulfill the district’s commitment to life-long learners.


Central Campus

DLR Group’s 2010 design of the West-MEC Central Campus – Aviation building provides a dynamic specialty training center for high school and adult students. The facility supports a program consistent of up to 1,900 hours of instruction in general, air frame, power plant, and avionics as prescribed by the Federal Aviation Administration. To emphasize its role as a Federal Aviation Administration training center, the design features striping, as found on an airport tarmac. Dramatic super graphics are placed along this path to enhance the wayfinding experience.
The architecture comprises a new 47,000-SF pre-engineered metal structure-the Aviation Center-consisting of classrooms, administrative offices, training areas, and workspace. In addition, there is a 38,000-SF precision-manufacturing and welding technology building; and a 20,000-SF support building/warehouse. A large assembly space known as the Demonstration Lab provides a space for industry and educational partners to collaborate and gather.


Northeast Campus

The project included renovating three existing buildings and adding two new buildings totaling 23,000 SF and 17,000 SF, respectively. Our design team worked closely with vested industry members in the design process to plan for spaces that addressed industry needs, as well as high school requirements. Heavy-duty spaces for hands-on learning, such as automotive collision technology and construction technology are balanced with classroom-lab spaces for presentations and events with industry partners.


Southwest Campus

The 2016 West-MEC Southwest Campus began a first-of-its-kind innovative partnership between a public utility – APS Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station; Estrella Mountain Community College; and West-MEC. The primary goal of this triumvirate of industry, higher education, and secondary education is to encourage and provide a pathway into the nuclear power industry and augment an aging workforce. A highly structured learning approach utilizes four basic tenants; classroom instruction, hands-on learning, career-based experience, and leadership development. The National Energy Grid was the figurative and literal inspiration for the campus’ physical plan: A photovoltaic canopy becomes a tool to teach students about renewable energy systems with a fully functioning industry flow loop.

Net-Zero Energy

Meeting the 2030 Challenge

West-MEC NEX building at the Southwest Campus, an angular yellow building with sunscreen across the front with white sign
Revolutionized Concepts for STEM Education Phoenix, AZ


DLR Group Receives Certification for Zero Energy Building

November 6, 2020

The capstone for the site is the off-grid building, conceptualized to serve as an exhibition space for hands-on, energy-related concepts and a Building ‘X’: NEX–next energy eXperience, which is Certified Zero Energy by the International Living Futures Institute.

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Energy efficient solutions across campuses include:

  • Water

    High efficiency water fixtures and plumbing design, indigenous landscaping, and rainwater harvesting all help the district conserve water.

  • Electricity

    High efficiency mechanical systems and controls, light fixtures, and building systems lend to reduced demands on the grid.

  • Solar

    Photovoltaics are placed throughout each campus as energy producing parking canopies, rooftop systems, and campus-wide building and shade structures.

  • Building Placement

    Careful placement of campus buildings and  high performance building envelopes reduce demands on heating/cooling systems and help provide adequate daylighting for learning environments.

  • Windows

    An abundance of windows and skylights provide ample daylighting into the learning environments reducing the demands for electric lighting and promoting the district’s approach to transparency in the classrooms.

  • Shade
    Landscaping, and building/photovoltaic canopies all provide a comfortable shaded micro-climate.

Building the Future

Firm News

DLR Group to Design new West-MEC Southeast Campus

October 23, 2023

West-MEC’s new campus will feature advanced manufacturing, transportation, health and wellness, IT, construction trades, and many more CTE pathways.

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