Bailey’s Upper Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences

DATE: 2014
LOCATION: Falls Church, Virginia, USA
OLD USE: Office
NEW USE: Elementary school


The Falls Church office building was built in 1987. Situated within a highway development district, the five-story building has direct access to Virginia State Route 7 and a short distance to U.S. Route 50. The office building became vacant in 2012.[1]


Developer: Fairfax County Public Schools incorporate schools throughout a five-region system in northern Virginia. Each Region office provides leadership and supervision to the schools in the Region and acts as liaison to schools and communities. School principals report directly to the appropriate Regional Assistant Superintendent. Within each Region, schools are grouped in pyramids, which are composed of a high school, a middle school, and the elementary schools that feed into the middle and high schools.[2]

Architect: Cooper Carry is a national firm offering architecture, environmental graphic design, interior design, landscape architecture, planning and sustainability consulting services. Their multidisciplinary approach lets them integrate specialized knowledge to create “Connective Architecture: connecting ideas and people to the places where they work, relax, live and learn.”[3]

Engineer (MEP): Strickler Associates has performed on over twenty-eight hundred individual projects ranging in scope from small tenant layouts to complete engineering design services for new construction of major educational facilities, shopping centers, office buildings, and churches. As a consulting engineering firm, they provide engineering services covering heating, ventilating, air conditioning, power and lighting, plumbing and fire protection services.[4]

Engineer (Structural & Civil): ADTEK Engineers provides civil, structural and specialty engineering services that includes steel detailing and cold formed steel design to its private and public clients.[5]


The converted five-story school sits about a mile from the original school and serves the third through fifth grades, or about 764 students. The vertical design groups classrooms into two-story learning communities that open onto an interconnecting stair which also serves as a small gathering space for each community. The project includes administration space on the ground floor and classrooms on floors two through five. The program includes a hybrid library and black box theatre that spans two floors, a series of exercise and movement rooms, a science lab and TV and video production rooms. The classroom walls are painted with a special coating that allows the entire surface to function as a dry erase board. These writable walls allow more opportunities for formal and informal interactions throughout the school to support 21st century learning.

With a fast paced schedule, the design of the conversion commenced in December 2013 and was complete for students in Fall 2014. The second phase of the project will address the site upgrades such as additional outdoor play areas and an enclosed field house.

The adaptive reuse option provided a financially smart and sustainable alternative to building a new, ground-up school. Because the design team worked with the existing shell of the building, the construction timeline was significantly reduced. Ultimately, the public school system has been very satisfied with the vertical, adaptive reuse elementary school.[6]

[1]Fairfax County Public Schools
[2]Fairfax County Public Schools
[3]Cooper Carry
[4]Strickler Associates
[5]ADTEK Engineers
[6]The Wilbert Group

Images courtesy of Cooper Carry / A Josh Meister Photo.