Lake Zurich High School Renovation: Designing the New Learning & Innovation Hub

The design for Lake Zurich High School District 95 has a unique flavor – student input. The result? A professional learning space to inspire incubator-style design thinking.


Lake Zurich Community Unit School District 95 faced a significant challenge in renovating their High School’s outdated library and dispersed traditional art rooms, CAD classrooms, and more. The school lacked a central, student-focused collaborative space to support modern educational demands. To address these issues, they turned to DLA Architects, a leading architecture firm renowned for innovative solutions for educational facilities.

Identifying the Challenges

Through a series of meetings and surveys led by DLA’s Architects Design team, a clear need for an interdisciplinary STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) program space was identified. Educators were inspired by the Stanford Design Thinking Process to pinpoint the experiences they sought for their students. However, a significant gap existed in the availability of Ideate and Prototyping Spaces, which are vital for achieving this objective. In addition, the existing library, being a quiet zone, limited students’ collaborative time.

The STEAM Hub Area is outfitted with flexible furniture that can easily be moved to accommodate robotics competitions and other activities or used to present ideas to a small group. Wood accents bring in warmth and nature to the energetic, technology-inspired space.
The Library offers a variety of learning spaces to encourage one-on-one learning, collaboration, group instruction, peer-to-peer interaction, as well as formal teacher-student interaction. Breakout rooms are identified by an acronym of the school name. This makes it easy for students to coordinate group meeting locations.
With zoned areas for introspective work, one-on-one collaboration, and small group collaboration, the library space provides many tools for peer-to-peer work. These varied opportunities for learning touch the necessary communication skills found in the Common Core literacy standards for English/Language Arts classes and within the technical/scientific literature standards.
Daylight and borrowed light are supplemented ample lighting to create a vibrant atmosphere. Sophisticated colors and hues, accents of wood to bring in nature, and many seating choices.
High-energy lab spaces are outfitted with honeycomb-shaped ceiling clouds to aid in acoustics and bring an element of nature into these industrial spaces.
Meter lines, drop-down power, and movable furniture make these spaces future-proof for an evolving curriculum.
Flexible locker storage allows for a safer fabrication environment. Students can check out a locker to store materials like their backpack to keep them off the ground

Designing the Solution

DLA Architects adopted a student-centric approach, actively involving students in the design process to create a vibrant and immersive environment. The outcome? A collaborative space that revolves around the needs of students, equipped with the essential resources and cutting-edge equipment for 21st-century learning. This innovative setting fosters creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking.

To foster Design Thinking, the renovated facilities feature dedicated Student Friendly Spaces. These areas provide students with independent zones for exploration, as well as labs for prototyping their entrepreneurial ideas. The school’s INCubatoredu program is now backed by these newly created spaces that empower students to cultivate their own product or service startups. Moreover, the redesigned space was meticulously planned to accommodate future instructional changes, such as blended and online learning. This ensures its adaptability to evolving educational needs.


After the renovation, students now engage in a variety of group sizes, allowing them to research, collaborate, and develop in ways that were previously impossible. They can confidently present their design solutions to diverse audiences, from peers to the wider community. Moreover, the renovation has ensured that students have unrestricted access to these spaces at all times.

Taking inspiration from the Stanford Design Thinking Process, the Learning and Innovation Hub offers a truly distinctive environment that fosters creativity and facilitates the sharing of information. It serves as a catalyst for building new knowledge and forging pathways to future success. To support professional development goals and encourage interdisciplinary collaboration, the Hub staff collaborates closely with educators to research lessons and develop opportunities for project-based learning. Additionally, the Hub offers a wide range of programs that empower students to explore, innovate, and reflect. By bringing in community members and guest speakers, students are exposed to a myriad of college and career choices.

Ultimately, the Learning and Innovation Hub stands as a one-of-a-kind space that nurtures creativity, fosters information sharing, and promotes project-based learning and research. It is now a space for students to explore, innovate, and reflect on their educational journey.

Design & Energy Efficiency

The students played a critical role in the design process, creating a vibrant, warm, and inviting learning environment. The design incorporated natural materials, dynamic ceiling designs, and mature paint colors to create an age-appropriate space for high schoolers. The newly renovated space also featured LED lighting, zoned for task-specific dimming, and larger windows for increased natural light. Moreover, the design took into account passive security measures, traffic patterns, and accessibility for all students.

Enlarged window openings provide three times the natural light that existed prior to the renovation.
Ideate, prototype, and test are the actions taken by students using the Incubator Lab. In this "Shark Tank" inspired program, students encounter authentic, rigorous, problem-based academic experiences where they apply a variety of 21st century skills and learn how they can make a difference and build a better world through entrepreneurship, innovation, and leadership.
A wall of storage concealed by writable-surfaced panels makes this Innovation Lab functional and flexible.
A standard grid just wouldn’t do for a space designed to inspire creative problem-solving. The technology-themed lighting design compliments the space to provoke innovative thinking.
Borrowed light into the interior Learning Stair allows natural light to penetrate deep into the building.
To meet Professional Development goals and facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration, the Hub staff partners with educators to provide project-based learning opportunities and research lessons. Workspace was set aside to accommodate an entire classroom. This space offers staggered height seating providing educators flexibility for lessons that focus on research, but might require a gathering area for short lectures.
The Learning Hub Circulation Desk also functions as a “Genius Bar”-style Help Desk. It is a place to help students (or educators) one-on-one with technology and devices.
Breakout spaces for the incubator lab can also be converted into a safe place for lockdown events by simply pulling back the blackout curtain.
The design for the Incubator Lab was modeled after a fast-paced, tech start up. While there are spaces for introspective work, the zoned areas emphasize one-on-one and small group collaboration. Here students are offered a variety of tools for peer-to-peer work.
The Learning Stair presentation space is at the heart of the school, providing a continuum between the Learning Hub, STEAM, and Studio C.

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