HMFH Architects

Fales Elementary School

Westborough, MA

The new Annie E. Fales Elementary School sets a precedent for energy-efficient design in educational facilities as the first net-positive energy public school in Massachusetts.

The architecture of Fales celebrates Westborough’s longstanding leadership in sustainability with a sculptural roofscape of photovoltaics on the outside and the lofty, light-filled spaces on the inside.

Julia Nugent, AIA, LEED AP BD+C Project Director, HMFH Architects
  • Grades K-3
  • Students 400
  • Size 70,000 ft2

 

Sited along a steep hill overlooking scenic views, the new Fales Elementary School reflects its local ecology in a child-centric educational environment that promotes curiosity and hands-on learning. The design embraces this challenging sloped site as an opportunity to improve building performance and demonstrate environmental stewardship; nestled within the hillside, the facility maintains a compact footprint comprised of only two floors to enable natural light to reach all interior spaces. Design elements inspired by the school’s natural setting are present throughout, encouraging students to actively engage with their surroundings and instilling an appreciation for the environment.

 

 

Academic spaces are organized into four distinct zones, each represented by a different ecosystem on site—forest, meadow, marshland, and pond—and a corresponding color palette. Classrooms in each zone feature unique clerestory windows shaped by the architecture of the school’s sawtooth roof that direct daylight into the space and reinforce the strong connection to nature present throughout the design with striking views to the sky above. An undulating pattern of large and small windows create a playful and intimate scale for the young students.

 

Whimsical, storybook-style wall graphics located in shared spaces and project areas depict the beloved Fales mascot, Annie the Hedgehog, as she travels through the four local ecosystems, encountering various creatures native to each setting along the way. These graphics captivate students’ imaginations, strengthen their connection to nature and cultivate a lively and engaging educational environment. Light-filled interiors, warm natural materials, and thoughtful integration into the school’s surrounding establish Fales as a vibrant, climate-conscious place for learning.

Our new school educates students about the natural environment and sustainable practices, and we hope it inspires a life-long care for the world they live in.

Amber BockSuperintendent, Westborough Public Schools

 

Driven by Westborough’s commitment to renewable energy, Fales is the first facility to support the Town’s goal of becoming carbon-emissions free by 2035, and—with a predicted EUI of 24.9—is capable of generating 10% more energy than required to operate the all-electric school. The design achieves this ambitious target by reducing energy use with high efficiency building systems and producing energy with a 25,000 square foot roof-top solar array.

 

 

The sawtooth roof maximizes surface area for south facing PV panels and north facing skylights that infuse academic and common spaces with daylight, while forty geothermal wells supply heating, cooling and hot water. The school’s ground-floor public spaces—the cafetorium, gymnasium, and administrative offices—are built into the hillside site to reduce heat loss and gain through exterior walls. Westborough worked in close collaboration with National Grid to establish a net-metering contract that allows the school to off-load excess energy generated in the summer and draw electricity in the winter.

 

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