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Net Zero Elementary + Middle School - Graceland Park/O'Donnell Heights

Baltimore, Maryland


Baltimore City Public Schools


94,000 sf, 640 students


LEED Platinum | NZE


New Construction


Community Partnership

Tucked in the inner city of Baltimore, two outdated existing elementary/middle schools, Graceland Park/O'Donnell Heights and Holabird Academy, were in desperate need of replacement. Baltimore City Public Schools was eager to design a new prototype with a world-class program to integrate collaborative teaching, learning, and equitable sustainable design in their resource-constrained school district.

Graceland Park-O'Donnell Heights ES/MS is a replacement school to serve scholars from Pre-K through Grade 8. It achieved LEED Platinum certification and is tracking Zero Energy through thoughtful zero energy strategies, renewable energy, user behavior outreach, and ongoing occupant training.

Located within three city blocks of each other and five miles east of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the prototype "sister" schools (Graceland and Holabird) demonstrate Baltimore’s focus on project-based learning, sustainability, and energy-conscious design for schools in an urban environment. Utilizing the sites as teaching tools, both schools are equipped with student gardens, outdoor classrooms, rooftop solar labs, and vegetative roofs that further push innovation while intertwining sustainable concepts in education. Grimm + Parker designed the prototype and both schools were constructed simultaneously using a similar design for building and site.

With identical footprints, both Graceland and Holabird's academic programs are organized into flexible, grade group clusters that feature shared, collaborative learning spaces. A variety of learning environments are provided in each cluster to allow for the accommodation of different student learning styles. Realizing the importance of giving both schools their own character, each have a distinct exterior palette reflecting their community. Learning takes place everywhere on these neighboring campuses, preparing the scholars for successful STEM careers.

Wonder Wall

Ample gathering, display, and interaction space is provided in the main lobby's Wonder Wall. A salvaged sculpture from the demolished Graceland school building is relocated in the new koi pond to calm students in this biophilic design strategy. Bright colors draw students into the public zone of the building and a low wall provides separation to the Cafetorium.

The Sphere energy dashboard and 360 Virtual Tour of the sustainable strategies and low energy equipment and systems welcomes students, families, and teachers to engage and learn about how their Net Zero Energy school operates.

Clerestory windows, tubular skylights that are dimmable, exterior sunshades and interior roller shades all prevent glare and optimize natural daylighting in learning and gathering spaces such as this mutli-functional Cafetorium.

Graceland has over 1300 photovoltaic panels on it's roof, including demonstration panels such as the dual-axis tracker and fixed-angle panels visible on the Solar Lab. Students are encouraged to observe efficiency of panels and understand how orientation and weather affect the energy harvest via a real-time energy dashboard system. Project based learning prepares middle school scholars for careers in renewable technology and clean energy.

Graceland Park/O'Donnell Heights + Holabird Elementary/Middle School

Graceland Park/O'Donnell Heights + Holabird Elementary/Middle School

Virtual 360 Dashboard

Grimm + Parker Architects collaborated with CMTA Engineers and Baltimore City Public Schools curriculum and green teams to develop a user-friendly 360 Virtual Experience. Touchscreens at the Wonder Wall and the Energy Lab allow visitors to access real-time energy consumption and generation. VR glasses or tablets allow this data to be mobile and exported for lesson integration. 360-degree camera views of learning spaces highlight additional information on the sustainable features that contribute to its Zero Energy goal. 

Closing Thoughts

Two schools staying true to their mission to Nurture, Engage, and Empower the whole child for life-long excellence.

These schools are what it looks like when we truly value our students. It's fulfilling. It's enriching. It's sustainable.

Baltimore City Councilman


1st Place Technology Award

ASHRAE National

1st Place, New Building - Institutional Education


Excellence in Construction Award

ABC Greater Baltimore

Climate Champion Award

USGBC Maryland

Excellence in Design, Jury Citation

Maryland AIA