2015 — Dr. Joe J. Bernal Middle School

Northside ISD—Dr. Joe J. Bernal Middle School

New middle school for 1200 students, expandable to 1500


Visually and physically connected, the courtyard and cafeteria anchor the school and provide the main gathering spaces. Views to the tree preservation area and school garden from these spaces tie the school to the natural environment of the site. The wings are intended to create grade level communities, including the support spaces each grade’s needs. At the entry lobby are banners that display the school district’s “Pillars of Character”.


The main thrust of the school design was to reinforce the connection between the school community and the natural environment. Along the spine is located the administration area, library, cafeteria, courtyard, performing arts wing, athletic facilities. Every classroom has windows providing views and allow daylight. It contains a stepped teaching/performance area, the school garden, shaded outdoor seating, and a scale model of the solar system.



Stars of Distinction Sustainability

The main goal was to design a high performance, sustainable school to be used as a teaching tool to educate the students. Sustainable site planning features, 18% less energy use than a baseline school, water efficient plumbing and landscaping, and materials selected based on their reduced carbon foot print and sustainable attributes. The school design maintains a reduced building footprint that allowed for a large school garden and a tree preservation area which includes a future nature trail.


The school is designed to maximize the project value to the district. As a part of the sustainable design initiative, the school was designed to reduce its footprint and has less square footage than a similar school with the same program opened two years ago. The school is built to last 30 to 50 years and is projected to use 18% less energy than the baseline school design. The school is designed so that a minor flood (3” of water) will not ruin any of the building materials.

School Transformation

All of the sustainable initiatives at the school have been designed so that the students and staff will have the opportunity to learn about the natural environment that surrounds their school. The interior color scheme provides a simplified wayfinding system and ties the school to nature seasonal colors in each corridor and native tree tile murals at each stair. The school garden and nature trail will connect the students to the environment for opportunities to learn natural science.

Stars of Distinction Star of Distinction Category Winner