What a LEED Gold School of the Future Looks Like

Oct. 30, 2018

New Jersey’s newest vocational magnet school is ready to train tomorrow’s leaders. Here’s how the project team created the gold standard for high school design.

The High Tech High School isn’t just a magnet school. It’s the training ground for tomorrow’s leaders in food, engineering, science and art.

The $150 million facility features more than 70 classrooms, labs and other learning spaces that will educate nearly 2,000 students in Secaucus, NJ.

(Photo: The campus sits on 20 acres in Secaucus, NJ.  Credit: ©2018 TomDrone)

It replaces Hudson County’s old, undersized North Bergen campus with a 20-acre setting named after Frank J. Gargiulo, the former superintendent of the Hudson County Schools of Technology.

(Photo: The campus was named after Frank J. Gargiulo, former superintendent of Hudson County Schools of Technology. Credit: Kate Glicksberg)

KAS Prep (an alternative high school) and Hudson Technical (a post-secondary certification program) also call the campus home, and soon Hudson County Community College will too.

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Here’s how the new campus will deliver hands-on learning and challenging academics for grades 9-12.

Cutting Edge Classrooms

The High Tech High School delivers on the promise of its name with state-of-the-art equipment for each of its four vocational academies: Culinary Arts, Design and Fabrication, Applied and Environmental Science, and Visual/Tech and Performing Arts.

(Photo: Classroom Shot - Credit: Kate Glicksberg)

The key features of the 350,000-square-foot space include:

- Fabrication lab, where students will explore spatial ideas by building models

- Black box theater that can seat 120 people

- 325-seat performing arts auditorium

TV production studio with a real control room

- 80-inch interactive monitors in place of chalkboards

- Hydroponic rooftop garden where students will grow food for the culinary kitchen lab

It also met the requirements for LEED Gold – a high benchmark, especially for a building with energy-intensive technology like fabrication equipment and TV production tools. Wind turbines on campus and geothermal heating in the buildings help offset the school’s energy consumption.

[See who else achieved GOLD certification]

(Photo: The culinary kitchen lab is a real, functioning commercial kitchen where students in the culinary track can hone their skills. Credit: Kate Glicksberg)

Green roofs like the school’s rooftop garden do double duty, serving as a stormwater barrier and as extra insulation to help keep conditioned air from escaping. The campus also benefits from water-efficient landscaping strategies that reduce its water waste.

(Photo: Renderings show what the schools hydroponics lab will look like once its plants sprout. The hydroponics lab will grow food for the culinary lab.)

Funding the High Tech High School

The Gargiulo campus was built in 27 months so that students could finish the 2018-2019 school year there, but the project was more than 10 years in the making.

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The school was built with state and county funds, and like any publicly funded project, it was important to the project team to deliver on the public’s investment.

Hudson County Schools of Technology first engaged RSC Architects to develop bridging documents, a useful option for complex projects that reins in costs by establishing bids early and continuing construction while the final design is completed.

(Photo: Interior View Bathrooms Credit: Kate Glicksberg)

The Hudson County Improvement Authority, a public agency charged with delivering services like project financing at the lowest possible cost to taxpayers, managed the design and construction process and opted for the design-build method, which saves money and increases accountability by using the same entity for both the design phase and the construction phase.

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The campus was also built on the former site of the prehistoric theme park Field Station: Dinosaurs, part of the county-owned Laurel Hill Park complex. Using county land meant the project team didn’t have to buy land from a private owner, which could potentially require a significant investment, though not renewing the lease for Field Station: Dinosaurs means some lost revenue for the county.

(Photo: Large panels on the wall showcase the school's commitment to its arts track.)

“The Frank J. Gargiulo Campus will quickly become the gold standard for technical high schools across the country,” explains Amy Lin-Rodriguez, acting superintendent of Hudson County Schools of Technology. “Our design team, working collaboratively with our educators, have created something truly revolutionary. I know that it will serve our students and staff with the resources to drive learning to the next level.”

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About the Author

Janelle Penny | Editor-in-Chief at BUILDINGS

Janelle Penny has more than a decade of experience in journalism, with a special emphasis on covering facilities management. She aims to deliver practical, actionable content for facilities professionals.

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