LocationPhiladelphia, PA, USA
Project TeamSusan Maxman, David Ade, Scott Ritchie, Amy Owen
Landscape ArchitectViridian Landscape Studio
Structural EngineeringCVM Engineers
Mechanical & Electrical EngineeringVanderweil Engineers
Civil EngineeringF.X. Browne
Lab Planning DesignHE+RA
ClientGermantown Friends School
Construction ManagerWolfe Scott Associates
Text description provided by the architects. Stewardship of the environment is an important part of the school’s educational mission; therefore, the building and site design embraces opportunities to demonstrate environmental responsibility. Throughout, the didactic green building is integrated with the school’s science pedagogy to create a facility that fosters independent thinking.
The landscaped central courtyard forms an active outdoor classroom surrounded by a series of planted raingardens. This raingarden system directs the path of the stormwater from its source at the roof downspouts and paved courtyard areas, along the cantilevered overhang, and through a series of nativelyplanted swales.
The skylit atrium is the heart of the project, where a building monitoring system puts sustainability on display for all to see. Here, students and visitors view the performance of the sustainability strategies in “real time” to contrast and compare electricity, water, and solar energy use.
Stormwater management was critical for the design of this urban site with best management practices used throughout. Located on a former brownfield, extensive remediation was required to address contaminants. Negotiating these conditions drove a site design that locates impervious parking to the interior of the site where stormwater was not allowed to infiltrate, while directing parking lot and roof runoff via swales into raingardens on clean portions of the site where recharge is possible.
The building is sited to maximize southern exposure into the classrooms, bridge a connection to the adjacent math department and create a shared courtyard framed by multiple raingardens. The geothermal well field is located in the driveway preserving space for future school expansion. Roof areas that are not directed to the raingardens supply two above-ground cisterns that provide the building with non-potable water for use at the water closets. Stormwater is also managed through vegetated roofs at two roof levels, the lower of which is directly accessible to students for outdoor seminars and experiments.
The six labs, two for each discipline, are paired around shared prep spaces to support collaboration among teachers and students. Biology is on the first floor with convenient access to the courtyard raingarden areas. For efficiency of systems, it shares mechanical infrastructure with Chemistry stacked directly above.
The Chemistry labs are located on the second floor to efficiently exhaust the fume hoods directly at the roof, thereby minimizing chase infrastructure and duct runs. The Physics labs, also at the second level, are cantilevered over the first floor glazed areas as a visible demonstration of the mechanics of structural design.
Bioclimatic design and energy efficiency informed the building section. A portion of the south-facing physics labs cantilever over the fullyglazed faculty offices below. Whereas regularly occupied class-room and office spaces are both heated and cooled by the geothermal system, the north-facing lobby and atrium space are only heated. A centrally located skylight/ atrium acts in conjunction with low operable windows to naturally ventilate the space, drawing cool air across the exposed concrete floors and through the skylight louvers.
The single-loaded circulation spaces are flooded with daylight and are organized around the naturally landscaped courtyard to visibly and physically connect students to the outdoors at all times. Tucked within the circulation spaces, study areas and conversation nooks are designed for informal discussions between students and teachers.
In the lab classrooms, where a replaceable floor surface is needed in case of chemical spills, rubber tiles provide a green alternative to traditional vinyl flooring. At the Chemistry classrooms, the rubber floor tile is laser cut into the Periodic Table of Elements as integrated educational tool.
Studio type layouts provide for lecture and lab areas within the same classroom while maximizing flexibility for the user. The shared prep areas between the Biology classrooms include interior borrowed light glazing for direct sightlines between spaces, as well as for student views to the laboratory equipment contained within.
Throughout the classroom interiors, large expanses of glazing provide for generous daylighting and visual connections to the surrounding campus and neighborhood. The exposed structural steel is a candid expression of the building construction, and in the Physics classrooms, it serves the dual purpose of providing for gravity and other types of mechanical experiments.
The design clearly articulates the facility’s program through its organization of classroom “building blocks” for Biology, Chemistry, and Physics with transparent glazing for the circulation spaces, meeting rooms and shared office areas.
Text provided by SMP Architects