Buckingham County Primary and Elementary Schools

Dillwyn, Virginia

Completion: August 2012 | Size: 134,015 SF Combined Additions and Renovations / $18,370,000

The former middle and high school buildings, built in 1954 and 1962 respectively, are transformed into a modern learning campus for K-5 students with the aim to address the growing concern of student health and well being. By designing the school from a holistic perspective that includes the dining experience as an educational opportunity; the school cafeteria, kitchen, and servery have been reconsidered as an important educational experience while retaining the key food service functions. The enhanced programming includes a teaching kitchen, innovative food and nutritional displays, an open servery to promote demonstration cooking, a food lab – small group learning lounge, scratch bakery, dehydrating food composter, ample natural daylight, flexible seating arrangements, and outdoor student gardens.

The natural setting of the surrounding pine and oak forest habitat, watershed, and microclimates are key existing and design-enhanced naturalistic events that feature prominently throughout the architecture and active landscape. The project committee and design team worked collaboratively to create a total learning environment in order to support learning both inside and outside the traditional classroom. Each grade level enjoys age-appropriate outdoor gardens and play terraces, which encourage children to re-connect and spend time in their natural surroundings. Inside the schools, in addition to core classrooms, each grade level has small group learning spaces that transform circulation pathways into child-centric “learning streets.” These spaces are intimately scaled with soft seating and fun colors that communicate both collaborative and shared learning experiences.

To study the impact of these healthy design features, VMDO is teaming with public health scientists – Dr. Terry Huang from the University of Nebraska and Dr. Matthew Trowbridge from the University of Virginia – to study how health-promoting educational design strategies can support active communities and reduce incidence rates of childhood obesity. This design-research collaborative co-created “Healthy Eating Design Guidelines for School Architecture,” which provides new insight into how school environments can effectively promote healthy eating and movement. The impact of these guidelines is expected to improve schools’ ability to adopt healthy programming and overall support the well-being of healthy FoodSmart Kids®.

The school has achieved LEED Gold certification through the USGBC's LEED for Schools rating system.

Awards & Recognition

  • Juror's Choice for Outstanding Project of the Year | Greater Virginia Green Building Council
  • Honor Award for Design Excellence in Architecture | Central Virginia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects
  • Design Is ... Award, Education Sector | Shaw Contract Group
  • Education Facility Design Excellence Award | AIA Committee on Architecture for Education (CAE)
  • Excellence Award | Center for Active Design
  • Gold Innovation Award | Virginia Educational Facility Planners
  • Award for Excellence in Architecture | Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects
  • Project of Distinction: Lee J. Brockway Award for Renovation/Addition | Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI)
  • Outstanding Project | Learning By Design
  • Gold Design Award | Virginia School Boards Association
  • People's Choice Award | Virginia School Boards Association
  • Prize for Design Research and Scholarship | Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects
  • 3rd Prize in Childhood Obesity Challenge | American Journal of Preventative Medicine


“Preventing childhood obesity and helping to educate 'food smart' children is so important in today’s society.... The value and potential results in offering unique features such as Buckingham’s Food Lab, a Teaching Kitchen, Edible Native Landscaping, School Garden, Fresh Food Storage and Exterior Dining are obvious to me.”

Todd B. Haymore

Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry

Project Videos

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Key Team Members

Robert W. Moje

Robert W. Moje


Kelly Callahan

Kelly Callahan

Project Manager

Dina Sorensen

Dina Sorensen

Project Designer

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