The new Forest Edge Elementary School is a hub of innovation and twenty-first century learning practices for K-6 students in Fitchburg, Wisconsin, and a regional and national pacesetter in sustainable design. Bray Architects positioned the two-story, 126,600-square-foot building on its site to maximize energy efficiency while also optimizing its visual presence in the community. The east-west axis of the building is elongated to increase the amount of south-facing surface area for photovoltaic solar panels. The extended façade is also a welcome visual anchor to the neighborhood developments that are currently under construction. North-facing windows in the core classrooms, library, and cafeteria yield calming views of the nearby forest that inspired the school’s name.
As of September 2021, the building is net zero energy verified, making it the first of its kind in Wisconsin, and the largest verified net zero educational building in the United States. Windows with direct views to the building’s net zero energy infrastructure, including the solar panels and geothermal systems, paired with informative window and wall graphics, encourage students to learn about their school’s unique and sustainable features. Interactive digital screens provide additional opportunities to explore the building’s net zero goals, on-site energy sources, and energy-related curriculum.