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

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

SOM Net Zero school

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.

SOM Net Zero school

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.

SOM Net Zero school

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

SOM Net Zero 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.

SOM Net Zero school

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

SOM Net Zero school

"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.

SOM Net Zero school

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

SOM Net Zero school

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.

SOM Net Zero school

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.

SOM Net Zero school

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 Net Zero school

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.

Photography is by James Ewing/OTTO. Aerial photograph is by Stark Video Inc/Aerial New York.

  • spadestick

    Let me guess, Common Core and Google combined into a Z-combinator format?

  • greenish

    What a fantastic example to set. I’d so love to send my kids there.