Birdville Independent School District Center for Technology and Advanced Learning
North Richland Hills, Texas
Birdville Independent School District
Center for Technology and Advanced Learning
North Richland Hills, Texas

The evolution of learning. With the exponential growth of technology and the meaning of innovation changing rapidly, students at the Center for Technology and Advanced Learning find themselves at the hub of opportunity in an example of contemporary learning. Students are ready for the future and finding their own potential within the walls of the modern educational facility.

The building is filled with technological applications in each area of study applying the “Learning Mall” concept, with storefronts for each program, and the incorporation of a variety of flexible spaces for both formal and informal learning opportunities. The project brings real-world relevance and experiences to its students as they engage in simulated commercial environments and work literally hand-in-hand with local corporate partners to be best prepared for college or the job market.

The project has garnered several national awards. As one of just 38 honorees in the U.S., the media arts program was cited as an “Apple Exemplary Program,” awarded for “Best Practice” qualities of a 21st century learning environment. Its students and faculty are proud of their school and take very good care of it. Students love to hang out “at the mall,” and nearby district administrators frequent the student-run Bistro with its uplifting ambiance.

The Vision

The goal was to display a sense of transparency and share learning activities throughout the entire community; to create a “feel-good” environment that offers all users a sense of pride, a sense of caring, and a sense of optimism about student and community futures. 

In addition to satisfying the spatial and technical demands for each training program, we envisioned a simple building envelope and interiors maximized to become a “Warehouse for Learning.” This strategy, creating a simple inexpensive building envelope, was employed to build 15 percent more square footage than originally programmed and budgeted, as opportunities proved to be even more popular than anticipated.

A “Learning Mall” concept is the central attraction, and provides visibility, transparency and social learning opportunities through storefronts. Each representative curricular group has a storefront on the mall, encouraging the showcasing of student activities and work on an ongoing basis.

The Design

The incorporation of spaces satisfies contemporary and future-ready learning imperatives. Value and sustainability were two important goals in determining the design of this facility.

A simple building envelope reduced the cost per square foot and allowed more instructional space. Tilt-wall construction saved time and allowed for much simpler foundations: no grade beams were required because panels span the piers. Designing pre-engineered canopies saved time and cost, while looking more high-tech and less traditional. The spatial and interior design of the storefronts, colors and graphics provide great variety and visual interest, and were very cost-effective to build.

Inward-focused design for sustainability saved energy consumption and excess energy performance requirements. Concrete exterior walls serve as heat shields, delaying heat energy from penetrating to conditioned space during peak demand periods. Low-flow plumbing fixtures as well as bioswales and detention also were incorporated on site for storm-water run-off.

Fun, colorful supergraphics are used throughout and help activate the Learning Mall. One signage element, a refinished car hanging on the wall outside the Auto Technology room, became such a loved student project that it is now permanently installed for posterity.