Duchess Park Secondary School
LocationPrince George, BC
A diverse student population convenes in the student-named “Canyon” — a meeting place, a forum, a town plaza. A space that promotes and fosters a powerful sense of recognition and identity. This light-filled and airy central atrium acts as the vibrant and versatile social heart of Duchess Park Secondary School, the pride of students and teachers alike.
The replacement Duchess Park Secondary School needed to support the unique needs of nearly 1,000 students and faculty and support their rich tradition for academic and athletic excellence while promoting inclusiveness. Delivered through a design-build model, the school accommodates additional programming needs compared to a standard Ministry of Education secondary school with a similar student population. It is also needed to achieve LEED Gold certification., and was the first school in BC to do so.
The design-build model was a relatively new form of procurement for both the education sector and the Prince George School District. Convinced that valuable learning takes place outside of the classroom, we integrated 20% more social space into the building without exceeding the Ministry’s budget.
School District No. 57 and School District No. 93 (Conseil Scolaire Francophone de la Colombie-Britannique) envisioned a state-of-the-art facility designed expressly for a northern climate to replace an aging building that they had outgrown. It was crucial for the design to promote inclusiveness among their diverse student body.
Fostering a tight knit collegiate community
By prioritizing the spaces in between classrooms, we successfully created a physical and social environment more like a college campus than a traditional secondary school. The atrium supports a tight school community, fostering a sense of belonging, togetherness and purpose, and reducing problems with marginalization, separation and vandalism. The atrium also provides natural lighting to the interior rooms and unites the school between the academic block and athletic, industrial and fine-arts wings. Multiple breakout spaces support small group work and socializing.
Operational savings thanks to a sustainable design
A high performance building envelope reduces the energy required to heat and cool the building. Compared to the typical energy consumption of a secondary school within the District, Duchess Park saves an estimated $80,000 annually on heating costs.
To ensure sustainability will be an integral part of the curriculum and student activities, the design-build team established a 5-year sustainability scholarship to be awarded annually to a student who makes a significant contribution to advancing sustainability in their school and community.
The design challenges for this school were significant. It needed to meet the educational needs of a very diverse student population. These needs include an English-based regular curriculum, a French Immersion program, a program that houses a cadre of Francophone students, a population of Aboriginal students and students with unique special needs, including those that are socio-economically vulnerable. It had to be designed and built to recognize a tradition of academic and athletic excellence. It had to include modern amenities that would support both industrial and fine arts programming… Needless to say, the new Duchess Park is a worthy candidate for any program that recognizes the need to meet unique and complicated challenges.
Brian Pepper, former Superintendent of Schools, School District #57