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Metea Valley High School / DLR Group

  • Architects: DLR Group
  • Location: Aurora, IL, USA
  • Architects: DLR Group
  • Engineer: DLR Group; KJWW Engineering; Roake and Associates, Inc.
  • Owner: Indian Prairie School District 204
  • Contractor: Turner Construction
  • Area: 464200.0 ft2
  • Project Year: 2009
  • Photographs: James Steinkamp

© James Steinkamp © James Steinkamp © James Steinkamp © James Steinkamp

From the architect. CHALLENGE

Indian Prairie School District 204 is the fifth largest district in Illinois and historically, one of the fastest growing districts in the country. To solve overcrowding issues, the district needed a new high school to accommodate 3,000 students, grades 9 to 12.

© James Steinkamp
© James Steinkamp


While planning this large school for thousands of students, designers researched opportunities to provide identity so students would not become lost among the masses. The resultant “think tanks” cluster students by grade level and provide an intimate learning environment.

Metea Valley High School’s flexible design solution supports a multitude of teaching and learning concepts and can be organized by grade, department, or developed into small learning communities. At the core of the academic wing is the 12,680 square foot media center. This space, together with checkout computer labs, forum rooms and a technology lab, delineates two enclosed courtyards that expose the building core to natural light. The central location of the enclosed courtyards establishes freedom for students to move outdoors as well as through the adjacent media center, locker bays and student resource rooms during free periods.

DLR Group designers led a charette promoting collaboration and shared goals between designers and the learning community.  The process began with parameters such as project scope and district goals, and then opened up to a creative environment encouraging thinking among students, staff and community.  Everyone had the opportunity to ask questions and share their point of view.  Designers consolidated all ideas into conceptual designs, facilitated group discussions and allowed user groups to vote on what would work best for the district, as well as what should not be incorporated in the final design.

© James Steinkamp
© James Steinkamp


The project team and learning community established five memorable goals for this new high school:

• Design Metea Valley High School to be equitable to the district’s other two high schools: The new high school accommodates the same number of students, and provides similar extracurricular activities as the other two high schools, including academics, athletics and performing arts.

• Create an environment that encourages collaboration amongst students and faculty: Four think tanks, consisting of administrative and guidance offices, student resource rooms, conference rooms, and teacher planning centers, flank the media center and outdoor courtyards. These think tanks give students an intimate, small school learning environment within a larger context. The central location of the enclosed courtyards establishes the freedom for students to move outdoors during free periods while still maintaining a secure school environment. Lounge areas with internet access, along with a variety of small and large gathering spaces, encourage interaction among students and faculty.

© James Steinkamp
© James Steinkamp

• Design a flexible facility that can support a multitude of teaching/learning concepts: Decentralized science labs in each think tank provide program flexibility to accommodate a variety of academic models. By locating these specialized rooms throughout the four core areas, the school can be organized by grade level, variety of department types or into small learning communities.

• Address vehicular and pedestrian traffic to provide a safe and secure campus: The layout of the site plan strongly emphasizes safety. Traffic patterns take full advantage of the building perimeter creating four distinct entrances, one each for students, staff, buses and visitors. The bus lot is arranged so that buses can easily pull into parking spaces without crossing pedestrian pathways. The same can be said for the separate service drive, which offers a direct route to the building that avoids persons on foot. An exclusive looping drive has also been provided for parents to safely drop students off at the building entrance. This scheme aims to increase pedestrian safety and protection by segregating and controlling the flow of vehicles.

• Design an environmentally responsible facility for our students and community: The Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation awarded Indian Prairie School District #204 a $135,000 grant to incorporate energy efficient and sustainable building features.

• An energy model of the design demonstrates the building design maintains a target to be 19 percent more efficient than required by ASHRAE 90.1.

© James Steinkamp
© James Steinkamp

• A daylight harvesting system automatically turns off lights in public spaces as exterior lighting levels change throughout the day. This system is projected to save the district $21,032 annually with a payback of 6.6 years.

• Demand control ventilation has been designed into the mechanical system in the gymnasiums, auditorium and other large lecture spaces. These systems have an initial cost of $10,000, with estimated annual savings of $5,000.

• Energy recovery wheels are designed into the air handlers above the classroom wings. The initial cost of $70,000 is projected to save the district $15,000 annually, paying for itself in 3-4 years.

• High efficiency boilers cost $10,000 initially, but can provide $5,500 of savings to the district each year.

• Rain gardens surround the parking lots planted with local, non-invasive plants to mitigate storm water pollutants.

• A rooftop greenhouse, equipped with drip irrigation, a motorized roof sash for ventilation and motorized shades, provides enhanced educational opportunities.

• The greenhouse control system allows students to collect weather and temperature data for enhanced learning opportunities outside the classroom.

© James Steinkamp
© James Steinkamp


Small think tanks, collaborative lounges, interactive gathering spots and outdoor educational opportunities all enhance the learning environment for students at Metea Valley High School.

first floor plan
first floor plan
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