Concrete landscape retaining walls create a buffer to this Elgin, Ill., school's pedestrian traffic from the busy street below.
A. ROMANOVSKY, DLA ARCHITECTS Concrete landscape retaining walls create a buffer to this Elgin, Ill., school's pedestrian traffic from the busy street below.

With the addition of the Harold D. Rider Family Media, Science & Fine Arts Center, Elgin Academy of Elgin, Ill., set for itself some lofty goals. The preschool to 12th grade independent day school wanted an environmentally friendly and energy-efficient facility on the cutting edge of industry design.

Concrete was chosen as the paving material for this project due to its high solar reflectance and its ability to limit the heat island effect. The design featured 27-foot-wide concrete terraces and courtyards on the east and west sides of the building. Located on a steep hillside, the project also featured planting beds supported by concrete block segmental retaining walls that create a buffer between campus pedestrians and vehicular traffic below.

The project featured architectural concrete brick for the building's exterior for its appearance and low cost, and because it contributed to LEED points. CMU walls filled with slag aggregate provided acoustic isolation and also contributed LEED points by being composed of 100% post-industrial recycled materials. The design team was even able to create an additional 1200 square feet of storage by eliminating two concrete buttresses and building further into the hill, without additional cost.