2017—Joe Lee Johnson STEAM Academy

Round Rock ISD—Joe Lee Johnson STEAM Academy
Architect: BLGY Architecture

Joe Lee Johnson Elementary (new construction), the District’s first STEAM Academy, is designed with flexibility and adaptability to encourage collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity – central skills for 21st Century learners. Student design ideas are showcased in the Library Conference Area through participation of the Library of the Future high school team. Technology is ubiquitous in the learning environment, aiding and augmenting students’ hands-on learning.


Transparency and scale are paramount in establishing relationships between the school and its suburban context. Inspired by art deco architecture, a red brick slab acts as a “sign”, frames the glass corner entrance, moves into the building as an organizational element, and dissolves into pilasters framing large display walls in the interior. Similar masonry markers denote east and west entrances. Creative use of colors in the floors and paint finishes aid with both identity and wayfinding.


Combining interior and exterior skin with load-bearing structure, insulated concrete tilt-up wall panels offer lower operating costs, greater energy savings, and cost-effective building material with fewer trades to construct. Natural light is supplemented by long- lasting LED light fixtures. Maintenance is minimal for plastic laminate covered interior walls and terrazzo floors. Moveable walls in classroom pods, cafeteria and gym provide opportunities to segment or expand spaces as needed.


The campus design, using a small footprint, proper building orientation for maximizing natural light, water conserving landscaping, rain-water cisterns, reflective roof, solar shading on southern orientation, LED lighting, tilt-wall cladding combining building skin and structure, and durable interior finishes, adheres to LEED criteria without a third-party rating. An automated energy management system, motion detectors and sensors monitor all HVAC equipment for occupant comfort and efficiency.


The building is placed in close proximity to the main neighborhood intersection to promote community use of the site. In a family- oriented neighborhood, shared parking, walking and bike trails, fields, and covered playgrounds are a resource even during the summer months. Red brick used in the cladding is a nod to the long tradition of American civic buildings. The transparent glass corner of the entry serves as beacon, and marks the school as an important neighborhood landmark.


The Design Charrette that preceded this prototype’s evolutionary generation promoted classrooms grouped into modified pods, accommodating vertical team teaching. At the start of Construction, the School’s Administration was closely involved in alignment of the plan with the District’s Strategic Vision for the school to function as a true learner-centered environment. Movable glass walls and flexible furniture allows students to learn self-directed with the teacher as a guide-by-the-side.

School Transformation

This school embodies the District’s Strategic Plan, promoting agile and collaborative learning spaces in a future-ready environment. Learning happens everywhere, supporting individual, small group and large group collaboration in all learning spaces. Connectivity via movable clear walls integrates classrooms with shared Commons areas, promoting innovation and supporting varied learning styles. Students are encouraged to use the technology as appropriate for their learning needs.

Stars of Distinction Star of Distinction Category Winner