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Zerr Berg Architects and the Moorhead High School Career Academy have been honored by American School & University Magazine for outstanding design in the Adaptive Reuse category. The Career Academy was one of three schools nationwide to be honored in the category. Zerr Berg Architects is proud to announce this award and to share in the success of a job well done with Moorhead Area Public Schools, Gehrtz Construction Services and the rest of the project team that worked diligently to make this facility the best it could be for the school.

The Moorhead High School Career Academy is located on a high visibility lot just off the interstate in Moorhead, MN.

Adaptive Reuse is a term used by architects and construction professionals to describe the process of taking an old, unused building and renovating the space into something modern and usable. This building method saves owners money by taking advantage of already built spaces, reducing the costs of building materials. This sustainable building method also saves unused buildings from being demolished. As the world moves away from big-box stores and towards internet purchases more and more of these buildings are becoming massive empty landmarks. Usually, these buildings are structurally sound and ready to welcome in a new business or organization. The Career Academy was born from the bones of an empty big-box store and transformed by our design team into a fully functioning, state-of-the-art learning facility for Moorhead students.

A large challenge for the design team when facing this project was the sheer amount of space (175,000 sf) in the existing building. The design team worked closely with the school to ensure that the space was efficiently used when creating a layout for the building. This work started by grouping the building into four fire building areas, allowing each area to be controlled and accessed at all times of the day and after hours. Lab spaces and classrooms were grouped so similar rooms could use shared resources easily without traveling throughout the school.

The addition of a second floor mezzanine to the center of the building allowed space for the Area Learning Center to be housed out of the Career Academy.

The two key drivers of the design were learning on display and ultimate flexibility for adapting to future education needs. Both goals were accomplished with 49 glazed overhead doors. These connect lab spaces and other large areas to the extra wide loop circulation hallway and allow anyone passing by a view of the learning and educational pursuits taking place within the classrooms. The student commons and multipurpose spaces are connected by two massive overhead doors large enough to pull a semi-truck and trailer into the heart of the school for demonstrations and presentations.

Students enjoy a guest speaker demonstration with a full sized tractor-trailer pulled into the heart of the commons at the Moorhead High School Career Academy.


The Career Academy has 36 traditional classrooms, three food science kitchens and over 15 labs with unique specialties. These labs are used for everything from welding and metal fabrication to early childhood education and nursing. All classrooms have flexible seating for students, wireless connections for devices and multiple digital monitor devices for sharing and collaborating on ideas and lessons. The building was completed in 2022, welcoming students and staff into its halls for classes, demonstrations and career events. This project has had a profound impact on Moorhead High School, making it easier for students to learn in a state-of-the-art environment with high-end industrial and educational tools that make it easy for them to explore interests and future careers.