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The Philadelphia School's innovative expansion earns LEED Silver rating

When The Philadelphia School (TPS) opened its brand new Ellen Schwartz and Jeremy Siegel Early Childhood Education Center at 2501 South Street last September, the project received praise for transforming a neighborhood eyesore into a multipurpose space for students and community gatherings. The hype was channeled mostly towards the building's concept -- a country classroom in the city -- but now, after earning a LEED Silver rating, the project has solidified its sustainability bonafides.
TPS, a K-8 educational institution, was founded in 1976 in an old pie factory at 2501 Lombard Street. Local parents were concerned about families fleeing the city for better education opportunities elsewhere. Since then, the school has grown in leaps and bounds, expanding into the entire pie factory.
In the late 2000s, still in need of space, TPS looked to an adjacent South Street property with aspirations of creating an education campus for up to 450 students. Now complete, the Schwartz Siegel Building houses four ground-floor classrooms, two for preschool and two for kindergarten.
"The new campus is a physical translation of the school's progressive education philosophies," explains Tom Purdy of Purdy O’Gwynn Architects, the firm behind the design.
The campus features a 3,100-square-foot eco-friendly school garden, outdoor play spaces that are easily accessible from the classrooms, flexible-use L-shaped classrooms, working gardens, porches to bridge the gap between inside and out, a shared art room and lots of natural light.
"We feel we produced a really nice building," says Purdy. "We wanted to be a good neighbor, but still create something clearly different and modern."
Construction managers Wolfe Scott & Associates didn’t stop there with smart design principles. The school's sustainable strategies include a large stormwater retention basin under the parking lot, geothermal wells beneath the gardens that heat and cool the building, recycled and regional material usage and stringent waste management practices.
: Tom Purdy, Purdy O'Gwynn Architects
Writer: Greg Meckstroth
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