Bullis’ Discovery Center

A project that saw the arts and sciences linked through technology and learning opportunities.

SizeScheduleTargeted Occupancy DateOccupancy Date
70,000 SF24 MonthsAugust 2017August 29, 2017

The Dr. Gerald L. Boarman Discovery Center is a 70,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art educational building in the new heart of the Bullis campus. The Discovery Center is designed to enhance learning, creativity, and exploration for every student while allowing the School to maintain small classes and expand available classroom space on campus. The design’s transparent architecture, with views to a grand stair and second-floor Innovation Lab, signifies the exciting activities occurring within. Learning, creativity, and exploration are enhanced through an environment that is open and flexible to foster collaboration and the exchange of ideas.

Significant features of the Dr. Gerald L. Boarman Discovery Center include:

  • A Fabrication Lab or “Fab Lab,” modeled after MIT laboratories, includes dedicated spaces for metal working, robotics, woodworking, and digital production.
  • Telepresence classrooms with state-of-the-art video conferencing equipment to bridge time and distance allows students to be in contact with experts off-campus and around the world.
  • Tools such as 3D printers, laser printers, and CNC routers will provide options for all students to engage in scientific inquiry, exploration, and fabrication.
  • A versatile multi-use studio theater with movable seating for 225-person audiences to attend lectures, shows, ceremonies, exhibits, and conferences.
  • A Student Center containing a greatly expanded School Store, full service café and kitchen, and seating to provide ample study, meeting, and conversation spaces for classes and groups.
  • A rooftop terrace for classes, special events, and social gatherings.

The Bullis School’s commitment to their student experience was reinforced by a joint investment in their sports program across all grades. The Discovery Center Project also included a new turf field replacing an existing grass field to be used for lacrosse, field hockey and soccer games, as well as football practices. The new all-weather field ensures student safety during practices and games and included LED lights, new scoreboards, and sound system.

The Challenge

Part of the work associated with this project was the construction of a lighted artificial turf field along Falls Road.  The area designated for the field required large amounts of regrading to establish a level zone.  In addition, a complex below-grade drainage system would require substantial trenching to manage the stormwater in and around the field.  Soil borings were taken across the site to determine the suitability of the existing soils for this application.  The results showed that the soil structure was excellent for the field subbase, but the moisture content was far too high for this material to be used.  Two initial options were identified:  (1) Add expensive soil amendments to the existing material to mitigate the effects of excessive moisture or, (2) remove thousands of yards of existing soil and replace it with select fill.

The Solution

Working closely with the General Contractor, Earthwork Subcontractor, and Soils Consultant, the team reasoned that the existing soil would work very well as a subbase for the field if only the moisture content could be reduced to its optimum level.  Considering that the school needed the new field in service before the beginning of the next school year, a schedule was developed that planned to allow the material to dry naturally in the warm weather.  Scarifying the existing soil in the early spring and monitoring the moisture content until near optimum, site grading was completed in the early summer and the field, including state-of-the-art LED lighting, was put in service before school started in the fall.  This solution met the schedule needs of the school and saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in construction costs.