February 24, 2020 by Chase Collins, Assistant Project Manager | Associate
DBR contracted with Gensler on the design for the new 4-story school building for First Presbyterian Church, located in Houston’s Museum District. The 46,000-square-foot Early Childhood and Lower School Building is splayed open with a prominence of glass that brings in natural light and celebrates the site and surrounding cultural institutions as an important part of the learning process. The new building features flexible learning spaces for students and houses the preschool and elementary portions of Presbyterian’s student body, leaving the existing facilities devoted exclusively to grades 6, 7, and 8.
The building is served by four 50 ton packaged roof top units that allow for each floor to have a dedicated HVAC system. Equipped with fully modulating economizers and variable speed compressors rooftop units are designed to be energy efficient and provide comfort to all students and staff. Each classroom is served by a dedicated series fan powered box with individual temperature and carbon dioxide control to ensure comfort and proper ventilation for each classroom.
The electrical and mechanical systems are integrated with the architectural features in the collaborative areas and learning spaces with lighting and air devices carefully coordinated with the interior design. Efficient LED lighting with multiple circuits and dimming in each classroom allows teachers to optimize the lighting for each of the classrooms and to work with the abundance of natural lighting available.
Grade levels ascend by floor. Kindergarten and pre-K face off across a common area on the north side of the building’s ground level. First and second graders share the second floor with the headmaster’s office and a music room. The top 2 floors house a library, art room, and maker spaces alongside third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade classrooms. And a north-western roof deck looks out toward Montrose Blvd.
Classrooms are designed for maximum flexibility, embracing the idea that learning can happen anywhere—blurring the boundaries of what a classroom can be. Transformational and flexible, the design encourages active learning, with open, hands on collaborative arts spaces that embrace the more organic aspects of the learning process. Traditional corridors are reinterpreted as collaborative zones and extensions of the classroom.
It’s the first expansion in 15 years for the school for children ages 3 to eighth grade. Currently, the 575 students learn in classrooms within the First Presbyterian Church. The project also includes renovations to its 19,000 sf middle school which will begin construction when the new addition is complete.