Lamb Elementary Principal Steven Sims knows there’s so much to love about the school, which opened in 2015 in the Progress Village community: it’s surrounded by woods and wetlands; it’s built in an environmentally conscious way to save money; and is equipped with many special features. It’s for those reasons and more the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission just honored the school and architects with a 2017 Planning and Design Award for Investment and Environmental excellence.
“The goal when we set out was to build something that the Progress Village community would be proud of, and I think that’s been done ten-fold,” Sims said.
The school was designed by Holmes Hepner & Associates Architects. “We’re very honored to win this award. It’s been a long time planning. It’s a unique school. It’s got a lot of innovative aspects to it,” said Peter Hepner, president of Holmes Hepner & Associates Architects.
The two-story school, off 78th Street in Tampa, was designed to serve 940 pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students and opened in August of 2015. Color-coded pairs of classrooms line the long, open interior hallways. It’s one of Principal Sims favorite features.
“We love the safety aspect, just having all of the rooms open up into the inside hallway is very unique,” said Sims.
“You can stand in the office and monitor the whole first floor, because you can see all the way to the other end. Everything opens up inside, and you kind of feel like I can get anywhere on the campus in three minutes,” Sims said.
Students enjoy their shiny new school. “I like the colors. I like how it’s smooth. I like everything about it,” said Kai, a Lamb Elementary School student.
“It gives them a sense of pride, helping to keep it clean every day,” Sims said.
Lamb achieved LEED Silver Certification, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It’s the second LEED school in the district, following Thompson Elementary in Ruskin. It’s built to save energy and lower the school’s day-to-day costs.
“Every classroom was designed to have natural daylight. There’s very innovative lighting components in this school. You get a feeling of the lights in the hallway of being like a meteor shower. Then, we have other innovative LED lighting. They’re designed in patterns of constellations,” said Hepner.
“We get more compliments on the look of this from the outside. Then, you can see the stairwell in the middle is just gorgeous,” Sims said.
The Planning Commission said the school contributes to a better quality of life in our community and serves as a model to learn from and emulate. The commission went on to explain why it honored the school and architects with the award:
“Our judges were ready to enroll in this school for everything from the cutting-edge mechanical and lighting systems to the historic context in design and architecture to the eco-learning terraces. They loved this investment in a fabulous public facility that has created a fun and healthy learning environment for our young students.”
“The site has a lot of environmental wetlands, a lot of beautiful trees. The way the building was situated and designed had a lot to do with maintaining the natural ecology of the site,” Hepner said.
Architects and school leaders believe Lamb Elementary is an example of what new schools in the 21st Century can and should offer.
“This school is being looked at by many districts in the state. It was very economical in the manner in which it was built, because it’s a very compact plan,” said Hepner.
“A school like this, in a community like this, is pretty special. We do think it’s one of the best elementary schools in the county,” Sims said.
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