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Cracking the Code: Innovating within a Non-Innovative Ecosystem to get to Immersive Learning Environments and Zero Energy

FRIDAY | APRIL 3, 2020

9:30 AM - 10:30 AM

Room: Van Ness

We all face this challenge: We want to innovate but face a ‘system’ that hinders every opportunity to create an Innovative Learning Process, with innovative learning environments, and with innovative implementations. School leadership tend to be risked-averse and believe that 21st century learning can happen in a typical classroom, Ed-Specs do not reflect 21st century learning environment needs, and project budgets do not look at life-cycle costs, even though schools are designed to last 50-75 years, and yet, how can we crack the code? Enter: NEOCITY Academy, a new, 500-student, public Immersive Learningscape STEM high school and First Net-Zero-Energy School in Florida, located on the NEOCITY Campus in Osceola County. This presentation will tell the story of how a partnership between Key District Leadership, a forward-thinking Principal, and an ambitious Design Team, provided a Learning experience grounded in 3 key ideas: Create an Immersive Learning Environment designed to support an alternative learning process amid a rigid EdSpec, A Zero-Energy Building that supports a STEM culture of innovation within a strict budget, and a partnership with The University of Central Florida’s College of Education and NEOCITY industry businesses to support the Florida High Tech’s needs with students that practice innovation and work on 21st century skills daily. NEOCITY is a new urbanist development at the epicenter of a boom in the high-tech, advanced manufacturing industry that central Florida is currently experiencing. This rapid growth coupled with the sunshine state’s easement of regulation on solar energy production has created opportunities for the creation of new, high-performance, zero-energy facilities to educate and train the next generation workforce. The core stakeholder design team was given a mandate to design the new public high school within the state mandated budget and space requirements. NEOCITY Academy has been developed as a twenty-first century, Immersive Learningscape, STEM-focused school that will offer students 3 curriculum paths: Advanced Engineering, Biomedical, and Cyber Security. The facility will be designed to use 70% less energy than a typical public school in Osceola County. The project is located in the heart of a new advanced manufacturing corridor within the NEOCITY Masterplan and the school district of Osceola County has formed a partnership with University of Central Florida to evaluate STEM pedagogy for the creation of a national instruction model. The schools high-performance design and ultra-low energy use will save an anticipated $115,000 per year on energy costs and is expected to save almost $2.7 million over 20 years in life cycle costs compared to a typical district school. Utilizing standard tilt-wall construction with high-performance detailing, a distributed heat-pump system and a 202kw, roof-top mounted PV array, the facility can now be a designated prototype for other school districts throughout the state. This innovative new school will be a key teaching tool in support of the development and execution of its high-tech curriculum.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Describe the process and details by which the Partnership of District Leaders, School Principal and Design Team underwent to Innovate within a rigid non-innovative educational system.
  2. Define the ways in which 21st century, Immersive Learning environments, based on concepts of Brain-Based Learning, Wellness, and Inclusiveness. support and enhance a high-tech, advanced manufacturing STEM high school curriculum.
  3. Describe the ways in which reducing the energy use of the building also focuses on improving cognitive function and the health and well-being of the building occupants.
  4. Demonstrate 5 key ways in which a public school can reduce its energy use low enough so that a renewable energy source can be added within the project budget including strategies of high-performance envelope detailing for tilt-wall and precast building typologies.

Philip Donovan

Philip Donovan, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Community Studio Principal
Little Diversified Architectural Consulting, Inc.
Tomás Jiménez-Eliæson

Tomás Jiménez-Eliæson, AIA, M.Arch, LEED AP BD+C

Partner & Design Principal
Little Diversified Architectural Consulting, Inc.
Michael Meechin

Michael Meechin

NeoCity Academy High School
School District of Osceola County


March 18-20, 2021   Washington, D.C.

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