MHS Career Academy interior shot

American School and University magazine has announced that the Moorhead High School Career Academy and Zerr Berg Architects received an “Outstanding Design” award in their 2023 Architectural Portfolio edition. The Career Academy was one of three schools nationwide to receive the award in the Adaptive Reuse category.

Published annually since 1983, the American School and University Architectural Portfolio recognizes new school buildings and their architects for excellence in educational design. The 2023 installment highlighted 73 school buildings from around the country—and four more from around the world—at the primary, secondary and collegiate levels.

The first leg of the three-part Moorhead High School facilities plan funded by the successful 2019 bond referendum, the Career Academy took over the building on 27th Avenue South previously occupied by Sam’s Club. By converting a cavernous retail area—measuring nearly 175,000 square feet—into usable, forward-thinking school space, Zerr Berg secured this national honor.

“Winning in the Adaptive Reuse category is especially gratifying,” said Brian Berg of Zerr Berg Architects, “because the re-use of an existing big box store was an extremely successful strategy to maximize funding available to the district. It’s awesome to see the building now, full of students exploring career options.”

Zerr Berg and their partners at Martin Mechanical Design and MBN Engineering garnered praise in the publication for subdividing the large structure into four separate “fire buildings” with their own firewalls to improve safety and access control. American School and University also lauded the conversion of the building’s HVAC system to prevent fumes from areas like the auto shop from affecting the air quality in other parts of the school.

Another factor in Outstanding Design distinction was the Career Academy’s use of overhead doors. The building’s 49 glazed overhead doors impressed the Architectural Portfolio’s jury with how they put learning on display and also allowed the school to conduct large-scale demonstrations right in the common areas.

“Our district is proud to have partnered with Zerr Berg on such an exciting and important project,” said Moorhead Area Public Schools superintendent Dr. Brandon Lunak. “Their creativity and problem-solving in turning a massive piece of existing infrastructure in Moorhead into a beautiful and functional school created a real win-win for our students and taxpayers.”

With Phase 1 of the new Moorhead High School completed, the final stage of the MHS facilities plan is set to begin in early 2024 with the construction of MHS’ Phase 2, scheduled to open during the 2025-26 school year. Stay tuned to the district’s website and social media channels for updates as Phase 2 construction begins.