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Richard J. Lee Elementary

The first net zero elementary school in Texas

  • 1st

    Net Zero in Texas

  • 39%

    More Learning Space

  • 1096

    Solar Panels

  • Coppell, Texas

    Coppell, Texas

Keeping the environment in mind, our uniquely designed system ensures no effluents or discharge of wastewater

Coppell Independent School District had big ideas: a new learning environment with an innovative education system that could support individual learners. That meant a design that did things differently than the past. After a visioning process, they had three goals: reduce limitations and inspire innovation, celebrate fun and authentic learning experiences through sustainable practices, and create collaboration, connection, and active learning. The Richard J. Lee Elementary School is the first big step in achieving this vision.

Something different is happening inside Lee Elementary—challenge-based learning. This type of education focuses individual learning styles. Learners are presented with a challenge, and then they choose what methods they’ll use to overcome it. We designed the school to specifically support the flexibility that challenge-based learning promotes.

Rather than the conventional organization of classrooms by grade, the learners (students) are grouped into learning houses. Each of the five houses has four classrooms, five small rooms for collaborative work, an open area with casual seating, two labs, and a professional home-base where designers (teachers) share office space. A house is made up of learners from kindergarten to fifth grade, and it’s supported by six designers engaged with all their students. The bonus? The learners and designers all know each other: they’re in the same neighborhood.

This community approach focuses on needs rather than age. With this model of flexibility and stability, Lee Elementary creates a comfortable atmosphere for learners as they move through their education, day to day and year to year.

As the first net zero elementary school in Texas, Lee Elementary is dedicated to producing as much energy as it consumes. Daylight harvesting through reflective ceiling tubes and large windows enables natural light to fill 90% of the school, meaning less energy is needed for illumination. With a compact design, less exterior wall, and careful directional siting, we reduced the amount of energy needed to run the school.

The school uses less electricity than an ASHRAE compliant design, and the electricity it does use is offset by solar panels. With rainwater collection (for plumbing and irrigation) and a geothermal heating and cooling system, Lee Elementary is breaking even—and ahead of the curve.

At a Glance

  • Coppell Independent School District
American School & University Educational Interiors, Gold Citation, 2017
TASA/TASB Awards, Caudill Class, 2015
Meet Our Team

Dan Fletcher, Principal

I enjoy the problem-solving aspect of design—the delicate balance of satisfying pragmatic requirements while creating an artful response.

Gwen Morgan, Senior Principal, Discipline Leader, Interior Design

I love designing facilities for people who devote themselves to public service and the development of future generations.
Gwen Morgan Senior Principal, Discipline Leader, Interior Design Read More

Robby Vogel, Principal

I’m a structural engineer. I serve communities by making the impossible possible.

Dan Fletcher


Gwen Morgan

Senior Principal, Discipline Leader, Interior Design

Robby Vogel


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