48_305/640 | Advanced Construction Studio | S19

Semester Project | A Pittsburgh Environmental Charter School (ECS) for Grades 6/7/8

Last Updated on 2019.01.13 by slee

Last semester you studied the ecological flows on Six Mile Island in the Allegheny River. This semester, the Advanced Construction Studio (ACS) faculty will expand upon those skills and abilities related to ecological flows to study the six different neighborhood sites you have been assigned and how they inform the architecture of the proposed Environmental Charter School. The fall semester looked at issues holistically for a very large site with the design of eco-machines and multiple housing units, while this semester we will zoom in to a site of less than an acre and a single school building of approximately 30,000 sf. The notion of systems thinking that you engaged in the study of ecological flows, will be extended to spatial systems, structural systems, enclosure systems, material systems and construction systems for this building.

The six (6) neighborhoods are:

There is a growing interest in the United States in applying project-based learning to K-12 education. The concept of project-based learning is derived from the principles of design thinking and the architecture studio. Many of the newly emerging schools based on this concept are directly engaging the act of making and "tinkering" as a focus to the program to enable learning on all subjects from history to language arts to science to mathematics. It is widely recognized that embracing the creative arts synergistically enables holistic learning above and beyond studying subjects in isolation -- from STEM to STEAM.

One approach to enable this type of learning is the creation of a charter school. From the PA Department of Education website, "Charter schools were created to provide opportunities for teachers, parents, students and community members to establish and maintain schools that operate independently from the existing school district structure as a method to accomplish the following: improve student learning; increase learning opportunities for all students; encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods; create new professional opportunities for teachers; provide parents and students with expanded choices in the types of educational opportunities that are available within the public school system; and be accountable for meeting measurable academic standards."

This semester we have the opportunity to work together with the leadership, teachers and students of the Environmental Charter School (ECS) in Pittsburgh to explore concepts for the design of their next generation of middle schools. You are being asked to prototype a charter middle school for 6th to 8th graders based on their four Guiding Principles and on their Practices. A fundamental aspect of ECS is to teach ecological literacy. To this end, students and teachers must be provided the opportunity to actively engage in the operation of the building - from passive strategies to active strategies to measuring and verification of performance.

To emphasize the importance of placemaking in building community, each of the five studios will be working in a distinct neighborhood. Each of you will become intimately knowledgeable about your neighborhood - history, demographics, assets, liabilities, micro-climate, transportation, etc.

Demonstrate how the ECS vision for the future of middle schools is fulfilled through the development of a comprehensive architecture proposal this semester.



Sustainable: The building must demonstrate high levels of performance.

Incorporate effective passive strategies in the design - load reduction, daylight, natural ventilation, other.Calculate and/or model performance. Use CBECS as benchmark.
Identify the type of mechanical systems that are suitable to condition the building - heating, cooling, ventilating & lighting **Calculate and/or model performance. Use CBECS as benchmark. **
Identify the opportunities to generate energy on site - sun, wind, biomass, other.Calculate annual production.
Integrate passive systems with spatial, structural, enclosure & material systems.Diagram building systems integration
Control solar radiation, heat flow, airflow, rain penetration & water vapor flow through the design of the envelope system(s).Design wall sections based on building science (SPAIGR).Calculate and/or model performance.
Retain all rainwater falling on the site on site. **Diagram systems; Calculate of amount of precipitation to be captured and volume of containment.
Recycle, process and separate solid waste on site. **Diagram systems; Calculate of amount of waste to be captured.
Compost all organic waste on site. **Diagram systems; Calculate of amount of waste to be captured.

Contextual: Enable community access and joint use of facilities to engage the neighborhood.

Environmental ContextReduce impermeable surface below 50% and increase tree canopy to 40%.
Architectural Context ** Improve neighborhood identity; reinforce neighborhood character; eliminate weak spots.
Social Context **Design building to recognizable as school; public entrance is legible; exterior spaces are "claimed"; building offers natural surveillance; building is not "hardened" architecture

Flexible: The building must be able to support spatial change over time.

The ability to re-arrange/re-configure spaces and F,F & E to accommodate differing lesson plans and changing demographics.Prepare multiple plans showing alternative arrangements & uses

Adaptable: The building must be able to support technological change over time.

The ability to constantly upgrade and accommodate the technological infrastructure of the building (plug-n-play) minimizing disruption, waste and lengthy construction cycles. **Prepare infrastructure system diagrams.

Healthy, Inspiring & Conducive to Effective Learning: The building must demonstrate the ECS Prinicples and Practices

HealthyDemonstrate daylighting, natural ventilation, IEQ, active circulation systems, healthy materials.
InspiringCreate renders to demonstrate experiential attributes of interior & exterior spaces.
Conducive to Effective LearningDemonstrate translation of pedagogy to spatial strategies.

Ecological Literacy: The building itself must be an effective tool for teaching - a living, lived-in laboratory.

The operation of the building must be understandable and accessible to the faculty, staff and students.Demonstrate climate-responsive building envelope; display building systems showing full-cycle design; install monitors showing real-time use/production of energy, water collection, etc; include gardens for learning


Whilst this table contains unquestionably important architectural objectives for all buildings, the ones marked ** are beyond the scope of a one semester studio.

Architectural Program

Environmental Charter School (ECS) Building Program: approximately 25,000 net sf +/- 25% of net for lobby, horizontal and vertical circulation, etc. + site development as described below.

Minimum Floor Area Ratio (FAR) = 2.00. (Pittsburgh Zoning Ordinance: 925.04 - Floor area ratio (FAR) refers to the amount of gross floor area of all principal buildings on a lot divided by the total area of the lot on which such buildings are located.)

Preliminary List of Rooms and Spaces: