Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New Building for Poly Prep's Lower School 'Blends Old and New'

Addition Earns LEED Silver Certification, Awarded by Landmarks
Poly Prep Country Day School just became something for not only Brooklyn to brag about, but also New York State.

Poly — which has its middle and upper schools on its campus in Bay Ridge — recently built an addition to its lower school in Park Slope, earning the school a LEED silver certification and making it the first LEED-certified school in New York City and the first LEED-certified primary school in New York State. The expansion was also given a Lucy G. Moses Preservation award by the New York Landmarks Conservancy.

The lower school occupies the Hulbert Mansion at 50 Prospect Park West, which was built in 1882 as a double townhouse. Since the ’20s, the building was occupied by the Ethical Culture School, then the Woodward Park School. Poly Prep took over in 1995.

The new addition, completed in 2008, was undertaken to provide Poly’s Lower School with more classroom space and exercise rooms. It was designed by architects Platt Byard Dovell White.

Since Poly already had instilled green values in their students and a green curriculum throughout their schools, they decided to take on the addition to make it as eco-friendly as possible.

Green features of the expansion — built on a lot next to the original Hulbert Mansion — include a 31 percent reduction in water use, 308.4 tons of construction waste that were diverted from a landfill, and sealants, paints and carpet systems that are 100 percent low-VOC (volatile organic compound).

Each green feature gave Poly’s Lower School a certain number of LEED points. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a building rating system overseen by the U.S. Green Building Council, which gave the addition 34 LEED points, earning it a silver status.

It was also important for Poly to preserve the building’s historic features. “Historic preservation really is ecologically responsible,” said spokesperson Malcolm Farley.

The Landmarks Conservancy gave Poly Prep Lower school the Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award because of this commitment to preserving the historic character of the original building, as well as the neighborhood surrounding it.

While the addition is contemporary, the materials and colors used in it complement the Hulbert Mansion and the Park Slope Historic District.

Poly Prep Headmaster David Harman accepted the award at a ceremony that took place Monday night in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

“We’re thrilled to be the only school, the only educational facility that’s being honored tonight,” Harman told the Eagle.

He emphasized Poly’s commitment and leadership in the area of environmental responsibility. Indeed, children in the school as young as 4 learn about and study the environment.

Launa Schweizer, head of the lower school, said the students love learning about the environment. Her own children attend the lower school, and she said, “They’re always telling me about turning the lights off and not wasting water.”

About the new building, Schweizer said, “We’re very proud of it — the ability of the architects to blend the old and the new is really wonderful.”

The Lower School’s receipt of this award continues a Poly tradition. Two alumni are previous winners, and a Poly parent was the architect of another project to receive an award on Monday.

Photo courtesy of Poly Prep Country Day School

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