Terra Verde Discovery School in Norman, Oklahoma, has been steadily growing. The school was founded in 2010 by Pete and Shelly Wilson and opened its doors with a class of 8 kindergartners. Since then, the school has expanded to include 156 students, 25 faculty, additional support staff and multiple buildings. To accommodate the expanding needs of the school, “The Nest” event center – in the works since May 2018 on the 61-acre campus – has been specifically designed to allow for small group instruction through project-based learning and student discovery.
The mission of the independent private school is to “preserve the joys of childhood while cultivating creativity and critical thinking that stresses the importance of entrepreneurial enthusiasm, ecological sustainability, and ethical benevolence.” In designing The Nest at Terra Verde, it was important for the facility to address the functional needs of the school while aligning with the mission.
“The Nest at Terra Verde was designed as a model multipurpose facility for our students, faculty, and guests who visit campus,” Headmaster, Dr. Eric Snyder, Ph.D., explained. “The multifaceted functionality demonstrates how sustainable thinking, in its broadest context, can be used to construct structures that are in balance with our academic and social goals.”
Sustainable thinking has been one of the corner stones of the campus. Completion of The Nest adds another element to Terra Verde’s ecological resume which includes: sustainable cork flooring, low water-usage toilets and waterless urinals, energy efficient lighting and insulation systems, soy-based spray foam, recycled denim insulation, and high filtration HVAC systems and energy efficient reflective metal roofing that will be recycled at the end of its use. The campus also houses a 20 Kw solar system that produces power for the Lower and Upper School buildings.
Working with Barrett L. Williamsons Architects, contractors, and Star Building Systems, the facility—which is over 21,000 sq. ft—required metal framing to provide a stable structure for the large spans and weight of the infrastructure.
Using Star Building Systems’ metal framing as the base, a mixed pallet of native stone and wood accents the building, and elements, such as the five garage doors, give way to an enormous Pennsylvania blue stone patio. “The natural wood elements within the gym clerestory and ceiling, coupled with the natural light, garage doors, and patio open up to a panoramic view of the athletic field makes the facility feel ardent and inviting,” Snyder said.
However, while much of the facility is covered, Snyder pointed out that the metal sheathing is still visible to enhance the aesthetic. “The exterior metal sheathing, wood, and stone combination seamlessly ties in with the other campus architecture.” “By incorporating large amounts of natural light, energy efficient lighting systems, low VOC paint and finishes, energy efficient insulated windows as well as natural airflow on temperate days, we were able to produce a unique architectural structure with Star Buildings that blends naturally with the Oklahoma landscape,” explained Snyder.
Additionally, The Nest needed to meet Terra Verde Founders Pete and Shelly Wilson’s plans for how the space should be utilized. The Nest is capable of hosting everything from basketball tournaments, daily lunch, local speaker series, musical performances, and larger community events; the space has already been booked as a wedding venue for March 2020. Students have been “amazed and excited by the sheer size of the facility for a [kindergarten through 8th grade] school,” Snyder said. The official ribbon cutting for the building was held in July 2019, with the Norman Chamber of Commerce and other invited guests in attendance.