Warrior Elementary School design receives 2021 Top Block Award

In March of 2021, Warrior Elementary School in Warrior, AL opened its doors to more than 300 elementary students in kindergarten through 5th grade.

The new facility is approximately 90,000 square feet, which houses classrooms, administration, and support spaces for up to 650 students. The building includes three classroom wings, a separate cafeteria and dining area and a gymnasium. There are also art, music, and media center spaces.

“The project was roughly a two-year design project,” said Sam Matthews, project coordinator with Studio 2H Design. “Once under construction, it took about a year and nine months for completion of the building with an additional three to four months to complete the remainder of the sitework.”

The building sits adjacent to Highway 31, a major U.S. highway. Matthews wanted to ensure that the front façade would be prominent from the highway.

“We organized the spaces around a central hallway that extends the length of the building, and located the larger box spaces, such as cafeteria, administration, gymnasium, and media center along the front to act as a buffer to the classroom wings on the backside of the building,” he said.

The large window openings bring in natural light and provide views to the outside to promote student and staff health and well-being. The Art classroom and media center open to a paved courtyard with stepped concrete risers for outdoor learning.

Use of Concrete Block

“Using concrete block in the construction of the building provides durability and is relatively low maintenance,” said Matthews. “Throughout much of the school, an additional wall-covering and finish was not required.”

In addition to the durability of the product, reinforced concrete block is also the perfect product for the ICC-500 Storm Shelter, which is the central classroom wing of the school. This allowed Matthews and his team to maintain the same appearance as the rest of the building and still provide the structural integrity that was required.

The Storm Shelter also includes passive ventilation through the use of impact-rated louvers on opposite sides of the storm shelter wing, so that after a storm event, the louvers will open and provide natural ventilation to the occupants.

Colored Concrete Flooring

“The school system expressed the desire for a low maintenance and budget conscious floor system, so staining the slab-on grade flooring allowed us to achieve both goals,” explained Matthews. “It also provided an opportunity incorporate colors and patterns throughout the building to bring life and playfulness to the hallways and major spaces.”

In addition to the stained concrete floors throughout, the kitchen and serving line floor slabs are finished with a urethane cement epoxy flooring for durability, ease of maintenance and a pop of color.

The color also serves as wayfinding indicators to navigate the building, allowing the children to easily find their designated hallway, classrooms and restrooms.

“The media center is my favorite space in the building, and as you approach from the main hallway, the colored floating ceiling clouds draw you in,” Matthews said. “The stained concrete spheres are arranged to mimic the clouds overhead, and colored bands of stained concrete radiate from the curvilinear circulation desk. It really is a beautiful space.”

About Studio 2H Design

Studio 2H Design is a collective of multi-disciplinary Architects, Interior Designers, in-house Historic Preservationist and LEED Accredited Professionals located in Birmingham, Alabama.

They provide clients with services from beginning to end, starting with site selection and planning to design and construction administration. The firm’s inter-disciplinary approach contributes to dynamic, cohesive, and innovative projects.

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