With the addition of the Harold D. Rider Family Media, Science & Fine Arts Center, the 150-year-old Elgin Academy set lofty goals. The pre-school to 12th grade independent day school wanted an environmentally friendly and energy-efficient building with a cutting edge design. The four-story, 41,000-square-foot building is certified LEED Gold.

Concrete terraces and courtyards are featured on the east and west sides of the building. Located on a steep hillside, it utilizes concrete block segmental retaining walls to create planting beds, as well as a buffer between pedestrians and vehicular traffic below. Indigenous, drought-resistant plants eliminate the need for additional irrigation. Concrete paving provides a high solar reflectance index to reduce the heat island effect.

Architectural concrete brick on exterior walls looks pleasing at a relatively low cost, and contributes to LEED points for locally sourced materials. High levels of thermal insulation in the walls and roof, along with an efficient mechanical system design, help save energy.

Interior concrete materials include a high percentage of recycled content, regional origin, and low VOC emissions. Concrete masonry unit walls filled with slag aggregate provide acoustic isolation and contribute LEED points by using 100% post-industrial recycled materials.

Contractors and designers used concrete to improve on the Rider Center's foundation design, which originally called for two concrete buttresses to anchor the building into the hillside. Instead, they built further into the hill and extended the concrete slab, using the floor as a diaphragm to brace the foundation wall and creating 1200 square feet of extra storage space at no additional cost.