Berry ES wins ‘Development of Distinction’ award from Urban Land Institute

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Berry Elementary School’s eco-friendly and inviting building design received a real estate development award Tuesday from the Houston District Council of the Urban Land Institute.

The school won a 2014 Development of Distinction Award, which recognizes Houston area building projects that exemplify best practices in design, construction, economic viability and community health. The school was one of two finalists for the award in the nonprofit category.

“The building is absolutely amazing,” said the school principal, Ali Oliver. “It’s an environmental building, therefore it teaches the children to be environmentally conscious. The kids are able to garden, they’re able to learn about recycling. They’re able to learn about so many environmental projects that they wouldn’t have at a regular elementary school.”

The new environmental studies magnet school, a $15.7 million project built with funds from HISD’s 2007 bond program, has multiple environmental enhancements designed to save energy. The school is built to LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) silver standards and features large cisterns that collect rainwater for irrigation, wildflower gardens, air-quality monitors, a courtyard, outdoor learning areas, science laboratories and large windows in each classroom.

Each grade level is arranged with a pod that has a different environmental theme, from water to energy and air. In addition to being a teaching tool, the building was recognized for being a welcoming facility that serves students, parents and the community after school hours. The library is open on Saturdays, and the building has a large multipurpose room that is often used for Boy Scout meetings, computer courses, and English language classes for parents.

“Everything about this project is about teaching students about the environment,” said architect David Calkins of Gensler, the firm that designed the school. “We designed the project to a high standard of sustainability. But also we designed it in such a way that it would be a teaching tool for the students.”