45,000 on two levels (32,000 on main) to support education, life skills, and recreational needs of students with vision and/or hearing impairments at a new residential campus. It will open to students in January 2020.
Construction Administration Services
Cost Estimating, Schematic
The SDSBVI has a statewide mission to serve individuals with sensory impairments―including students who are deaf and blind―from birth to age 21. Designing an all-new campus to replace the existing 1961 facility and its 1968 gymnasium addition required the TSP team to expand our knowledge of wayfinding cues, spatial arrangements, and other details that help people more intuitively navigate the environment.
The new facility will support academic lessons as well as therapies included in each student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). And it will be much more than a school: Students have the option to live in dorms if their home communities are too far away for a daily commute or if their IEPs call for training beyond the typical school day.
For this unique project on the Northern State University campus, TSP partnered with special consultant Chris Downey, a San Francisco-based architect who after years of traditional practice abruptly lost his vision a decade ago. His insights guided design-team members to focus on the student experience at every stage of planning and design. We discussed functional touches: notches in desktops where students can rest their white canes and stairway handrails with tactile elements to indicate when a person is approaching the last few steps.
Click here to watch a “60 Minutes” feature on consultant Chris Downey.
The team involved staff members and students to make recommendations. Their input helped identify features that will give the state-of-the-art school a much homier feel. To help separate wants from needs, we collaborated closely with the Office of the State Engineer and SDSBVI leadership―including the superintendent, who’s led the school since 1986.
In addition to classrooms, the new SDSBVI includes a library, a game room for older students, a lounge, and a playroom for younger learners. Rippe Associates designed the main foodservice, serving, and dining components while we designed a kitchen for student use in the dorm wing. A gymnasium, locker rooms, coach’s office, occupational and physical therapy rooms, and a dedicated fitness area will provide year-round options for gross-motor movement, recreation programming, and athletics.
Our interior designers worked with Downey to select finishes that don’t muffle noise―a common problem in rooms with fully carpeted floors. Low-vision and blind individuals depend on the feedback they get from harder surfaces. Color contrast and text size on interior signage also play an important role for low-vision students.
The new facility doesn’t sacrifice performance. Designed for LEED certification, the high-efficiency school includes better lighting controls. Quieter HVAC system units don’t generate audio interference for students, who rely heavily on hearing to process information. Acoustic engineers from ARUP designed ways to control sound between rooms, further enabling students to concentrate on learning.
The grounds are just as carefully thought out. Confluence’s site-development and landscape architecture design created a one-way pull-in lane from State Street, offering easy pick-up and drop-off. Walkways comply with the American Council of the Blind’s “Pedestrian Safety Handbook.” Plantings in the sensory garden will offer aroma and tactile features, and overstory trees will line the perimeter. When mature, these trees will provide an acoustic enclosure.