Lower Manhattan, the City’s fastest growing residential neighborhood, is facing a shortage of classroom space. To alleviate the shortfall, the City and the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) funded construction of a $77 million school at 55 Battery Park Place between 1st and 2nd Place.

Designed by New York-based Dattner Architects, the 8-story, 125,000-sq-ft P.S./I.S. 276 will serve 950 Pr-K-8 in 40 classrooms including 10 classrooms for special education students.

Construction of the school, one of the first built under the School Construction Authority’s Green School Guide, started in August 2008. Completion is slated for August 2010.

Fitting the program requirements for 950 K-8 students on the half-acre site, the last available parcel in Battery Park City (BPC), proved challenging. “If you have a program of 125,000 sq ft and a site of about 25,000-sq ft your building is going to get vertical,” says Sebastian Crociata, SCA design manager.

The task was complicated by an aggressive schedule with a rapid design and documentation period of just 9 months. “In order to make that happen it pretty much has to be as-of-right in terms of zoning,” explains Daniel Heuberger, principal at Dattner. “We struggled to find every little bit of useable space we could in this project within that zoning envelope.”

The vertical campus is composed of an 8-story tower with a two-story base. The base abuts the 35-story Millennium Towers condominium, located to the east of the property. The school’s tower is setback (to the west) from the residential tower.

The stacking plan places the elementary grades on the first through fourth floors, akin to a conventional 4-story school. Middle school students occupy the 7th and 8th floors. Shared spaces, such as the cafeteria, library, art, science and music rooms are in the middle.

The base houses administrative offices and double-height spaces such as the 5,400-sq-ft gymnasium and the 4,500-sq.-ft. auditorium. A 10,000-sq-ft outdoor play yard is located on the pedestal’s roof between the residential building and the school’s tower.

Placing shared spaces on the middle floors minimizes vertical circulation needed over the course of a day, Heuberger explains. “This is still a stair-based school. Elevators will be used sparingly and strategically.”

Elementary students will use the steps to get to their classrooms, as they would in a typical 4-story school. Three high capacity elevators will carry middle school children express to the top floor where they will trickle down to their classrooms. Special needs children, some wheelchair bound, and the pre-kindergarten students will also use the elevators.

Apart from arrival times, elevators will take middle school students to the gymnasium and auditorium during the day. At the end of the day all students will walk down the stairs, located at the corners of the building, to exit the school.

“We designed the stairs to have lots of windows and daylighting so they are very inviting places,” Heuberger says.

Sustainable Design The school was required to meet both the SCA’s and Battery Park City’s green guidelines.

Standard features under the SCA guidelines include a highly insulated envelope, high performance glazing, daylighting, a highly efficient mechanical plant, CO2 sensors, enhanced indoor air quality with mold-resistant and low VOC emitting materials and sustainable materials.

Enhanced features, some required by BPCA and others implemented by the SCA under a pilot program, are additional daylight sensors in the classrooms, solar shading on large spaces such as the library and art room, increased recyclable and renewable material content, heat recovery in large spaces like the auditorium and a 60kw photovoltaic array covering half the roof.

The PV array serves two purposes, Heuberger explains. “It generates free energy for the building and it covers all the mechanical equipment on the roof so the apartments units looking down on the roof will not see the equipment.” On a typical day the array will handle one-half to two-thirds of the facility’s lighting load.

Sustainable design elements are expected to reduce energy costs by more than 20 percent, not including the PV array, and cut water usage by 42 percent, Crociata says. About 85 percent of the construction waste generated by the project is recycled.

An educational signage system will point out and explain sustainable building features to students and be integrated into the curriculum, explains Bruce Barrett, SCA vice president of architecture and engineering. Data generated by the PV arrays and building metrics, such as energy and water consumption, will be available on the school’s internet and through a user friendly interface in the lobby.

Construction The building sits on a structural slab supported by grade beams atop 192 piles. Beneath the slab is a sub-slab depressurization system, now standard on all SCA projects, preventing gases from any trace element in the soil from entering the building, Crociata explains. Any accumulated gases are collected and expelled at the roof.