Introducing the AIA New Jersey Safe Schools Task Force Co-Chair Jeanne Perantoni, AIA

March 28, 2024

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Introducing the AIA New Jersey Safe Schools Task Force Co-Chair Jeanne Perantoni, AIA

Jeanne Perantoni, AIA, has co-chaired the AIA NJ Safe Schools Task Force since it was formed by 2023 President Ronald Weston, AIA, last January. Uniquely poised for this responsibility, Ms. Perantoni has demonstrated nearly half a century of revolutionary school design, which she continues to drive forward, evolving with technology, social trends, materials, safety, health and wellness crises, environmental systems, and more.   

Weston states, “The Safe Schools Design Task Force was formed to create, gather, and share K-12 school planning and design best practices and resources with various stakeholders across New Jersey, addressing the most critical and evolving topics in school health, safety, and wellness.” A dedicated website is available HERE to focus on the content created to address the timely and important topic of designing safe and welcoming schools in New Jersey. We aim to share best practices to help local communities meet their schools’ needs. NJ Architects’ strategies for designing and renovating schools seek to protect building occupants and create highly successful learning environments through innovative design solutions integrated with safety systems, physical security, and wellness practices.

As the CEO of New Jersey’s oldest architect firm, SSP Architects, Jeanne Perantoni, AIA, has guided this long-time woman-owned business to greater heights by expanding its architectural design impact throughout New Jersey. During her 15-year tenure as CEO and a career at SSP spanning over 40 years, she has partnered with her fellow Principals and firm team members that she has mentored to bring to fruition thousands of projects and policies that have benefited the state. This includes projects in the commercial, government, educational, financial, non-profit, healthcare, and public sectors.

A Pioneer in Public Sector Master Planning Jeanne’s expertise lies in facility master planning, where she excels at facilitating the process and solving often disparate architectural and programmatic challenges. In the early 2000s, she pioneered the introduction of facility master planning to the public sector and led the way in adapting private sector master planning techniques, primarily for New Jersey’s K-12 and higher education institutions.

In 2005, she developed the state’s first public school facility master plan for the Vineland school district. This served as a model for the state’s requirement implemented a few years later that all New Jersey districts must produce a 5-year facilities master plan. This has been a
major impetus for the state’s emphasis on having adequate educational space in each district to keep the student-teacher ratio rates among the best in the nation.

Jeanne shines when working with large groups of diverse individuals. She helps drive the process of developing a unified group consensus and, ultimately, an implementation plan of action. 

Jeanne’s efforts in this area have led to national recognition as an Accredited Learning Environment Planner (ALEP), one of the first three individuals to achieve this designation in New Jersey and one of only 194 worldwide.

Jeanne applies her process to facilities projects of all types, from small school districts to multi-site college campuses to corporate buildouts.  Her ability to delve down into each project’s nuances and understand the unique operations of each affected building or campus is

Significant Professional Accomplishments
During her years as a leader of SSP Architects – now in its 132nd year of operation – she has always emphasized the importance of the firm being at the forefront of architectural design innovation in the state. This is particularly the case in the K-12 planning and design arena, where the firm’s master facility planning initiatives led to many firsts, including being:

  • First in community design for the Bayonne Midtown Community Elementary School.
  • First designing a LEED Platinum and Green Ribbon School for the Neptune Township Midtown Community School.
  • First in the state to have a public education design/build project for the Neptune Township Summerfield Elementary School.
  • First in developing a Highlands area school project for the Allamuchy Primary School at Villa Madonna.

She has driven forward the firm’s reputation as a statewide leader in “green” school design and construction of “high performance” school buildings. Jeanne and the firm, headquartered in Somerville, NJ, have become recognized statewide for design of K-12 educational facilities that feature “Green Design” concepts and smart growth principles.

Leading the Way for Women Architects
Jeanne grew up in the business, having an architect for a father.  As a young child, she and her brother would tag along to his construction sites (a practice no longer followed, of course). This gave her the impetus to become a woman pioneer in the architecture field – becoming a registered architect in 1984 when less than two percent of registered architects in New Jersey were women.

She earned her A.B. in Architecture from Princeton University and her MA in Architecture from Rice University. Her volunteer work includes being a Trustee of Raritan Valley Community College, serving on the Board of Directors of AIA New Jersey – NJ Society of Architects, and being on the Advisory Board of Hillier College of Architecture and Design at New Jersey Institute of Technology. Her pioneering work in community school planning won the Governor’s office recognition as the model for integrating high-performance features and advanced technology with essential community functions.

Never content to rest on her laurels, during a recent interview, Jeanne said she had been stimulated to renew her design approach and respond to the call for greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in the planning of built environments. Her focus has shifted to creating forms
which ensure that buildings are fully accessible and relatable to all types of people in the world.

She noted that her expanded design vocabulary to meet the growing call for sustainable and “greener” building environments now includes expressing the indigenous use of natural materials and biophilic features.

Jeanne said, “It is especially refreshing to work with younger designers who are bringing new technological skills to the table, fostering greater collaborations between our A/E teams and clients. This has made the entire design-build process more exciting, resonant, and responsive –leading to better outcomes and solutions.”

Honors and Awards
Awards she has received include the Council of Educational Facility Planners’ Outstanding Achievement Award for her work with New Jersey school districts, the NJBIZ Icon Honors Award in 2023 and its Best 50 Women in Business Award in 2006 – the same year she was honored as one of “Somerset County’s Outstanding Women.” Four of her K 12 school projects have received “Excellence in Design” citations and been published in the National School Boards Association Journal, Learning by Design, and attained LEED Platinum certification.

She received a Somerset County Planning Award for her work on the 25-year facilities master plan for Raritan Valley Community College, completed in 2003.

Perhaps her greatest achievement is being the proud mother of two sons. In a reversal of the typical, she has followed in their footsteps by recently taking up rowing, a sport that her oldest son enjoyed in college.  Jeanne has always enjoyed the water, having been a swimmer
since college, she has participated in rowing competitions throughout the northeast over the last several years.

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