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Prairie Crossing Charter School 

Prairie Crossing, IL

Completed 2006



The Prairie Crossing Charter School represents an aesthetic bridge between the farmhouse history of the site and a contemporary approach to student comfort and learning. Abstractions of historical forms pervade the architecture: double sloped farm roofs become portals for natural light in hallways while corridors of stained concrete floors and exposed trusses minimize material use.

The school is situated within the Prairie Crossing development which has been acclaimed for its inclusion of the native prairie ecosystem. The landscape for the school carries this eco-theme in its plant selection (mostly prairie and savanna species) and offers an additional focus on the landscape as an extension of the classroom giving it an active role in the school’s curriculum. The design sets a backdrop for understanding nature, not only of how it looks and feels but how it works.

Having the school located in an already environmentally conscious community helped bring all aspects of the community’s goals together - being socially responsible for the environment and helping teach the future generation how to be environmentally aware.

The substantial use of daylight throughout the facility significantly reduces the reliance on electrical systems. High-performance glass was used for its ability to reduce heat transfer and glare. In order to incorporate the benefits of daylighting, classroom interiors feature high ceilings, appropriately located and sized exterior openings and energy efficient direct/indirect light fixtures. Most interior spaces also have occupancy sensors to prevent the lights from staying on after the space is used. Skylights and large windows further reduce the need for excess lighting by allowing natural daylight to enter the classrooms with little glare.

A ground source heat pump system uses the constant temperature of the earth to heat or cool the building. It pumps fluid through a series of ground wells, up to 75’ deep, where the earth is always about 51 degrees. This fluid circulating through the soil keeps the school building cool on hot days and warm on cold days.

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