SOM designs first net-zero energy school in New York City on Staten Island

Architecture firm SOM has completed the first public school in New York City that generates as much energy on site as it consumes (+ slideshow).

Called the Kathleen Grimm School for Leadership and Sustainability, the 444 seat, 68,000-square-foot (6,317-square-metres) primary school is located on Staten Island, the least populated of New York City’s five boroughs.

Set on a 3.5 acre site (1.4 hectares), the building features a large canopy holding an array of solar panels that generate power for the school.

Brightly coloured window frames punctuate the textured pre-cast concrete facade.

In addition to generating its own power, the building uses 50 per cent less energy than a typical New York City school.

Skylights and reflective ceiling panels bring natural light deep into the building and reduce the need for artificial light. Geo-exchange heating and cooling systems, which use the earth’s natural warmth to regulate temperature, and solar hot water units further reduce energy use.

Windows on the south side of the building are inset to reduce heat gain from the sun.

The architects hope the school can serve as a model for new school construction in the city.

“By pushing for higher environmental performance with our design, we have a remarkable opportunity to define a new standard for energy efficient school buildings in New York City and worldwide,” said SOM Design Partner Roger Duffy.

A central courtyard and play areas on the north and south sides of the building are designed to promote outdoor activity.

The adjacent parking area is also topped with a massive canopy with a photovoltaic array that helps turn more natural light into electricity. The structure is trimmed with a cobalt blue cornice.

Sustainability is also woven into the school’s curriculum, which the architects kept in mind when they created interactive digital displays the show the building’s energy use and other metrics.

The school is named after a former deputy chancellor of New York City public schools.

“The late Kathleen Grimm was a dedicated public leader and it is fitting this innovative new school, named in her honor, will lead New York City into achieving Mayor de Blasio’s sustainability goals,”  NYC School Construction Authority President & CEO Lorraine Grillo said.

SOM also recently renovated an abandoned movie house into a non-profit theatre and community centre in San Francisco and completed a tower with an exterior diagrid in Nanchang, China.

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