Metal elements were used in the design of the Turlington Elementary School. Flat galvanized sheet metal lines the walls of classroom corridors.

It’s affectionately called the “learning barn,” but the Evelyn Turlington Elementary School in Hockley, Texas, is more sustainable and energy efficient than anything you’d find on a farm.

SHW Group architects and Gamma Construction worked on the facility, which was built on a 20-acre parcel of prairie. In a nod to the rural Texas surroundings, the architect designed the school with the landscape in mind.

“Since most of the students who attend this school come from their own farms and ranches, we wanted the kids, especially the young kindergartners to feel comfortable at home,” said Sam Savage, an architect with the SHW Group.

The design of the school was inspired by the water troughs, metal grain silos and culverts that dot the region. Aesthetics were not the only demand for the building. Builders sought out materials that would be durable and able to withstand abuse, yet would be readily available for replacement when needed. They also made sure that pupils and teachers would be comfortable during the hot Texas summers. Temperature, humidity and ventilation were all major factors when building and designing the new school.

As the focal point of Turlington Elementary, the school library was based on the Native American “kiva,” a gathering space for ceremonies and rituals.

Metal design

Throughout the school, in the library, classrooms and in corridors, steel portal frames form the building’s structure. These frames are seen throughout the entire length of the building.

The classroom corridors have a flat, galvanized sheet metal that lines the walls. The high windows are lined with horizontal siding, and exterior and interior exposed soffits continue to tie in with the metal theme.

The library has an industrial design, with various finishes of galvanized metal in the interior of the facility.

According to developers, the library was created as a focal point for the school, and is based on Native American spaces called “kivas.” The kiva was used as a gathering space by Native American’s for rituals and ceremonies.

“We put the (corrugated) metal siding around it to give it a silo effect honing in on ranch life our student’s are so familiar with,” said Mindy Peper, school principal. However, given the facility’s tall ceilings, adding air movement was essential.

The library not only has sustainable metal components, it also has large-diameter fans, which are working with the school’s existing HVAC system to enhance efficiency.

Two 12-foot-diameter Element fans from Big Ass Fans Co. were installed in the school library in an effort to provide additional air movement.

Keeping cool

Some educational experts say they believe that student productivity and success can be linked to the learning environment. More specifically, if pupils are comfortable in the classroom, academic achievement is easier.

To make sure that pupils at Turlington Elementary School remained cool and focused, administrators installed large-diameter, low-speed fans. The fans also help to enhance the efficiency of the HVAC system, especially during sweltering days in Texas, officials said.

These fans, supplied by the Big Ass Fans Co., were installed in the school’s library.

X-braces along the ceiling reinforce the frame, and hanging from a steel I-beam frame are two 12-foot diameter Element fans providing the needed comfort for the library.

“Most of our student population rides horses, so we wanted the library to feel like an arena,” said Peper. “The two Big Ass Fans represent the whole outdoor country lifestyle and make the students feel more comfortable in their learning environment.”

Developers said the fans are effective because they move large volumes of air slowly and gently without disrupting the quiet atmosphere of the space.

During hot summer months, with the fans operating between 60 percent to 100 percent of capacity, the additional air movement does not cool the air, but rather it creates a breezy sensation as it passes over pupils.

In the winter months, the warm air settles in layers with the highest temperature up at the ceiling level. Operating at 30 percent of the maximum speed, the large diameter fans de-stratify tall spaces, mixing warm air at the ceiling level with the cooler air at the occupant level creating a uniform temperature throughout.

This article was supplied by Big Ass Fans Co. Images courtesy of Luis Ayala with SHW Group. For reprints of this article, contact Jill DeVries at (248) 244-1726 or email