The challenge to create the new McKinley Middle School in northeast Washington, DC, involved transforming a vacant wing of a historic, urban school into a high-performance Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) environment. The 60,000-square-foot project represented multiple milestones for the District of Columbia Public Schools, including the city’s first public STEM middle school program and the first LEED-CI® Platinum school renovation. QEA worked with Broughton Construction Company to complete the fast-track, design-build project for the DC Department of General Services.  
McKinley Middle School’s cutting-edge classrooms and laboratory spaces are designed to support the Partnership for 21st Century Skills’ “4C’s”: Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Creativity. These “super skills” are promoted in a project-based learning environment equipped with multiple instructional technologies, including networked projectors, smart boards, voice amplification, and variable lighting controls. Overhead distribution in the laboratories and flexible furnishings support multiple modes of learning and interdisciplinary study. Wide, multipurpose hallways serve as dynamic galleries that showcase student achievements, while large expanses of glass between hallways and labs allow for observation and inspire collaboration.  
The vibrant interiors present a compelling counterpoint to the school’s circa-1926, Neo-Georgian façade. High-tech materials include custom-designed CNC milled wainscot panels depicting molecular patterns and 3form illuminated paneling along hallways and galleries. The details demonstrate contemporary manufacturing processes, sustainability, and use of fabrication lab equipment. 
QEA’s commitment to McKinley Middle School continues through our involvement with the Washington Architectural Foundation’s (WAF) Architecture in the Schools program. We have worked with McKinley’s eighth-grade class to introduce design-related careers, taught skills in 3D modeling, and help students print their designs on a MakerBot® 3D printer. For more on WAF’s volunteer program, visit