Sfl+a Architects, Raleigh, N.C., is not one of the Southeast’s largest design firms, but it’s undertaking an effort that has the potential to make a huge impact on K-12 school design and construction across the region. The firm specializes in sustainable design, and is specifically focused on net positive energy schools. Examples of Sfl+a's expertise in school design can be seen with the selection of two Best Of The Best K-12 awards over the past three years. The impact goes beyond just design elements.

Along with the firm’s related development company, First Floor, is taking steps to deliver public K-12 projects in a way that makes them much more financially sustainable for its school district clients. An example of this is moving forward now in Horry County, S.C., where the firm is involved with building five positive-energy schools, currently under construction. In addition to building these schools, however, First Floor is going to operate and maintain these buildings for a period of time. This enables the firm to access each school's energy usage data, which in turn fosters building system adjustments and design improvements down the road.

Altogether, these design improvements can greatly reduce long-term costs for the school districts. Says Robbie Ferris, CEO/President of Sfl+a, “We’ve learned how to bring these building systems together so we’re now building energy-positive buildings with very little to no premium costs.”

For its efforts and achievements related to transforming the model for K-12 design and construction, ENR editors have chosen Sfl+a Architects as the Southeast Design Firm of the Year. ENR Southeast will provide our readers with more information about the Horry County projects, and the firm's sustainability story, in the upcoming May print edition.