SSA Architecture, Small Studio Associates LLC ; Las Vegas Architects

Architect Las Vegas Publicworks Manch

Jacob E. Manch Elementary School

In 2004 Ken Small’s firm was selected by a jury selection system of the Clark County School District to be the architect for the phased replacement of Jacob E. Manch elementary School. The old school had been built under the main take off path of the main runway of the local US Air Force Base. Faculty recollection said that the oldest remaining construction on campus was near the end of world war two. The newest building was built about 12 years prior during an era of very poor design requirements, windowless and previously mold contaminated by careless use of irrigation it was not salvageable.

After a complete analysis of the buildings and the campus the architectural and engineering team was directed to save three buildings. Two of which were completely gutted.

The architects were also directed to design the building so that the school could be replaces while still occupied and utilized as a school.

Facing the list of challenges above and many more Ken Small and his team were able to design a “Green Building” utilizing 100% naturally lit classrooms and 100% naturally lit 2 of the 3 salvaged buildings. This building was designed under the criteria of a LEED silver building but the client did not fund the LEED qualification process. So this school will run with the electric lights OFF. There are over 500 skylights and many windows that provide the lighting. The school is the only one in the western US built of SIPs (structural insulted panels). This was done for insulation and acoustic purposes. We can’t publish the plan but if we could you would see many plan innovations also. This school has a long list of challenges which the architects designed the building to help with. The building was designed to operate under a normal class schedule under external security “Lock Down” resulting from almost anything happing outside the school. Internal security issues such as avoidance of personal safety concerns for the kids while they are in school also dictated much of the design program. We believe that nothing in school is more important than the personal safety of the kids. We did our best to allow the kids to forget safety concerns and concentrate on learning.

This school opened on the first day of the 2009-2010 school year.

The exterior of the building is built of SIPS. SIPs are “Structural insulated panels”. They are made of foam insulation and plywood for quick installation and energy conservation. For student safety the walls around the school are constructed of concrete filled concrete block.

Statement of Design Approach

J. E. Manch Elementary School is an at risk school located in a lower income neighborhood in North Las Vegas. The original school was built in the 1940s with subsequent buildings added over the years. The design team evaluated this facility recommending which buildings to keep, renovate, or demolish. The main design approach was to develop a design that would help inspire children to learn. The designers wanted to design a school where children would be excited to go and learn. The school building itself would become a teaching tool for students to learn about building design, construction, and systems. View windows are scattered throughout the school allowing children to see how the building was constructed and what systems operate the building. Nearby Nellis Air Force Base has influenced the design of the school with the theme of flight throughout. The theme of flight has taken many shapes and ranged from insects, to birds, to kites, to manned flight. The design approach for the campus was a school within a school. The front entry is designed with a security vestibule requiring you to go through the office for entry into the school. The school has been designed around interior and exterior courtyards. This design provides for continued school operation during a security lock down. This concept includes five house-learning pods. The kindergarten pod contains four classrooms that surround an open-air teaching courtyard. The other four house learning pods each contain grades 1 thru 5 with windows that view the central interior common space. This provides supervision and a house that is more like a family. The multipurpose/lunchroom room opens to an enclosed courtyard for play and for outdoor eating. There are several other enclosed learning and play courtyards located throughout the campus.

This design process included input from the educators and community, 3D computer modeling of the campus with existing and new buildings with various design solutions. Using this tool, our client was effectively able to visualize our design solutions without the need for built models.