Situated in the heart of Stamford, this landscape immerses students in fields of native wildflowers and grasses with stormwater stream inlets throughout the site. The City and its Board of Education transformed a 13- acre brownfield site into an inspiring educational facility for the district and immediate residential neighborhood. The resulting design creates a vibrant sense of place and demonstrates ecological stewardship through its four prominent environmental demonstration components: a large intensive green roof for educational use; a rain garden demonstrating the natural filtration process; a rain and stormwater collection system; and wind turbine demonstrating ‘free energy’. The organization of space focuses the interiors to the natural exterior environment, making the facility and surrounding landscape a tangible and dynamic part of the environmental curriculum.
The municipality purchased the 13-acre site with an existing 119,000 sq. ft. structure. As the structure was unsuitable for the new program, the team evaluated ways the demolition debris from the existing building could be reused on site, diverting materials from landfills and reducing project costs. The foundation was retained and used to house mechanical rooms and underground rain-water storage below the new building. Two-thirds of the material from the demolition was reused either as a sub-base for on-site paved areas or was crushed onsite and reused for fill in the foundation walls of the school.
The concept for the plan was inspired by hydrological systems, the topography and the school’s environmental curriculum. The building and roof garden are built into the natural drumlin on site which is the highest point in the city. The design creates a continuous connection in the form of a large green roof above the gymnasium, auditorium, cafeteria and support spaces. As the knoll is the highest point of land, a tower with a wind turbine houses a weather station folly and provides a view of the not-so-distant coastal waters.
Storm water runoff and rainwater are captured from all impervious surfaces in the landscape and the roof and stored in the salvaged foundation, and then filtered in the prominently located demonstration rain garden. The filtered storm water is used as irrigation for the green roof which covers 50% of the school’s footprint. The native plantings were selected for their minimal irrigation needs. Irrigation of the green roof utilizes moisture sensors, rain shut-offs and weather based evapo-transpiration controllers. In addition to the reduction of site irrigation, the design employs water saving features: bathrooms and locker rooms use 0.5 gpm faucets, dual flush toilets, waterless urinals, and 1.8 gpm showerheads. All of these fixtures reduce water demand by about 40%.
Designed as an outdoor classroom, the centerpiece of the Environmental Magnet School is the constructed stream and wetland. Boardwalks and pathways allow students to walk through a functioning water system on their way to their classes. Constructed within the former building foundation, the created water feature collects all stormwater from the schools parking lots and building rooftops. The foundation was lined with an impermeable liner and filled with washed crushed stone and perforated pipes to create a stormwater “reservoir” below the stream/wetland area. Pre-treated stormwater from the site (using a rain garden and manufactured treatment device) and from the building rooftops are directed to the wetland where it is transpired by the plants or percolated through the planting media to the stormwater reservoir below. The wetland area also provides stormwater quality treatment through absorption and filtration. Rainwater stored in the reservoir is pumped into the building where it is disinfected and re-circulated to the stream channel that meanders through the wetland. Water is again captured at the downstream end of the stream channel and directed to the stormwater reservoir below. Water stored in the reservoir is also reused for irrigation and building toilet flushing. The stormwater reservoir is designed with an outlet control structure that conveys treated, excess stormwater to the City storm drain system.
The stormwater management strategy for the Stamford Environmental Magnet School was designed to meet several goals. First, the project was designed to meet the LEED™ Rating System’s stormwater credits to reduce the peak rate and volume of stormwater runoff for the 1- and 2-year storm events and provide water quality treatment for all impervious surfaces within the project limits. Second, the stormwater management strategy was also designed to contribute to the project’s water conservation goals by harvesting and reusing rainwater, instead of using potable water for non-potable water needs. And finally, the project was designed to demonstrate water as a valuable resource by cleansing and re-circulating it through and outdoor wetland learning laboratory.
The gymnasium, located on the west side of the site, serves as a platform for an intensive green roof. Mimicking the knoll to the north, a natural drumlin, the undulating form and plantings connects the roof garden to the surroundings. The green roof is divided into planting areas specifically attracting different native species of butterflies and birds. Pathways and small terraces allow for classroom space and a small experimental field station with a wind turbine and weather station provides students with interactive experiences.
The landscape architect worked closely with the Architect and design team to develop a fully integrated sustainable and regenerative project. The project establishes a series of outdoor classrooms and gathering space which encourages layering of programmed and free activities.
Landscape Architecture: Mikyoung Kim
Project Title: Rogers Environmental Studies Magnet School
Location: Stamford, CT
Type: Educational Campus
Owner/Client: Stamford Public Schools
Photographer: Paul Warchol Photography