Fern Hill Elementary School

Tacoma School District

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project information

Historic Renovation and Addition
62,085 SF

project overview

Built in 1911 to replace the original 1887 school on the site, Fern Hill Elementary School is important to generations of southeast Tacoma residents. BLRB’s charge was to conceive a restoration of this historic school that supports contemporary educational programs and needs while preserving the school’s history and community ties. The design restored and upgraded the iconic, three-story school building and added new construction necessary to support for modern program elements. A new school main entrance leads into the Heritage Hall, a display space celebrating school and community history. Despite the challenges of retrofitting a century old building, the renovation was designed to comply with the Washington State Sustainable Schools Protocol for High Performance Schools. Sustainable features include water conservation by way of rainwater harvesting and the use of rain gardens for storm water management. Daylighting is maximized throughout the school’s interior, and all electric lighting is controlled by occupancy sensors and photo-cell controls. The design incorporated existing building materials and restored and repurposed key interior architectural features. Building materials with high recycle content were integrated and all interior finishes were carefully selected to be non-toxic with low- or no-VOC content. This project received the Educational Design Excellence Award from American School and University Magazine, and a Commendation Award for excellence in masonry design from the Mason Contractors of America.