News Saugatuck/Douglas Commercial Record

DES design wins national award

By Scott Sullivan
DES stands for Douglas Elementary School and design as well after last week’s announcement building renovations completed last year have won an Outstanding Design Award from American School and University.
Project designer GMB and builder GDK Construction Co. was honored in AS&U’s 2023 Architectural Portfolio publication, for 41 years released in cooperation with the American Institute of Architects to recognize outstanding school and university design.
Saugatuck Public Schools district voters approved a $35.6-million bond in 2020 to update aging elementary and middle/high school facilities. The latter work is still ongoing.
DES, originally built in the early 1950s, underwent major renovations meant to bring students new opportunities through modern education spaces, flexible furniture, outdoor-based learning and collaborative-focused commons areas.
“Our ‘like new’ building accentuates all the amazing learning taking place at Douglas Elementary,” SPS Superintendent Tim Travis said. “Staff and students alike feel the positive energy created in our new learning spaces every day.”
A unique feature of the updated school is a large outdoor classroom and playground that creates an educational space focused on nature. This space can be used as a hands-on outdoor classroom and lab to study nature, science and art.
The district also wanted DES to serve the community through its new larger learning commons areas, ADA-compliant restrooms, and outdoor play spaces.
“Our design team,” said GMB project architect Alex Stuckey, “aimed to create a facility that aligned with the district’s mission to reach all learners.
“The upgraded school creates a functional and welcoming environment that can be enjoyed by students, teachers, staff and the community,” Stuckey said.
“The support of our community has made it possible to bring this award-winning school design to life,” Travis said.
The award-winning project has also been featured in Education Snapshots, a leading online resource for the global education design community. More information about the school improvements can be found at

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