Building Green for Education

The Carlstadt Public School — designed for students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade – became the first K-8 school in New Jersey to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for efficient energy use, lighting, water, and material use, as well as incorporating a variety of other sustainable strategies.

While other schools in the state have achieved LEED certification, Carlstadt is unique because of the partnership that was formed to get the new school construction project underway. The architectural firm, DMR, worked with town officials and the public to educate them on the advantages of building green — both the tangible benefits of lower operating costs and more efficient systems and the intangible benefits of happier and healthier students. The school stakeholders, as well as architects and engineers, made an explicit commitment to high-performance design before any work even began.

The Carlstadt Public School stands on the site where Lindbergh School was built in 1932. For 75 years, the physical building remained largely untouched and became too small for the district’s growing student population and the demands of a changing curriculum. But the district could not pass a referendum to secure money for new construction. While there was a recognized need for a new school, the stakeholders in the district wanted to ensure that a new building would be able to accommodate multiple generations of students without having to undergo major renovations.

DMR worked closely with the Carlstadt Board of Education, New Jersey Department of Education, New Jersey School Board Association, district administrators, Carlstadt Elementary School staff, and the local community to achieve a successful $28.6M referendum to finance the project — the fourth referendum attempt for the district and nearly double the cost of previous tries.

But the new Carlstadt school — which serves 520 students, houses 41 classrooms, and includes an auditorium, cafeteria, media center, and two full gymnasiums — has a greater value and lower maintenance costs than other designs that were previously presented. Building green translated to a 30 percent reduction in water and energy consumption for the school district. Every component of the building — from low-flow water fixtures to the energy efficient heating and cooling system — was selected to perform as efficiently as possible.

Efficiency was sought at every phase of construction. The majority of the school’s steel and cast iron pipes were made from recycled metal, as are the building’s carpets, concrete masonry blocks, and gypsum board. The wood used in construction was purchased from Forest Stewardship certified vendors, meaning that the wood was harvested in a way that helps conserve natural forests. More than half of all materials used at the school were purchased within a 500-mile radius, further reducing the energy required to construct the building.

The school board had very specific requirements for lighting levels, air quality, and acoustic levels in addition to the programming requirements of classrooms, gym, therapy rooms, and a pool. Developing those requirements in conjunction with energy efficient systems required the cooperation of the entire design team — not just the architects and engineers, but also contractors and landscapers.

The end result of this multi-year project was that students at Carlstadt moved from a very old and outdated building to a new, state-of-the-art school that goes beyond creating a space for education. The building itself functions as a learning tool with preferred parking spots for teachers who carpool and educational signs describing the sustainable features of the building located in strategic places throughout the building.

DMR continues to help educate the public on the benefits of building green by speaking to elementary classes about the many environmentally friendly features of the building. DMR founder Lloyd Rosenberg has expanded his environmental services, forming Green Economics Inc., a professional environmental consulting firm, to advise and counsel the construction industry and business world on the benefits of green design, renovation, and construction.

Patrick A. LaCorte is senior vice president and principal, and Pradeep Kapoor is project manager and LEED AP, at DMR Architects, Hasbrouck Heights, NJ. For more information, please visit