About Our Building


About Our Building

Discovery Elementary School is Arlington’s newest neighborhood school, having opened in September 2015. The warm and inviting 97,588 square foot building, designed by VMDO Architects and built with a student-centered wayfinding narrative in mind, exemplifies collaboration between a myriad of stakeholders including design and construction experts, educational leaders and community members.

Upon opening, Discovery was the largest net-zero energy (NZE) elementary school ever built in the United States, and was the first net-zero energy school of any kind in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It was the first NZE school in the Mid-Atlantic Region.

Discovery Elementary School was designed by VMDO Architects and constructed by Heery International. It is a recipient of the 2017 American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment Top Ten Award.

The school grounds are a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat, number 207045.


  • 97,588 square feet
  • 684 student capacity
  • LEED Certification: Pending
  • 100% LED lighting
  • 3,000 linear feet of insulating concrete form (ICF) bearing walls
  • 75% of walls include windows, 33% of wall space is window, to increase natural light
  • Solatube “Solamaster” 750 DS tubular daylighting devices throughout
  • 1,706 rooftop photovoltaic (PV) solar panels generating 496 kW of power
    • First year energy cost: $72,000 (regional average $124,000)
    • 20-year average energy cost: $1.9M (regional average $3.3M)
  • Interior movable / openable walls in upper grade spaces with whiteboards
  • Energy Use Index: 23 kBTU per sq ft (APS average 69; regional average 70 kBTU per sq ft)
  • Two bio-retention areas with observation deck
  • 150 geothermal well field
  • Solar pre-heated domestic water supply
  • Angled ceilings in Kinderhausen promote natural convection effect


The green building is designed to support experiential learning and encourage students to become stewards of the environment. Design highlights include an interactive dashboard used to monitor the school’s energy production and consumption, adjustable photovoltaic panels in the solar laboratory, and observation decks near the butterfly, vegetable, and bio-retention gardens.