Architects, NYC School Construction Authority complete first Passive House pre-kindergarten

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The New York City School Construction Authority (SCA) and CTA Architects P.C. (CTA) have completed the first-ever pre-Kindergarten built within a passive house building and designed to meet passive house standards in the U.S.

The preschool, UPK Q368 – also known as the Mosaic Pre-K Center at 54-25 101st Street – is situated near LeFrak City.

“The 4,700-square foot, three-classroom facility on the ground floor of the Senior Residence uses only one-eighth the amount of energy a typical pre-K of a similar size would use,” architect Craig Tooman said in a statement.

The structure houses a general office, a staff room, a parents/community room, an infirmary, a custodial space, a lobby, and a warming pantry equipped with a small kitchen area with a milk chest, a warming cabinet, and a connected food-storage room. There is also a 1,200-sq. ft. play yard only accessible by going through the pre-K.

UPK Q368 marks CTA’s ninth universal pre-K design for the SCA thus far. The SCA has been building universal pre-Kindergartens throughout the five boroughs. CTA’s universal pre-K work has varied from one-classroom schools to those with as many as 25 classrooms.

The passive house building housing UPK Q368 is the HANAC Corona Senior Residence, developed by HANAC, Inc. – the Hellenic American Neighborhood Action Committee. The HANAC Corona Senior Residence is expected to achieve Passive House Certification this summer, which will confirm it complies with environmentally forward Passive House Design standards.

Passive House Design requirements include 75 percent energy savings in comparison to typical properties as well as significant environmental benefits for the physical health, comfort, and overall well-being of those who reside in, work in, learn in, and/or visit this facility.

Tooman said that conforming to the passive house building’s reduced energy-consumption requirements was the team’s biggest challenge. “These types of ultra-energy efficient designs are becoming much more popular, both city-wide and worldwide. Passive house requirements go well beyond those of LEED-certified buildings – the energy consumption is much, much lower,” he said. The CTA team worked within a “super-insulated” building envelope to reduce energy consumption within the space.

Further, the pre-K space is connected to the base building’s energy-recovery system. CTA worked with its passive house consultant, YR&G New York (now WSP USA Inc.) – and the Association for Energy Affordability (AEA), the Passive House consultant for the base building – to incorporate the same systems and energy-efficient approach that the base building had.

A variable-refrigerant flow (VRF) condenser was installed on the roof of the HANAC building for the pre-K space, for example. “The mechanical systems are designed to keep the energy inside the envelope of the building, and to preheat or cool the fresh air supply. This not only lowers the energy load, but it maintains a much clean healthy environment,” Tooman said. The pre-K has a separate entrance from the senior center and uses the same triple-glazed storefront system.

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He said that CTA was able to determine that this particular pre-Kindergarten could operate with much lower energy consumption than a typical one, which include computer systems, demanding lighting systems, high plug loads, and extensive cooking facilities. Using all of these high-energy elements, the project would not have made the passive house requirements that limit the amount of energy used per square foot. Tooman emphasizes that this is the reason there are so few passive house schools – the energy load in a school is typically much higher than the energy load in a residence.

In addition to CTA, team members included Lilker Associates Consulting Engineers, PC, which served as mechanical engineers on the universal pre-K.

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