San Marcos High School

San Marcos, California

Antiquated school transformed into a modern, multistory campus

San Marcos school officials in California needed to bring their oldest school into the 21st century and expand facilities for a growing student body. School and community meetings produced a vision that would replace the outdated one-story complex serving 1,800 students with four multistory buildings for 3,000 students. Built in phases, the new structures are arranged around a landscaped quadrangle to foster a sense of community, link to outdoor teaching and informal student gathering spaces, and optimize use of the site’s 45.3 acres for academic programs and amenities.

Because the campus terrain slopes 40 feet, bridges, stairs and elevated walkways connect the staggered new buildings, terraces with playing fields and parking areas. A large, multistory classroom building, a smaller, low-slung building, an athletic center and a performing arts center define the new school and offer panoramic views of the nearby foothills. Below these stacked learning centers, all student services—cafeteria, library, career center and student union—occupy the ground level, alongside glass-lined corridors facing the quad. Overhead glass doors in these corridors open to admit fresh air and sunshine, blurring the boundary between indoors and out.

Sustainable features include natural daylighting in most academic spaces and high-efficiency lighting and mechanical systems, plus a large rooftop photovoltaic array. Recycled materials and high performance building envelopes also conserve energy. Low-flow plumbing fixtures, efficient irrigation and California native plants and other drought-tolerant landscaping conserve water, while storm water reclamation recycles water for eventual release into the San Marcos Creek. In a visual and sustainable bonus, the tallest, L-shaped classroom building overlooks the agriculture program’s planting beds, which act as a “green” façade.

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