Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the King Open/Cambridge Street Upper Schools and Community Complex recently won a coveted honor in the sustainable design category from the 2020 Boston Society for Architecture Design Awards. The complex is the first in the state to gain both Net Zero Emissions and LEED v4 Platinum designations, and it uses 43% less energy than the average local school and 70% less than the average United States school.

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People milling around in front of a building with a wood-accented roof and windowed facade.

Composed of multiple green and open spaces as well as five playgrounds to accommodate K-5 and 6-8 students, the $159 million complex spans 270,000 square feet. Headed by William Rawn Associates and Architecture with Arrowstreet, the project includes facilities for an elementary school, middle school, administration, preschool, afterschool, library, pool, human services programs and a parking garage.

A streetview of a building with a wood-accented, curved roof and windowed facade.

Related: Modular Tree-House School concept connects kids with nature

“The project successfully leverages many sustainable tools and strategies: geothermal wells, great expanses of photovoltaic on all of the roof real estate; the smart use of an urban site,” said the award jury for the Sustainable Design Awards. “In addition to the design team’s masterful design, the City of Cambridge deserves recognition for its investment in an ambitious project that sets the bar for future schools and libraries.” The project is 100% electric and welcomes both students and the public to help promote community fellowship.

A wood-accented roof and windowed facade next to a building with a red facade.

The buildings themselves are characterized by colorful ombre tones and large glass windows, while rooftops and facades are covered in 3,600 PV solar panels. The library is composed almost entirely of floor-to-ceiling windows and wood, and there is over an acre of open outdoor space. Apart from the solar panels, exterior sustainability features include sunshades, bioswale bridges and a hand-pumped rain garden. Inside, an exposed water reuse system is on display for student educational purposes, as well as daylight controls and heating/cooling elements.

+ William Rawn Associates

+ Arrowstreet

Photography by Robert Benson