2016—Dearing Elementary

Pflugerville ISD—Dearing Elementary
Architect: Stantec

The district wanted to use an already highly successful prototype as a benchmark to raise the bar for energy efficiency. It was imperative that this school acted as a catalyst for future sustainable strategies for the district. The architect created a net-zero prototype that challenged the norms of sustainable design and transformed the learning environment. By using smart design solutions, this school not only fulfilled the district’s initial requirement – it exceeded their expectations


  • The community needed a new prototype that would enhance the student’s education through modern technologies and facilities
  • As the first net-zero typology of its kind for the area, this is the catalyst for a much-needed sustainable buildings discussion in the community
  • The public can now look to this project as a standard for what a building should achieve
  • Discovery zone was designed to allow access for students within the district to a feature not found on their own campuses


  • The new, two-story prototype is a compact design that fits on a 7-acre site to save on energy costs
  • A more efficient floor plan reduces the travel distance for students from classrooms to open communal spaces
  • Organizing classrooms by grade level around a large, open space designed for group learning creates a neighborhood identity
  • The Discovery Zone inspires collaborative learning between students and allows for both soft and direct faculty observation


  • The goal for the district was to get the best net-zero school they could and use it as a prototype for years to come
  • The architect performed an internal audit on the previous prototype, creating a deeper conversation on sustainable design
  • The project enhanced the education program by creating collaborative 21st century learning spaces
  • The planning process redefined the district’s vision on energy efficiency, responding with a transformational facility design


  • Sustainability—Star of DistinctionReducing building footprint 42% from previous prototype minimizes the building’s impact on the site and reduces the kBtu/sf/yr (EUI) by 67%
  • Advanced geothermal, building control, and HVAC systems provide a significant decrease in energy usage
  • 100% daylight in all classrooms connects students and teachers to the natural environment


  • The compact plan creates an efficient building envelope that reduces energy costs
  • Geothermal system and insulated concrete form walls offer additional energy efficiency and significantly lower building life cycle costs
  • Using polished concrete floors along with stone and brick interiors reduces maintenance costs and increases the life-cycle
  • Adding a “Discovery Zone” creates a shared flexible space that is used for media, small breakout classes, and large group instruction

School Transformation

The school is transformed by:

  • Reduced maintenance and operations cost
  • Reduced water and electricity consumption
  • Neighborhoods create engagement and provide a home for each student
  • Grade level separation with multiple neighborhoods
  • Dispersing administration throughout
  • Transparency enhances supervision and puts learning on display
  • Building acts as an educational tool with collaborative spaces
  • Net-zero ready status

Stars of Distinction Star of Distinction Category Winner