2017—Washington Heights Elementary School

Fort Worth ISD—Washington Heights Elementary School
Architect: WRA Architects

A CHPS-Designed on-site replacement school on a tight urban site, one of this original school’s most unusual features is that it was underground because of a nearby airport. Many design challenges helped shape and locate the building on the small 4-acre site. Due to the tight site, the stormwater detention requirement was met using the void from the old school as an underground detention tank. The design solved airport noise and safety of the students and faculty during the construction period.


A CHPS-Designed on-site replacement of an underground school, many challenges shaped and located the building on the tight 4-acre urban site. Design solved airport noise and safety. Wide corridors and break-out collaborative teaching spaces in each area feature bright colors to give each grade its own identity and provide subconscious way-finding for young students. On the tight site, stormwater detention was accomplished by using the void from the old school as an underground detention tank.


A CHPS-Designed school, most of the traditional corridor space was transformed into shared-use collaboration space providing maximum flexibility in the learning process. The architect designed the school 100% in BIM, no 2D-CAD, and coordinated with contractor to integrate structural and mechanical systems in 3D before construction, preventing costly conflicts in the field. But what added the most value was replacing an old underground school with a modern school with daylight throughout.


A CHPS-Designed school, designed by LEED-accredited architects, one of the most energy efficient schools in the district. High efficiency envelope and optimum solar orientation significantly reduce energy costs. Being two-story reduces site excavation, increases green space, and minimizes stormwater from running off into neighborhood creeks. All classrooms have natural light, exterior views and superb acoustics. Graphics in the learning areas teach sustainability initiatives used in the school.

CommunityCommunity—Star of Distinction

This new 21st Century school is an on-site replacement of an unusual underground facility that has been the community anchor of the neighborhood for decades. With many multi-purpose community-use spaces, the new building was designed to share many of its functions with the community, including its extensive outdoor space, fine arts facilities, gymnasium, and cafetorium – all can be open for night and weekend events. Break-out learning spaces and collaboration spaces are provided on each floor.

PlanningPlanning—Star of Distinction

A meticulous planning process was conducted to determine how best to dismantle the old underground school, construct the new school safely with school in session, shield airport noise and meet energy goals. The solution places classrooms on the north side in a saw-tooth arrangement with two exposures to each room. The northwest walls face the airport with massive soundproof walls to block noise. The northeast walls have windows to every classroom and accent colors inspired by the neighborhood.

School Transformation

Transforming an old school in a non-accessible underground building (because of a nearby airport) into a modern, 21st Century, CHPS-Designed school was the vision. Many transforming features: Daylight in every classroom, multi-use areas, collaboration spaces, access to the community with outdoor areas, fine arts facilities, gymnatorium, all of which can be open for night and weekend events. The students are now more engaged in the learning process and can see its relationship to their community.

Stars of Distinction Star of Distinction Category Winner