Westmark Lower School is a groundbreaking net-zero carbon campus in Encino, California, designed to support students with learning differences and provide them with a safe, nature-centric environment. Its innovative design, sustainable features, and commitment to inclusivity make it a model for future educational institutions.

Project Essentials

  • LocationEncino, CA
  • ClientWestmark
  • ArchitectNBBJ
  • Size 15,500 ft² (1440 m²)
  • Sustainable FeaturesILFI Zero Carbon Certification and LEED Gold

Placed around a central courtyard, the school houses ten classrooms featuring various activity areas, including creative labs and reading nooks, to accommodate flexible learning. Large windows that let in natural light, as well as architectural elements made of raw materials like stone and wood, make the classrooms bright and roomy. To provide a direct connection to nature, each classroom has a hangar door that opens to the yard. The outdoor spaces are equally inviting, with a large playground and a sensory garden where students can explore, learn and play.

A cross-laminated timber (CLT) system is at the heart of its construction. This technique involves layering, gluing, and stacking lumber boards into a crosswise pattern, delivering unparalleled strength, stability, and rigidity to the structure. The visible mass-timber elements showcase the raw beauty of the materials used, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere that inspires learning and creativity. Apart from the renewable mass timber elements, the design includes solar panels, and a central sycamore tree that collects rainwater for reuse, making sustainability a prime focus.