Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) will be awarded the Architectural Medal for Virginia Service this year for its commitment to environmental, social, and financial health in its building campaigns, and aligning this commitment with curricular innovation. As the AIA Virginia’s most prestigious public award, the Architecture Medal for Virginia Service honors an individual or an organization that has made an unusually significant contribution to Virginia’s built environment or to our understanding and awareness of the built environment. Since 1984, and with this year’s award, 35 individuals and two organizations have been premiated with the medal.

VBCPS students actively learn about the interconnectedness of our world, and through the shool district’s efforts, they are able to recognize the importance of place, values, and culture in the Commonwealth. For the past 15 years, VBCPS has been both a regional and statewide recognized leader in school design and sustainability. Since the development and initiation of their Sustainable Schools program in 2006, VBCPS has constructed nine LEED buildings, and plans to complete three more in 2020 alone, bringing its LEED building inventory to over 2 million square feet. Since 2006, they have managed to reduce their energy use per square foot by 27 percent, even while adding nine percent to their total building square footage, resulting in a cumulative cost avoidance of $45 million since 2006.

VBCPS’s commitment has expanded beyond the building envelope to demonstrate how the Commonwealth’s fourth largest school district can walk the walk on sustainability in a real and long-term way. Examples include implementing a “cook-from-scratch” program for cafeteria food (thereby relying less on packaged items and instructing students on food sourcing and preparation), to supporting electric buses and charging stations, to its 25-year partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to create outdoor learning experiences, to integrating sustainable messages, practices, and principles into all aspects of its curriculum for all grades.

In his nomination letter, AIA Hampton Roads President Scott A. Campbell, AIA, applauded “VBCPS’s exceptional and relentless dedication to their mission of ‘educating students about the Triple Bottom Line and understanding the interconnectedness and interdependency of social, economic and environmental systems,” and calling VBCPS’s award, “a well-deserved honor for their incredible accomplishments in school design and sustainability.”

The Architecture Medal for Virginia Service will be presented at Visions for Architecture on Thursday, Oct. 8 in an online awards ceremony beginning at 4:30 p.m. The program is free but registration is required.