Environmental Charter School Transforms Vacant Building into Sustainable Middle School

Current and former students of The Environmental Charter School (ECS) joined community members and Mayor Bill Peduto to unveil their new middle school, built out of the historic James E. Rogers Building in Garfield.

The school is centered around sustainability for both students and environment, meaning the building, completed in 1914, required extensive reconstruction to both the interior and exterior of the formerly abandoned structure. Partners from Wildman Chalmers Design Architects and Interiors, East End Development Corporation, and PJ Dick made the wide-ranging upgrades and were present for the official opening.

Mayor Peduto was quick to lend his support to the new school saying, “If we respect our past and we build for our future, this building represents both of those things.”

Building for the future means applying more sustainable features. The school runs on efficient water and energy systems, uses a smart HVAC system, and boasts multiple outdoor greenspaces.

“As more kids come in, the building breathes, adjusting to maintain constant temperature throughout,” ECS CEO Jon McCann said.

Biophilic elements like natural light and exceptional air filtration systems were built into the school’s design from the earliest planning stages.

“Green building protects the environment, but more importantly, it improves our children’s health,” McCann added.

In addition to its sustainability upgrades, the school also includes programmatic features like a parent resource room, full nurse and student suites, and a new mom’s room for teachers and parents alike. The school’s café was designed with an open, multi-level concept that can double as a community meeting space.

“We designed the space with green features and attention to student support,” said ECS Chief Innovation and Outreach Officer Nikole Sheaffer.

The ECS Middle School opened for the school year on August 21. It currently hosts grades six to eight with plans of adding ninth grade students in Fall 2020. The charter school is planning on adding a grade each year to eventually accommodate grades K-12.

“The future is in building green, the future is in buildings like this,” Mayor Peduto said.

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