Socially Conscious Bronx Charter School Receives Design Award

April 7, 2011

AIA-NJ Design Award - NY Foundling by Environetics

A combination charter school and not-for-profit voluntary child care agency designed by Englewood Cliffs, N.J.-based Environetics has won a Merit Award in the “Built” category from the New Jersey chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA-NJ).

The award for the renovation and expansion of the New York Foundling agency in Bronx, N.Y., was announced this past September at AIA-NJ’s annual “Design Day” conference at Bally’s Atlantic City in Atlantic City, N.J. The design award was presented at the annual AIA-NJ awards dinner to be held in January 2011 in Princeton, N.J.

“We are excited to see projects being created at this high level of innovation and quality by New Jersey firms,” said Jason Kliwinski, AIA, LEED AP, 2010 president of AIA-NJ. “I am honored to recognize these architects for their dedication and commitment to their craft and to the architecture community.”

Hans Erdenberger, AIA, president and managing principal at Environetics and lead architect on the Foundling project, along with project manager Mark Giessen, AIA, LEED AP, were motivated by the social purpose of the New York Foundling and Mott Haven Academy Charter School. Environetics worked hard to develop the project through design development, construction documents and construction administration after the original concept design was completed by Perkins and Will Architecture, an internationally recognized leader in business school design and sustainable architecture, in early 2008.

“This is an interesting project from so many levels, but mostly because it is one of the most socially sensitive projects that we have ever worked on,” said Erdenberger. “We transformed a dilapidated five-story brick schoolhouse that had sat empty for over thirty years into an important and prominent landmark in the neighborhood. The positive reactions from the neighborhood children as they toured the completed facility made it all worthwhile.”

The New York Foundling, founded in 1869 as a home for abandoned children, is one of New York City’s largest social service agencies, providing a haven and support for at-risk children and families with multiple social, economic, medical and psychological needs.

In an effort to take the Foundling’s mission to a higher level through an educational component, the agency developed a partnership with the Mott Haven Charter Academy in Bronx, N.Y. The new facility, which was previously located across the street, moved into their new home in September of 2010.

The facility has been designed with sensitivity to the environment, featuring many green elements that are expected to earn it LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) “Gold” certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, the second highest level in the organization’s sustainability rating system.

These features include lighting fixtures with daylight sensors to cut down on electricity consumption, heavily insulated roofs and walls, recycled building materials, locally sourced materials, ceramic window glass etching that reduces interior heat gain and protruding sunshade devices on the facade that reduce the amount of direct sun hitting the building.

The project earned additional LEED credits for being located near public transportation and serving the dual functions of agency and school.

“The major challenges with this project were meeting the demands of a very aggressive project schedule while constantly searching for creative ways to reduce costs and bring the project in on budget,” said Giessen. “Considering those challenges, we are extremely pleased that the owner and project team remained committed to the overriding goals of achieving LEED Gold Certification.”

The project goal was to design a building that was consistent with the urban character of the neighborhood, while modifying the existing school structure with modern amenities and environmentally friendly components. The expansion consisted of adding three floors, a mechanical penthouse above the existing five-story masonry building and a two-story addition on an adjacent vacant lot .

The existing structure had to be significantly augmented to support the new addition and careful consideration had to be given to the method of construction given the very tight urban site constraints. A significant amount of glazing was incorporated into the existing and new building in order to flood the classrooms with natural light.

The design resulted in a 55,000-square-foot structure that blends new and old into a cohesive building that serves the educational and social needs of the community. The lower level consists of a cafeteria, a community multi-purpose room and a conference room. The first three floors are dedicated exclusively to classrooms and administrative space, including a rooftop play yard. The top three floors contain space for outreach and counseling. The fourth floor, which is devoted to health-related functions, provides facilities for community clinical programs serviced by New York Foundling, including medical and dental examination rooms and mental health consultation rooms. The health-related services are available for neighborhood children, as well as charter school students.

The result of Environetics’ design is a purposeful space that will continue New York Foundling’s mission to provide important social services and education for the children, families and members of the community who need it the most.

AIA-NJ announced a total of 11 design awards at the gala. For more information, please visit www.aia-nj.org

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