“Five Minutes With…” Jon Cicconi, Associate Director at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill – architects of The Kathleen Grimm School for Leadership and Sustainability at Sandy Ground, winner of the 2017 ULI NY Awards for Excellence in Institutional Development.
In your opinion, what distinguishing features contributed to your project’s selection?
The Kathleen Grimm School for Leadership and Sustainability at Sandy Ground is a net-zero-energy facility that serves as a prototype for future New York City public school buildings. In order to achieve this new standard for energy performance, we had to invent a process that included a high level of collaboration from the early stages of the design. The planning process involved many stakeholders in the project, including educators, principals, students, and parents. Much of the energy savings was a byproduct of a full analysis of school practices by the designers at SOM, the MEP engineers at AKF Group, and the sustainability and net zero consultants at In:Posse, along with project stakeholders that included the New York City School Construction Authority (SCA), the Division of School Facilities, School Food, and the New York City Department of Education.
What is one positive lesson your team gained during the project’s development?
Innovative solutions evolved out of our inclusive design process, which are now being incorporated into the SCA’s schools’ guide as standards for future projects. Our team brainstormed a wide range of solutions, from providing shared printer facilities between classrooms to designing a larger, more accommodating teachers’ lounge to discourage the overuse of electricity at teachers’ desks. As another example, a partnership with School Food allowed for kitchen equipment and practices to be modified, which will result in a 24% decrease in consumed energy.
What is one challenge your team overcame during the project’s development?
How did you overcome the challenge? We knew that the faculty, staff, students, and visitors of the school would need to take an active role in reducing energy consumption to help achieve the net-zero-energy target. The challenge during the design process was to anticipate energy use of future occupants when we did not know exactly who those faculty, staff, students, or visitors would be. To overcome this challenge, our team did a full analysis of school practices with project stakeholders, and also included features like custom-designed dashboards by Pentagram to engage the occupants with the energy process. The dashboard’s instant feedback allows for both impromptu lessons and school-wide reduction competitions. These dashboards are designed for kids to understand and provide a key educational opportunity for students and faculty to learn from energy management strategies.