Discovery Meadows is a two-story, 23,500-sq.-ft. child development center designed to accommodate 180 children. The facility also provides after-school program facilities for 40 children of employees at a Bio-pharmaceutical research and development campus of 4,000 employees. The facility was designed as a curving linear building generally facing north and south on the long sides, supported by extensive resilient features starting with geothermal-driven radiant floor slabs. The center was built on a greenfield site. While doing site work, the team uncovered 23 large boulders which was incorporated within the design of the play zones.

The centers lower level provides three, 30 student preschool rooms opening onto outside play areas. Each classroom throughout the facility provides student restrooms, a staff lounge, a warming kitchen, the after-school care area, mechanical and electrical rooms, etc. Support spaces are built on the interior zone, and classroom spaces are arrayed along the southern exposure.The upper level provides an entry lobby, multiple classrooms, infant wing, office and a larger common room supporting indoor play and larger group activities. The southern side of the upper level is an outdoor terrace accessible from the common room and the central spine corridor in addition to parent facilities on this level.

The ceiling areas of classrooms and major spaces were created to be open, allowing day lighting and allow a natural ventilation to occur with operable windows at appropriate times of the year. Fresh air and humidity control are provided by a DOAS unit feeding limited supply and return duct work run along the ceiling of the building spine on each level. The building systems are all focused on supporting a comfortable environment at the floor level, where the students “live”.

The features on a curving, linear footprint had a handful of coordination, design and installation challenges which were managed primarily by a design-build approach to the mechanical systems supporting the basic slab heating and cooling. To make sure the curve piping installation happened every few feet inside the building, the welding crews needed to be careful and detail oriented about welding pipe and adjusting it to the angle of the fittings. The mechanical contractor’s prefabrication facility prefabbed the piping in the limited mechanical space providing all building systems from the lower level, coordinating layout of the system mains to avoid conflicts vertically and horizontally. All trades all trade works that were involved worked off the same coordinating drawings.

With a goal of LEED Platinum met, and using resilience and sustainability as teaching tools, the building has incorporated many sustainable elements. In addition, the gardening area was built on a gentle terrace next to the STEM pavilion,which provides excellent learning opportunities for the youngest to the oldest students.

Teamwork was a huge key to the project’s success. After overcoming the initial challenges of designing, engineering and installing an irregular system, the systems were installed with minimal conflicts, and work very well.

Green Features

This LEED Platinum building incorporates many green building techniques.

  • The exterior structure is a combination concrete slabs, concrete retaining walls, steel upper level floor framing and glulam laminated timber roof structure.
  • The highly sustainable wood roof and ceiling structure was hand-finished on site by the craftsmen who fabricated the heavier wood framing in Pennsylvania.
  • The building's mechanical system features a radiant heating/cooling system and a displacement air ventilation system and is supported by 30 geothermal wells that go 450 ft. deep under the parking lot.
  • The wells, found in the below-grade mechanical room, loop into the building with radiant tubing in the slab. A 3,500-gallon rain harvest tank and bioponds in front of the building, surrounded by plants, contain runoff within the site.
  • The building is highly insulated, yet well-ventilated with greater than code-required outside air and operable windows.
  • Upper level clerestory windows bring day lighting to the center spine of the building and interior rooms. The exterior enclosure is a combination of rain-screen cedar and prefinished panels, allowing a tight but ventilated enclosure.
  • Plantings on site are generally self-sustaining, requiring no watering and supporting diverse wildlife from the surrounding wooded and open field areas.


  • USGBC Innovation Award for New Construction, Commercial (2020)
    USGBC National Capitol Region
  • DC | MD NAIOP Awards of Excellence (2018)
  • ENR’s Best of the Best Projects (2017)

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