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Stonebrae Elementary: A Thoroughly Natural Facility

By April Philips, ASLA, April Philips Design Works, Inc.




The site development included hardscape, softscape layout, conceptual grading design, and detailing of all of the site features. Scope included design through construction observation.

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Stonebrae Elementary School is the first public school to open in 40 years in Hayward, Calif. A thoroughly modern facility, the school includes a state-of-the-art multipurpose gymnasium, computer labs, learning gardens, two playing fields and accommodates up to 650 students in grades K-6 on a 12.5 acre site.






One of two playgrounds, this one is designed for use by 1st through 3rd grades. They used a playground consultant who worked with the Hayward school district requirements. Landscape Structures was chosen to provide climbing structures, ladders, monkey bars and slides. The play surface was Surface America, in a combination of standard and custom colors.
Photo Courtesy of April Philips Design Works, Inc.


Stonebrae Elementary School is located at the gateway to the new residential community of Stonebrae Country Club that includes village style neighborhoods, a championship links-style golf course and miles of extensive hiking trails and open space. It was primarily funded by the project’s developer, Stonebrae, LP in collaboration with the Hayward Unified School District (HUSD). Additionally, the school received a grant by the state of California.

The school was formally dedicated in September 2006 to celebrate its opening and kick off the first school year. Situated on approximately 1,600 acres of the Walpert Ridge in Hayward California, and perched approximately 1500 feet above the bay, much of the development has stunning views of San Francisco Bay to the west and the Pleasanton Range to the east.

A significant amenity to the school site is its proximity to the East Bay Regional Park District’s Garin/Dry Creek Pioneer Park with access to over 3,000 acres of open space and 20 miles of walking trails. Out of the 1600 acres for Stonebrae, 1200 have been set aside for dedicated open space and wildlife preserves. Many old growth oaks moved during development have been carefully replanted with two large specimens located on the school site. Stonebrae LP has established a $1.5 million fund for the future acquisition of conservation land.






An important consideration was the development of Stonebrae School’s relationship not just to the surrounding new Stonebrae community but its connection to the larger Hayward community. The trail system promotes a lifestyle of outdoor activity and enjoyment of nature for the school and the entire community.
Photo courtesy of Michael Travers Lee


Project Intent: This is a school that was designed to integrate seamlessly into the community.

The planning for this project required extraordinary measures to address the environmental sensitivity of the site. Extensive efforts were made by the multi disciplinary design team to preserve and enhance existing wetlands, rock outcrops, mature trees and habitat for endangered species including the Alameda whip snake and the California red legged frog. Naturalists monitor the open space habitats to ensure pristine conditions for the protected species. Sustainability goals were discussed from the outset and were a major factor in the site planning for the school. From the beginning a key design goal was to develop school gardens and outdoor environments that promote outdoor learning in sciences and the humanities.






The nature sundial uses a child’s body to tell the time. This feature was hand painted by April Philips in primary colored concrete stains by LM Scofield & Co. “Fossils,” such as shells and animals, were provided by the landscape architects to the contractor to inlay within the concrete pour of the sun dial. A seat wall encircles the dial to provide an outdoor class room.
Photo courtesy of April Philips Design Works, Inc.


Another important consideration was the development of Stonebrae School’s relationship not just to the surrounding new Stonebrae community but its connection to the larger Hayward community. The school’s ball and soccer fields are shared with HARD (Hayward Adult Recreation Department) for community use for weekend and evening recreation. The school’s parking lot serves as a staging area and trail head to the thousands of acres of undisturbed parkland that is owned and managed by the East Bay Regional Park District for hikers, bikers, and equestrians from the community. The trail system promotes a lifestyle of outdoor activity and enjoyment of nature for the school and the entire community.






The school's plant palette includes a wide range of drought tolerant, climate responsive species that represent a combination of adaptive Mediterranean plants and California natives. Adaptive plants with bold textures, fragrances and color include this courtyard accented with Stipa, rosemary, and lavender. California native grasses and wildflowers such as red fescues, nasella pulchra, salvia, ceanothus and monkey flower appear in the landscape perimeters and discovery gardens.
Photo courtesy of Michael Travers Lee


Role of the Landscape Architect

April Philips Design Works (APDW)was responsible for the school site development, setting the sustainable site goals and the landscape design for all of the outdoor areas. The landscape architects also had responsibility in the master plan phase for project entitlements and in providing the client with renderings and presentation material for city and community meetings. The site development included hardscape, softscape layout, conceptual grading design, and detailing of all of the site features. Scope included design through construction observation. The project’s integration with the natural surroundings was enhanced with the replanting of two specimen oak trees on the school campus. A large number of the local boulders turned up during site rough grading were also handpicked by April Philips, the landscape architect, and set into the outdoor environments to preserve the indigenous character.






A significant amenity to the school site is its proximity to the East Bay Regional Park District’s Garin/Dry Creek Pioneer Park with access to over 3,000 acres of open space and 20 miles of walking trails. Out of the 1600 acres for Stonebrae, 1200 have been set aside for dedicated open space and wildlife preserves.
Photo courtesy of April Philips Design Works, Inc.


Special Factors

The project’s landscape approach incorporated many sustainable principles with water conservation being a primary goal. The landscape design emphasizes a regionally appropriate, climate sensitive plant palette to ecologically blend with the surrounding parkland and provides a unique California outdoor classroom experience with discovery and habitat gardens. With premier natural surroundings both the landscape architect and architect wanted to engage the school with its surrounding ecological context and its thirty foot topographic grade change across the site.






Along with this outdoor cafeteria, other project components include a spacious informal amphitheater that serves the school and the surrounding community. The Science and Art Garden provides additional habitat planter boxes to accommodate more experiments and wall cabinets provide for mulch, sinks, hoses and garden tools for the students and teachers.
Photo courtesy of April Philips Design Works, Inc.


Other project components include a spacious informal amphitheater that serves the school and the surrounding community, play structures, a nature sun dial, a chalk zone, and other elements that act as focal points through the outdoor courtyards and inspire kids to learn, create and enjoy nature.

The Discovery Garden: In this garden, the landscape architects designed a courtyard for use by first through third graders that includes a butterfly habitat, a nature sundial, an interactive water feature, a chalk zone for creative play, and habitat boxes for seasonal plant experiments. The nature sundial uses a child’s body to tell the time. “Fossils,” such as shells and animals were provided by the landscape architects to the contractor to inlay within the concrete pour of the sun dial.

A seat wall encircles the dial to provide an outdoor class room.






In the Discovery Garden, the landscape architects designed a courtyard for use by 1st through 3rd grades that includes a butterfly habitat, a nature sundial, an interactive water feature, a chalk zone for creative play, and habitat boxes for seasonal plant experiments.


The Science & Art Garden: In this garden, the landscape architects designed a courtyard for use by the third through fifth graders. A story tree anchors the garden and provides a shaded space to gather. Picnic like tables are arranged to allow for outdoor art classes. The number of habitat planter boxes has increased to accommodate more experiments and wall cabinets provide for mulch, sinks, hoses and garden tools for the students and teachers. Benches are arranged to provide for smaller groups to eat lunch, read or just hang out. The landscape architects created a custom color blend of green beige and browns called camouflage confetti for the rubber play surface (Surface America) around the planter boxes to harmonize in the space and is easier to kneel on when working in the garden.






The kindergarden play structure has a climbing bridge, three different slides, a tunnel and small scale ladders suitable for little ones. This play area also has a large free-form sand box.


The Entry Drop off and Courtyard: At the main entry to the school, an 86” box sized transplanted California oak anchors the turnaround and salvaged rocks from the site are used to provide a contextual link to the natural surroundings. The entries to the state of the art gymnasium, the administration office and the library/computer lab share this centralized space. The front door of the school is from this parking lot drop-off and is nestled into the hillside at an elevation drop of 10’ from the elevation of the public roadway. The green color of the school roofs was chosen to blend the school into the surrounding hillside topography.






Extensive efforts were made by the multidisciplinary design team to preserve and enhance existing wetlands, rock outcrops, mature trees and habitat for endangered species including the Alameda whip snake and the California red legged frog. Naturalists monitor the open space habitats to ensure pristine conditions for the protected species.


The Natural Amphitheater Bowl & Butterfly Habitat Garden: The rolling land between the school and the lower fields (a 10’ elevation drop) has been sculpted by the landscape architects as a natural bowl amphitheater with a meandering path sited to provide ADA accessibility to all. The only turf at the school is within the circular amphitheater bowl sloped to allow for the entire school to participate in a gathering or event. Native rock groupings are placed in the outer circle with the tree circle for informal seating. The rest of the hillside and all of the peripheral school grounds are planted in combinations of native grasses on the high sides of the slope and native wildflowers on the lower part of the slopes. Halfway down the path to the fields, a decomposed granite path brings you to another more naturalized butterfly garden and native rocks are again grouped for outdoor classroom seating and habitat niches. Low level bollard lighting was used for the night sky affect and to reduce energy consumption.






Site plan: Early on it was decided to pursue year round artificial turf for water conservation and its lower energy maintenance demands. Besides the plant palette choices and other site sustainability goals, a water conserving irrigation system was designed that would enhance the school district’s ability to maintain the landscape.

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Water Conservation

The main component for the water irrigation management for Stonebrae School is the specification and installation of the Rain Master DX2 Central Control System. The system includes ET (evapotranspiration rate) based software that inputs the local ET rate into the system and automatically re-programs each station daily. One of the key features of the system is the AIM (Advanced Irrigation Management) program. Because the irrigation system at Stonebrae has 168 stations, efficient operation is important in order to complete irrigation within an 8 hour period. The AIM program searches the programmed stations and equalizes the GPM for optimum operation.






Sustainability goals were discussed from the outset and were a major factor in the site planning for the school. From the beginning a key design goal was to develop school gardens and outdoor environments that promote outdoor learning in sciences and the humanities.


Low precipitation rate Hunter Rotors are installed in the larger landscape areas and the Toro PRX spray heads have pressure regulation built in as well the X-flow shut-off device.

All of the above contribute to state of the art water management and water conservation.






Project Details:

Client:
Hayward 1900, Inc. now known as Stonebrae LP & the Hayward Unified School District
Contact for developer: Steve Miller

Landscape Architect:
Firm: April Philips Design Works, Inc. (APDW)
Sausalito, Calif.
Principal in Charge – April Philips, ASLA

April Philips, ASLA, is the founder and president of April Philips Design Works, Inc. a landscape architecture and planning firm located in Sausalito, Calif. The firm focuses on creating environments that reconcile the complex relationships between built and natural systems, working to harmonize the client’s needs with the site’s unique characteristics and its environmental demands. With her passion for art and nature, the landscape works are primarily site – specific designs that represent a fusion of sustainability, art and technology.

April’s notable projects include: PEETS Coffee & Tea Roasting Facility- currently pursuing a LEED Gold rating; Santana Row, a highly successful mixed use development in San Jose, Calif.; the redesign of Union Square in San Francisco; Calif. and Aspect Communications Headquarters – an award winning sustainable project with William McDonough & Partners.

A member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), April was the founder of ASLA’s Sustainable Design and Development Professional Practice Network (PPN). Under her leadership, this national PPN has been instrumental in moving forward the development of ASLA’s Sustainable Sites Initiative with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the United States Botanic Garden. The goal of the Sustainable Sites Initiative is to identify the highest standards in sustainable site development and incorporate them into other green rating systems such as LEED or a stand alone system.

Irrigation Design:
Brookwater
Principal in charge- Ann Runley
Architect:
FME Architecture + Design
Principal in Charge – Jack Munson

Contractor:
Lusardi Construction Company and Bruns Belmont

Location:
28761 Hayward Blvd., Hayward, California

Year Completed:
August 2006

Project Type:
Institutional

Project Size/Components:
12.5 acres

Bioregion:
Mediterranean: Central California Coast


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