Inspiration Projects

The Net Zero Elementary School: Modeling Sustainability for Kids and Design Community

Maker: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM)

Challenge: Compared to other municipal buildings within New York’s five boroughs, schools account for 40% of emissions—amounting to a significant impact on the city’s carbon footprint.

Solution: SOM architects designed an energy efficient school on Staten Island, The Kathleen Grimm School for Leadership and Sustainability, which generates all of its own power from renewable on-site sources.  

“SOM optimized the orientation and massing of the courtyard-shaped building to take advantage of sunlight for both ample daylighting and photovoltaic arrays on the roof and south facade. Other sustainable and low-energy features incorporated in the design include an ultra-tight high-performance building envelope, daylit offset corridors, energy-efficient lighting fixtures, low-energy kitchen equipment, a greenhouse and vegetable garden, a geo-exchange system, energy recovery ventilators and demand-control ventilation, and a solar thermal system for hot water.” – SOM


  • An energy-use reduction of 50% compared to SCA standard public schools
  • Increased learning and awareness of energy efficiency practices by students and school staff
  • A model and inspiration for future net zero energy constructions—it’s the first net-zero-energy school in New York City and one of the first of its kind worldwide

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