In 2008, the Board of Trustees of Woodberry Forest School approached Bartzen + Ball to design and build a new science building.

This initiative was taken on by the school as a way to intrigue its students in the field of science, and to cater to the growing number of students enrolling in the school. The school board had three options for the science building initiative: renovate the building, create an adjunction to the current building, or create a separate stand-alone building.

            The Board decided to construct a new stand-alone building after discussing ways to remedy the problems of the Gray Math Science Building, built in 1972. At first, the Board thought that renovating the school would be sufficient, considering it only had to fix some technical problems. However, after deeper analysis, they concluded that renovating the building was no longer an option. Reasons included significant water, plumbing, and electrical problems, a lack of space for students, and building stability issues that hindered the installation of new technology.

            The vision held by the Board of Trustees was to have a new stand-alone building that would fulfill all future needs of the students and the school’s science program. Through the new building, the school board intended to foster student’s enthusiasm for science while facilitating their education of scientific principles and skills. The building also aimed to help students develop critical reasoning skills that would benefit them in their future.

            In an effort to excite and include students in the new science building initiative, Bartzen + Ball held a meeting with students to gain a better understanding about student’s expectations for the building. In addition to the Board’s goals for the project, the students had many more ideas that helped the company create a more suitable architectural plan. The students envisioned that the architecture would symbolically illustrate, represent, and display science in a creative and engaging way. For example, students expressed interest in having nearby buildings and the surrounding areas represent relative distances between the orbits of planets. In addition, they imagined a building that incorporated freshwater ecosystem displays near the biology classrooms, dinosaur fossils in the lobby, and a wall that would display Virginia’s geological history.

            Students also hoped for a state-of-the-art building offering convenient study places, total WiFi, and computer terminals and monitors for their laptops.  The idea of the new building excited the students about learning science so much that they wanted the building to offer capabilities beyond those of a standard high school science building.

            Throughout the architectural process, Bartzen + Ball demonstrated its willingness to involve the client in every step. In this project, the firm was extremely in tune with the needs of the Board, teachers, and even students of school. Its close relationship with the Board meant that Bartzen + Ball was more willing to listen to its clients’ needs and modify any plans to fit discussed goals. Bartzen + Ball even took into consideration the opinions of students, and met with the Student Advisory Committee to hear feedback. In this hour-long meeting, Mr. Ball outlined the planning and construction process of the new building, showed the 3D schematics, and then open up the floor for student suggestions.

            Meetings with the Board of Trustees signified important milestones in the project and determined the direction of the project. For instance, Bartzen + Ball was asked to halt the project after the Board disapproved of the high initial price estimate.  However, once the Board approved the second estimate nine months later, the project restarted with a design team kick-off meeting. After a 16 month construction period, the highest moment in the project was the building dedication on November 10, 2012 as it symbolized the completion of the design and construction of the new Manning Science Building.

            The building was completed under budget and on time to be used for the Spring 2013 semester. Most importantly, the building has added considerable value for the school. According to Mr. Ball, the Board is extremely satisfied with the outcome of the building and will add value to Woodberry Forest School since the school now has an up-to-date facility to meet the goals of the science curriculum. The school is proud of its sophisticated science curriculum and outstanding teachers, but it did not have the facilities to match. With its new, state-of- the-art science building, Woodberry Forest School will undoubtedly attract more talented students and faculty, furthering its mission