New York City-based CTA Architects’ sustainable renovation and expansion of the Bronx Charter School for Excellence (also known as Bronx 1) has earned the high-performing school LEED Silver certification. In addition to renovating an existing 10,000-square-foot, two-story building, the architects added a new seven-story, 35,000-square-foot tower, a 4,500-square-foot, two-story annex and a 4,7850-square-foot, double-height gymnasium to better accommodate the charter school’s growing student enrollment. Local sourcing, recycled materials and energy-efficient fixtures were all incorporated to help the school achieve LEED Silver while staying within a relatively modest construction budget.

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school lunchroom with picnic tables, blue floors and a wall of glass

Located at 1952-1960 Benedict Avenue in the Parkchester neighborhood, the Bronx Charter School for Excellence serves over 800 students from kindergarten to eighth grade. The renovated existing building — a two-story, brick-clad, wood-and-steel structure — as well as the new two-story annex are used primarily by the younger students, while the middle school-age students use the new seven-story tower. Eighteen classrooms were added to the new tower and five in the two-story annex to bring the school’s total to 35 classrooms.

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classroom with desks and large windows

In addition to expanding the building’s footprint and making several layout changes, the architects optimized the school’s energy efficiency. Low-flow bathrooms and LEDs reduce energy use, as does the emphasis on daylighting through large expanses of glazing that are shielded from unwanted solar gain by a sunshade system on the south elevation. Recycled and low-carbon materials are used throughout, from the recycled content poured-concrete floor in the lobby to the FSC-certified wood floors in the gymnasium.

lofted area above a school gymnasium

Bronx 1 has also earned LEED points for integrating LEED sustainability concepts into its teaching curriculum. For example, kindergarten students will be taught to collect old crayons and melt them into new ones in a lesson about recycling. Sixth graders will grow herbs indoors that will be used by eighth graders in cooking projects to learn the benefits of home gardening and the farm-to-table movement. 

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Photography by Edward Menashy and Pericle Gheorghias via CTA Architects