Perkins Eastman DC
John Lewis Elementary School
In Washington, D.C., John Lewis Elementary School aims to make history by becoming the first school in the district to achieve Net Zero Energy (NZE) while also pursuing LEED for Schools Platinum and WELL certifications.
The building embodies principles centered on civic presence, community integration, and, most significantly, student well-being. Architecturally, it resembles a series of scaled houses that harmonize with the nearby residential neighborhood. While replacing an outdated Brutalist structure, it retains the original design’s flexible spaces, elevating them for wellness and educational performance with improved adjacencies, daylighting, better acoustics, and inviting outdoor spaces.
The forward-looking design emphasizes fostering outdoor connections and the nurturing influence of the natural world on students’ health and academic success. Dynamic play and learning spaces seamlessly blend with the landscape, erasing the boundaries of traditional classrooms. And the school’s proximity to the majestic Rock Creek Park is honored through thoughtful interior and exterior design, including the library with discovery zones, reading nooks, and a “tree house” makerspace with a large-scale mural from a local artist.
A photovoltaic array proudly signals the school’s commitment to sustainable design. The school also features a high-performance dashboard that not only tracks energy consumption but also aligns with the curriculum, tackling subjects like social and environmental justice and climate change. This interactive platform empowers students and teachers to explore their relationship with the environment.
The school’s sustainability commitment extends beyond its walls—it will generate excess energy to help another concurrently designed school achieve NZE, fostering a citywide movement toward radical energy conservation.