The $33-million Manassas Park Elementary School/Cougar Elementary School was designed to foster a love of learning. Completed in April, it houses 610 pupils but has the capacity to surge to 900 if needed.

Manassas Park/Cougar Elementary School, Manassas Park, Va.

Hess Construction + Engineering Services of Gaithersburg, Md., began construction in July 2007 and completed the 128,000-sq-ft main building and 10,500-sq-ft prekindergarten building with no recordable safety incidents. The school features three three-story academic houses connected by hallways.

VMDO Architects, Charlottesville, Va., designed the building and incorporated many sustainable features. The team seeks LEED gold certification. The design requires the owner to embrace new types of mechanical systems, take a new approach to illuminating classrooms with natural light and try new finish materials.

The project uses 52% less energy than a typical school building. Automatic light controls with built-in sensors measure the light level in all classrooms and dim the fixtures to provide the appropriate amount of illumination without using excess electricity. Solar tubes bring natural light into the bathrooms, corridors, media center and administrative areas.

Individual ground heat exchangers are used in all classrooms to monitor room temperature and humidity continuously, with warm or cool air supplied as needed. The geothermal system consists of 220 wells. While drilling the wells, ground water was encountered, and the city of Manassas Park directed the subcontractor to install a sediment pond and retention areas.

Key Players

Owner: Manassas Park City Public Schools, Manassas Park, Va.
Construction Manager: Hess Construction + Engineering Services, Gaithersburg, Md.
Architect: VMDO Architects, Charlottesville, Va.
Structural Engineer: Fox and Associates, Richmond, Va.
Civil Engineer: Bowman Consulting Group, Manassas, Va.
MEP Engineer: 2RW Consultants, Charlottesville
Paving and Site Work: Finley Asphalt & Sealing, Manassas Park
Concrete Retaining Walls and Structural Concrete: F&B Concrete, Manassas Park
Geothermal Well Drilling: Chesapeake Geothermal System, Baltimore
Mechanical and Plumbing: Shapiro & Duncan, Rockville, Md.
Electrical: Wolfford Electrical, Rixeyville, Va.

A rain-harvesting system collects water to flush all toilets and eliminates the need for 1.3 million gallons of potable water per year. Environmental elements of the building and grounds serve to educate the community. For instance, a terraced, outdoor classroom demonstrates bioretention techniques and is equipped with a colorful rain gauge and large-scale graphics explaining the hydrology system and impact on rainwater harvesting.

Early sitework required removing an existing road and utilities to allow for the construction of new building pads. The earthwork, paving and utility work was performed within 45 days to provide a new access configuration for the existing school. The new building pads were constructed adjacent to an occupied school and historic Civil War camp.