The Kensington Creative and Performing Arts High School (KCAPA) is part of a much larger commitment to sustainable change in Philadelphia. Located on a former brownfield site, the high school is educating and encouraging students as well as the surrounding community. SMP Architects in collaboration with SRK Architects designed and built the school to create a positive and encouraging space in which to learn and it features a number of energy efficient and healthy strategies to reduce the building's impact. Students and members of the community have a chance to engage and learn from its sustainable strategies like daylighting, rainwater collection, green roofs, gardening and much more.
KCAPA’s new school is located on a challenging, long, narrow, north-south oriented site, directly next to the elevated transit line. Previously known as a haven for the homeless, drug activity and wild dogs, the site was a blight until the school district took it over and transformed it with an inspiring new building. SMP Architects had their work cut out for them to maximize daylight inside the classrooms, minimize noise from the train line and eliminate any stormwater runoff from the site. To achieve this, windows are largely placed away from the train line, skylights work to bring more light in and shading or glass fritting controls solar heat gain. A ground coupled heating and cooling system along with occupancy sensors provides very energy efficient climate control. A pv system is slated for installation on the roof and once installed will bring the school close to being net zero.
To meet the restrictions of the city water department for stormwater runoff, SMP designed a series of rain gardens, permeable paving and green roofs to soak up the water. Because of their green infused design, the firm was able to save the school a considerable amount of money for not having a stormwater bill or penalty assessments. A school garden provides space for students to grow and learn about food. Designed for durability and a long life, the school is also flexible for future uses and expansions if necessary. Small building footprints, the use of locally sourced materials and healthy and non-toxic materials further reduce the facility’s impact.
Since KCAPA moved into their new building in 2010 it has become a source of inspiration for the community. A number of workshops have been held in the school to teach area residents about rainwater barrel construction, weatherstripping, recycling and more. The gardens and green roofs provide much needed open space in the neighborhood and new habitats for wildlife.
Images ©Halkin Photography