JE Dunn Completes The Learning Academy at WellStar Kennestone Hospital

ATLANTA, Ga. – JE Dunn Construction recently completed a new child care and education center for WellStar Health System, Inc., in Marietta, Georgia.

The three-story, 32,200-square-foot Learning Academy at WellStar Kennestone Hospital serves infants through Pre-K, and is managed by Bright Horizons. The project’s construction value was $9.5 million.

The architect of record is Stanley Beaman & Sears of Atlanta.

The assignment challenged the project team to relocate the facility to a smaller site with sloped terrain, to accommodate a wide range of services and environments (classrooms, play areas and rooms for mildly ill children) and to provide for anticipated growth of the program — all within a facility with contemporary design and sustainability features. Among the project’s action points:

Program Highlights:

  • 32,200 square feet; capacity, 236 children
  • Serves WellStar employees’ children ages 6 weeks to Pre-K; 2 additional classrooms accommodate school age children during school breaks
  • Get Well classrooms for mildly ill children—the first of its kind in Georgia
  • Operated by Bright Horizons

Steering Committee Goals:

  • Create a “world class” facility
  • NAEYC accredited
  • Bright Horizons standards
  • Sustainability with focus on energy-efficiency, ROI and lifecycle cost
  • Balance size, quality and budget

Challenges and Opportunities:

  • New site is significantly smaller and narrower, and sloped in two directions
  • New facility must support anticipated program growth
  • Provide secured, covered access for WellStar employees via the employee parking deck while providing convenient, separate access for non-employees (relatives, guests, caregivers, etc.)

Design Features:

  • Site challenges and program requirements led to a multi-story building and multi-level playground
  • Integral slides and climbing ropes on terraced hills create an active playscape
  • Other playground elements: trike paths, sand boxes, age-appropriate equipment, shaded areas for STEM, art and music (outdoor instruments)
  • Exterior materials:
    • Wood-grained phenolic panel rainscreen responds to adjacent residential neighborhood
    • Vertical wood-grained phenolic slats add a playful, but sophisticated feature and help control glare and heat gain on the southern and western façades
    • Decorative CMU and neutral stucco complement the warmth of the phenolic panels
  • Natural light floods two-story lobby; the roof’s dynamic form also expressed in lobby’s ceiling
  • Focal point of the lobby is the Reading Stair with terraced, amphitheater seating which can be used for classroom gatherings or small reading groups
  • On the second level, Movement Matters is an indoor play room with a climbing wall and ballet bars; glazing in Movement Matters overlooks the lobby atrium and provides views to outdoors
  • All classrooms have natural light and views to the exterior
  • Coupling classrooms with shared changing stations/restrooms aids efficiency, teacher visibility
  • Neutral, nature-based palette allows the children and their toys and materials to add the color


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