Process on Display
Vancouver iTech Preparatory
iTech is home to Vancouver Public School’s early college “school of choice,” STEM-focused program. The 80,711 SF facility serves up to 700 students in grades 6 through 12, and is conveniently located at the east entrance of Washington State University-Vancouver.
Vancouver Public Schools
Vancouver iTech Preparatory is home to the early college STEM-focused program. The school initially operated from two sites in Vancouver, serving the middle and high-school students in separate locations. In February of 2017, a bond was passed by taxpayers that included plans to consolidate both the middle and high schools of iTech into a new building on the Washington State University-Vancouver campus.
To successfully merge the program at a single location, the team at LSW facilitated a highly impactful symposium with staff, students, and representatives during the pre-design phase. This process included meetings, brainstorming sessions, and interactive workshops, with the goal of creating consensus and unity around a vision for the school and the community. This shared vision for the school became a blueprint for the project.
The iTech curriculum focuses on project-based learning, weaving multiple subjects together and requiring students to think about a problem from multiple angles. This progressive approach is reflected throughout the design and in the building’s story. Each of the spaces and classrooms connects through a grand central area for presentations and events, showcasing students’ work, and organically supporting peer-to-peer collaboration. This goes to the root of iTech’s central theme, “process on display.”
Much of the project work at iTech is done in an open setting, showcasing processes in real-time with no barriers to visibility. The facility is designed to encourage collaboration among students and teachers across grade levels and disciplines, creating an environment that lends itself to open dialog. The building’s design further accentuates this open mode of operation by centering the labs, collaboration spaces, and workshops around the gathering and presentation stair.
Health and Wellness
Part of iTech’s innovative learning environment is the natural integration of elements that promote wellness, movement, and mental health. One of the school’s signature features is the “Turfnasium,” a reimagined turf gymnasium that brings the outdoors in. The infusion of outdoor play space emphasizes the connection between mental and physical health. True to the school’s encouragement of “outside the box” thinking, the Turfnasium offers a unique, fun location to play and exercise.
Daylighting and Connection to Nature
The building takes its shape and aesthetic from the surrounding topography and foliage, harmonizing its interior elements with the natural elements outside. This includes orienting it to maximize natural daylighting levels and views of the building’s natural surroundings, both of which have proven neurological benefits to students in learning environments.
The design for iTech meets the requirements for the Washington Sustainable Schools Protocol (WSSP). In addition, it was important to staff and students to expand on these features in ways that enhance the user-experience. Below are a few examples that capture the school’s commitment to a sustainable program, as filtered through LSW’s own sustainability lens:
Outdoor turfnasium moves a large portion of the building program to the exterior, eliminating HVAC loads on that space
Three-story building maintains a minimal footprint on site
Optimal daylighting and strategic shading of glazing on south facade
Digital visualization of energy use is displayed, allowing occupants to learn about the building’s performance and understand how user behavior impacts the system
Cross-laminated timber structure in key visible spaces
Building massing and site location provides maximized natural daylighting and focused views of nature
Outdoor turfnasium provides connection to the environment and outdoor air, emphasizing the connection between mental and physical health
Transparency between spaces provides safe and accessible learning opportunities for students, with a focus on highlighting project creation and presentation
Preserved existing trees on site and provided outdoor play environment
Strategic water feature surround building that provides storm water collection and expression while acting as a learning environment for students
Energy Use Intensity
“I can honestly say that the coolest thing in the state of Washington today is iTech.”
Jay Inslee, Governor, Washington State