Global Citizenship Experience Lab School

The Global Citizen Experience Lab School is an independent non-profit high school serving all communities across Chicago. Founded in 2010, GCE uses the City of Chicago as an extension of their classroom. Their unique, sustainability-driven curriculum cultivates an environment where curiosity, risk-taking, diversity, and empathy are celebrated.

This 15,000 sf interior build-out features technology-driven, multi-purpose, tactile learning spaces, collaborative workspaces, demonstration kitchen, and large citizenry gathering spaces for sharing ideas towards solving global issues. GCE uses a unique, sustainability-driven curriculum that prioritizes our impact on the world, and was a guiding principle in the construction of the space.

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Starting with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and then analyzing certification frameworks like LEED, WELL, and the Living Building Challenge to weigh what was appropriate and feasible in the space, the design team curated a sustainability approach that met GCE’s commitment to the health and happiness of their staff and students while staying within their budget.

All interior finishes were selected based on their material health, to assure that no harmful chemicals would be emitting into the school. In addition, several finish materials were salvaged from the original space, as seen with wood flooring used for accent walls, or donated, such as light fixtures, furniture, acoustic ceilings, and carpet tiles. Securing these materials was a valiant collaboration between GCE, the design team, and vendors, cementing long-term partnerships within the community while keeping thousands of square feet of material out of the landfill and reducing the project’s carbon footprint.

Kai Brown Photography