As the community in Cathedral City continues to grow, the Palm Springs Unified School District saw the need to improve the Agua Caliente Elementary School to support its growing population. The current school located in the Dream Homes neighborhood was first built in 1961. From Baker Nowicki’s website: “A feasibility study was conducted in 2013—2014 to review the potential for improving and expanding the campus. The study concluded, through cost and code compliance considerations, that reconstructing the campus would be the more cost-effective and efficient way to maintain the legacy of the school and support the re-building of the neighborhood.”
Baker Nowicki Design Studio drew heavily from Desert Modernism, an architectural style that attracts thousands of visitors to the area. The Dream Homes area is a vital part of the community, and by drawing from this historical architectural form gives the campus the cultural feel for which Palm Springs is well known.
As structural engineers, KNA welcomes the opportunity to work on school projects like Agua Caliente—they appreciate the architect’s style choice and are able to design a number of interesting structural features. Principal and manager of the project, Kevin Westervelt remarked upon reflection, “The mid-century modern architectural style made this a fun project and now to see the construction underway is so rewarding.”
The structural system consists of Concrete Masonry Unit (CMU) shear walls that provide earthquake resistance, steel beams and columns, and metal roof deck. These structural feature include:
- CMU walls interrupted into segments by full-height two story windows.
- Classroom buildings have “floating pods” that cantilever out from the second floor.
- CMU wall pattern is “stacked,” emphasizing modern architectural design.
Education in California is evolving to teach a more science-focused curriculum. The campus improvements include additional larger classrooms, seven Kindergarten classrooms, 25 general classrooms, a multi-purpose room, a music room, a planting garden and a two-story library anchoring the campus.
In keeping with CA Title 24 energy requirements, the campus has a large roof and parking lot area for future on-site energy generation in conjunction with PSUSD’s Power Plan.
The project is under construction and is scheduled for completion in March 2019. The new school is being built in the adjacent community park. Once the new school is built, the existing school will be demolished and turned into a park.
Owner: Palm Springs Unified School District
Location: Cathedral City
Architect: Baker Nowicki Design Studio
Project Manager: Brian Leonard, Principal
KNA Project Manager: Kevin Westervelt
KNA Project Engineer: Tyler Poucher, James Donahue
Project Size: 63,000 SF
Project Cost: $32 M