Ero Architects

E.L. Furr High School Replacement

Houston ISD
  • Client

    Houston ISD

  • Budget


  • City


  • Sq. Ft.



In 2012, Houston approved a $1.64 billion bond program to transform learning in high school for college and career success. ERO’s contribution to Houston ISD’s Phase I effort is the 2017 XQ Super School, award-winning, LEED® Silver E.L. Furr High School. Located in the Prairie Oates neighborhood, a channel industrial area, on a small 19-acre site, the 1961 high school and all of its nine school buildings and 15 temporary buildings, were slated for total replacement.

The educational delivery concept we designed drastically defies peoples’ understanding of a high school and addresses several social and environmental challenges that dense, urban communities face today. The solution is a three-story, 183,000 gsf culturally-relevant, college-style campus, expected to foster a 21st Century education for 1,300 students. ERO successfully used architectural design to remove barriers to learning and support the school’s desire to be an “Institute for Innovative Thinking.” The design creates a context for the community and engenders a sense of ownership. The students, now, are able to emotionally engage in a safe, connected and supportive environment.

Almost every space in the school is multi-purpose, driving the space utilization ratio up around 85% and enabling choice. Students choose what and how to study through experimentation, invention, or collaboration. Teachers, who act as facilitators, customize spaces to meet the demands of the learning. Ubiquitous technology, audio and visual equipment support science, engineering, computer scientists, arts and traditional spaces for laboratory research and vocational training. Students collaborate on emotional development, required for career success, in rooms designated for these endeavors. The second home ambiance includes a 24/7 secure entry, a storm shelter, emergency housing, healthcare and a community activity center. The main building entrance was rotated to the north to reduce heat intake while permitting access to natural lighting. The green measures incorporated in the facility address increased occupancy health and reduced life-cycle and operational costs, waste and environmental impacts. 

The official opening of Furr High School in 2017 was delayed two weeks due to Hurricane Harvey landfall. Significantly, the school awaiting opening took on no water and sustained no damage.  The District Superintendent, Dr. Richard Carranza said, “Furr sustained historic weather with no damage; so I think that speaks to the design of the building but more importantly it speaks to the thoughtfulness about the building design and we may have to rethink going forward about the design of newer schools here.”


Lower Rio Grande Valley AIA Merit Award for the innovative K–12 education design of the El Furr High School in Houston. The award recognizes excellence in architectural work and elevates the quality of architecture in our region, and establishes a continually progressive standard of excellence.

 Jurists comments:

“This project accomplishes a lot for a K–12 project. The dynamic atrium space, the glazing wall, and the sophisticated performance space elevate this project beyond a typical K–12 project. Glazed interior walls are a nice way to put learning on display.”

“I appreciate a learning environment that is sensitive to the student of today’s needs. The facility seems to have been designed efficiently.”

Principal Simmons commented, “Everybody is saying this is the most beautiful building on this side of town and it’s the most functional one. I went in and saw some of the classrooms and was really amazed by the furniture and technology and how it relates to better teaching. The outdoor learning spaces are beautiful and the kids can’t wait to get out there and work in groups. It’s what we’ve been talking about—giving kids choices and a voice. People who come in here are just blown away.” (September 8, 2017) 

Dr. Bertie Simmons

Former Principal, Furr High School, Houston ISD
Next Project

Stephen F. Austin High School Replacement and Modernization

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