West Valley, UT
Like its namesake, the Neil Armstrong Academy is dedicated to the sciences and the pursuit of knowledge. Armstrong’s lifetime of accomplishment and place in the pantheon of American heroes led the Granite School District in West Valley City, Utah, to name its new science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) elementary school after him.
The school that Salt Lake City–based Naylor Wentworth Lund Architects designed is approximately 95,000 square feet and includes classrooms of various sizes, as well as laboratories, group meeting facilities, a gymnasium, a media center, and a dining room. From the Academy’s inception, the goal was to be more than just an ordinary schoolhouse. “The school district wanted a very flexible, engaging, and energy- efficient building,” says Eric L. Madsen, AIA, principal at Naylor Wentworth Lund Architects.
The importance of this school to the community is apparent from the level of engagement and involvement the district had in all stages of the project. “One of the best decisions the Granite School District made was to create a design committee with some of the district’s best minds,” Madsen says. “It was a great experience, playing off each other’s ideas. The building really is a reflection of that committee and the hopes for a building that could work with the community.”
Prime among project goals were flexibility, schedule, and budget. Flexibility was important to the building’s function as well as its construction. The project team needed to look for solutions that could provide the performance the district wanted in the timeframe available. The speed of construction that can be achieved with metal was ideal for the project. “The district had a tight schedule and wanted a flexible building,” Madsen recalls. “We chose a steel structure because it is quick to erect and because walls could be modified more easily in the future.”
Budget was another major factor on this project, and metal wall panels delivered advantages on that front, as well. Madsen explains. “CENTRIA’s Profile Series exposed fastener metal panels were used high on the façade where the fasteners were less visible. This was one of the most cost-effective panels we could find.”
Other types of metal wall components were used in other parts of the building. “We used CENTRIA’s Formawall on the classrooms because the architectural detail was clearly visible, and also because we wanted a high level of insulation in those areas,” Madsen says. “Aluminum composite panels were used in small amounts at the nose of the media center to provide a crisp termination to the other panels. These were the only customized areas of the project.”
The Neil Armstrong Academy opened in 2013 and has been a great asset to the community that brought it to life. The design is serving the district—and its budget—well. According to Madsen, the building has the lowest energy use intensity in the district.
“The owner really wanted a billboard for its STEM school that would encourage and celebrate learning,” Madsen says. “When the school opened, the allotted 900 student slots quickly filled, as well as a waiting list of more than 600 students wanting to attend.”
Most important, the programs housed in the school and facilitated by the classroom and learning space design are paying dividends for the students who attend the Academy.
“To the credit of the administration and the educators, the test scores at Neil Armstrong Academy have been through the roof,” Madsen says. “The district is very pleased.”