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Germantown Sustainable Urban Science Center

Architects: SMP Architects | Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA | Project Year: 2009 | Project Area: 16,400 square feet

Germantown Sustainable Urban Science Center is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and was designed to be a living laboratory. Embracing sustainability, their  science lab demonstrates a myriad of green building strategies including green roofs, solar power, daylighting, rainwater harvesting, efficient mechanical systems and geothermal exchange.

Extensive remediation of the site was required in order to bring it up to acceptable standards. However, even following the remediation, there were areas that had to be capped to eliminate the chance of water infiltrating down through the ground. An impervious parking lot and the building were located in those areas, while the other areas that could accept infiltration were planted with lush gardens. The site’s location was planned to maximize sunlight in classrooms, and the building itself forms a courtyard around the gardens.

SMP Architects, the firm that designed the building, looked for every possible way to reduce the use of artificial light and mechanical ventilation. A geothermal exchange system below the building and driveway provides energy efficient heating and cooling for the labs, offices and classrooms. Green roofs allow stormwater management and also create extra space to hold class or perform experiments. Any rainwater that isn’t filtrated through the swales and rain gardens is collected by two cisterns in the courtyard and used for toilets.

Electricity is generated for the building using a rooftop photovoltaic system and a real-time display in the skylit atrium provides information on energy use and generation, along with building statistics. Students not only have the opportunity to learn about the world, the environment and science while in class, but they also have the chance to see sustainability in action.

Interested in finding out more? Read the Case Study on this building.

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