October 19, 2017

21st Century Learning Environments: Bloomfield Hills High School

Facing aging facilities and a decreasing student population, the Bloomfield Hills community passed a $58.8 million bond program in May 2012 to consolidate the community’s two existing high schools, Andover and Lahser, and create the new Bloomfield Hills High School. The District funded an additional $20 million outside of the bond issue. Built at the site of Andover High School, the project included demolition of 150,000 SF of Andover, renovation of the remaining 112,000 SF of Andover and construction of a new 260,000 SF addition.

Bloomfield Hills High School Learning Communities

Design of the new high school revolved around a 21st Century educational model and supporting technology. The facility features small, technology-rich learning communities with a variety of learning spaces to encourage collaboration and student-centered learning. With the goal to foster all styles of learning, the entire layout follows an open and flexible model.

Bloomfield Hills High School learning commons

Learning Communities, nine in total, are used for several core classes and include folding glass partitions, writable surfaces and mobile furniture to allow classrooms to be combined and encourage collaboration.

Main Commons is the primary area off of the school entrance and includes space for lunch and collaboration. The Main Commons also includes the grand feature staircase used as seating space for presentations and performances.

Main Street includes the primary servery for lunches, with areas for casual collaboration. This is where students enter the building from the student parking lot. With the pool and bridge to the athletic field located in the Main Street area, it serves as a gathering space for athletic and auditorium events.

The Knowledge Market, located at the intersection of Main Commons and Main Street, is utilized for collaboration and networking. This is a more relaxed learning environment with an inviting seating arrangement that mimics a coffee shop atmosphere. Extracurricular groups often meet in the Knowledge Market. Four small traditional style classrooms with folding partitions are also located off this space.

Designing for the Educational Model

Design elements of the new high school enhance the collaborative and flexible educational model. Spaces often serve dual purposes, merging learning and social environments. Following a more self-led and personalized curriculum, the high school has a college atmosphere.

Bloomfield Hills High School learning commons

Glass is used throughout, allowing in natural light and leaving learning spaces in view. Frosted windowpanes and white cabinets double as whiteboards.

Rather than using a traditional cafeteria located in a designated room, four of the learning communities include a kitchen servery to provide dining throughout the building. Students dine in the same areas where they learn and collaborate each day.

The feature staircase in the Main Commons serves as a learning and performance space. Another multi-use area, students sit here to work and collaborate or view a performance.

Bump out spaces are located throughout the learning areas in the new portion of the high school. These quiet learning spaces are made of glass with a view of the outside and are used as quiet study or tutoring areas.

Continual Communication with the Community

After ten years of attempting to consolidate Andover and Lahser High Schools and two failed bonds, the passage of the 2012 bond program was a significant accomplishment for the District. Naturally, the surrounding community was highly interested in the project and its progress; therefore the owner’s continual communication with the community was imperative. A page on the school website is dedicated to the new high school. It includes background information, building statistics, learning community information, traffic map, aerial video, virtual tour, etc. Members of the project team participated in interviews with students from the school newspaper as well as the owner. The District conducted videos and shared progress photos on social media throughout construction. Before the groundbreaking ceremony, District elementary school students drew pictures that were compiled into a collage and printed onto a banner that hung on the construction fence – an everyday representation of the future of Bloomfield Hills High School.

Bloomfield Hills High School learning commons

Educational Impact

The project team took a special interest in the student population, supporting the educational mission of the high school. Team members created and presented meaningful information to architecture and design students, allowing students to interact with and learn from project team members who were putting theory into practice every day. The presentation covered updates on the construction progress of the high school and different roles of construction managers and architects in the construction industry. Following the presentation, students engaged in a Q&A session that focused on career paths; different delivery methods; the relationships of construction managers, architects and owners and the use of electronic software for design and document control.

Building Amid an Active Community Environment

Located at Long Lake and Andover Roads, the new Bloomfield Hills High School was built on a congested site, amid an active community. Multiple neighborhoods, the Fire Department, an active senior center, and Township offices all surround the site. Maintaining the limited space between the construction site and surrounding communities required a great amount of due diligence and planning that was essential in preventing transit disruptions and keeping the public out of harm's way.

Bloomfield Hills High School learning commons

It was critical to keep the heavily frequented Andover Road accessible to accommodate the community. The Fire Department depends on utilizing this road as a part of their emergency route. Any disruptions could impede their daily operations and lead to a delay in their response time to an emergency situation.

Extra measures were taken to ensure minimal disruption to the neighboring communities. A street cleaner swept the road at the end of each day and windscreens were placed along the construction fence. In order to keep mud, dust, and rocks off the road, rumble mats were installed at each exit.

Throughout the duration of the project, the team was sensitive to the noise created from the site. To ensure minimal impact to the community, the team worked with the Township to adhere to their noise restrictions and scheduled work around the noise ordinance.

Bloomfield Hills High School learning commons

The consolidation of Lahser and Andover to create the new Bloomfield Hills High School brings the community together with a focus on providing dynamic and collaborative student-driven learning in a central location. Competing with other area schools, Bloomfield Hills High School is poised to attract new students to the district with its state-of-the-art facility.

Read the full issue of BUILD 17.1 | 21st Century Learning Environments which features our recent K-12 projects.