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Biophilic Design in Education

How Nature-Inspired Building Materials and Acoustical Performance Enhance Learning for Elementary School Students

Lisle Elementary, a new primary school located in a small suburb in the Chicago metro area, is a specially designed, state-of-the-art educational facility that serves 750 pre-kindergarten to fifth-grade students. The unique design of the educational spaces and the selection of building materials were critical when it came to supporting student learning, and it was predominantly driven by a creative vision focused on modern biophilic design principles.

While many elementary schools are filled with loud colors, Lisle’s strength in design relies on subtlety and restraint: Neutral tones, nature-inspired materials, and visual connections to the environment come together to create a warm, calming atmosphere.

Architecture and design firm Perkins and Will brought the creative vision to the project, building its aesthetic around merging the indoors with the outdoors.

“We used natural building products to bring warmth in and let the kids and teachers bring their color and life into the building,” explains lead designer Angelica Paleczny. “And to create a direct connection with the natural world outside, you can see outdoors from almost any location in which you stand inside the school.”

It’s no surprise, then, that rich, textural wood elements permeate the space. One immediately striking feature is the sprawling CertainTeed Box® Series wood-look metal ceilings that greet students outside in the canopies at the school’s south and east entrances. These linear plank ceilings continue uninterrupted through floor to ceiling windows into the school’s interior spaces for wood-look lines that literally connecting the indoors with the outdoors.

The natural wood aesthetic is also carried into the school’s corridors, where CertainTeed perforated ceiling panels in Rift Cut White Oak veneer provide the dual functions of biophilic visuals and acoustical performance. While wood alone is not a sound-absorbing material, these CertainTeed wood panels can achieve up to NRC 0.80, thanks to perforations and Theatre® Black f panels as acoustical infill. It’s a strategic design choice that not only keeps noise to a minimum in the high-activity corridor spaces, but also absorbs ambient noise for the various small breakout spaces used for quiet reading or small group collaborations at various points throughout the corridors.

In total, the school features 35 classrooms, including some geared specifically for kindergarten and preschool curricula, as well as STEM rooms, small group collaboration rooms, a band and music room, and a centralized learning resource center.

All the spaces required different kinds of performance for different kinds of activity. Chief among these needs was acoustical performance, and that fell mainly to the ceilings throughout the school, which included CertainTeed TechStyle® large-format fiberglass acoustical panels in the centralized Learning Resource Center and CertainTeed Symphony® m acoustical panels in individual classrooms.

Meeting varied performance requirements with an array of ceiling products can often mean a frustrating, complicated specification process. Fortunately, the Perkins and Will design team was able to significantly streamline the process by specifying the entire Lisle project through CertainTeed as a single ceiling supplier.

“Working with CertainTeed had a lot of benefits,” says Paleczny. “We had one source of contact, one person to help us engage with all the different acoustic performance issues throughout the space.”

Because elementary schools serve children at such disparate stages of their developmental and educational journeys, it is imperative that school facilities offer spaces that foster a culture of learning for a wide array of pupils. For, Lisle Elementary School students, the design of their new school environment helps them learn in ways that they can carry throughout the rest of their school years and beyond.

“It’s important that we start embracing the new wave of learning and incorporating the flexible educational design we see on college campuses into the educational design for students of all ages,” says Paleczny. “Everyone learns so differently. And for children at elementary school ages, it helps set the stage for the rest of their educational lives.”

Read more about Lisle Elementary School and watch videos on biophilic and acoustical design principles in education at this link.


About CertainTeed

Through the responsible development of innovative and sustainable building products, CertainTeed, headquartered in Malvern, Pennsylvania, has helped shape the building products industry for more than 115 years. Founded in 1904 as General Roofing Manufacturing Company, the firm’s slogan “Quality Made Certain, Satisfaction Guaranteed,” inspired the name CertainTeed. Today, CertainTeed is a leading North American brand of exterior and interior building products, including roofing, siding, solar, fence, railing, trim, insulation, drywall and ceilings. www.certainteed.com