Jamie Unkefer: A Sustainable Campus Master Plan

Jamie Unkefer, AIA
Principal, DIGSAU

The Campus Master Plan reflects all of the Strategic Vision Priorities, with a focus on Responsible Impact. The plan will create community and connection, provide accessibility for all, respect and embrace current assets, and considers the school's history and Quaker roots in its design. 


"It is a rather profound idea to rethink the use of the campus through existing buildings."

Why is the Campus Master Plan important and why now?

GFS has been reflecting on its vision and what they see for the future of the school, including how it can positively impact teaching and learning, the neighborhood, and education at large. The Campus Master Plan fits right into this strategic period of adaptation and growth.

After looking at the history of development at GFS, we saw some barriers that developed over time that need to be addressed in order for the vision to fully take shape. GFS will connect buildings; update heating and cooling systems; add elevators for accessibility; steward human, built, and natural resources; and reuse existing infrastructure, thereby minimizing new construction.

The Campus Master Plan will address all of the Vision Priorities, with a particular emphasis on Responsible Impact. While there will be changes, the school’s deep Quaker roots will remain.

What was the first step in developing this important plan for GFS?

As we implemented a facilities assessment, my colleagues and I got to know the history of GFS and its campus and community. We gained a strong sense for all of the school’s buildings and grounds, including their strengths and flaws. We then began to build on this preliminary work and develop a strategy to optimize existing assets, improve accessibility, and consider place.

What were the goals outlined for developing the GFS Campus Master Plan (CMP)?

DIGSAU and GFS leadership collaboratively identified three main goals for the plan that are reflect the school’s mission and philosophy:

  1. Improve the ability to get from one place to another.

  2. Enhance sustainability in the Quaker sense.

  3. Reflect stewardship in terms of care for the community, buildings and campus.

We used these priorities as a touchtone for the entire process and made sure they were being addressed.

What about the plan excites you the most?

I am very excited about the new connectors between existing buildings, and the value they will bring. These relatively simply changes create so many opportunities.

It is a rather profound idea to rethink the use of the campus through existing buildings. This is not often done. It requires discipline and creativity to solve problems without creating new buildings.

How did you develop the timeline and phases?

We determined the highest needs, as well as what drives other things. For examples, the use of the cafeteria drives the school schedule, so that became a priority in an early phase. Phases were also designed to best accommodate later phases and create the least amount of disruption to the community, both the GFS community and our neighbors. We do not want to use trailers or displace any of our students. Our classrooms and learning environment are important.

In one sentence, can you describe the plan?

Everything will look and feel the same, yet will be totally different.