In 2015, the City of Cambridge took the extraordinary step of committing to a 25-year Net Zero Action Plan, with the goal of transforming the City into a Net Zero community by 2040.
The King Open/Cambridge Street Upper Schools and Community Complex is one of the City’s first projects to be built under this ambitious mandate. The school and public library anchor the complex on a major urban street and reflect the City’s commitment to sustainable and resilient municipal buildings.
Completed in August 2019, it is designed as the first Net Zero Emissions school in Massachusetts and the largest Net Zero Emissions building in Massachusetts when constructed. The 273,000 sqft building includes an elementary school, middle school, preschool, school district administration offices, public library, public pools, afterschool programs, human services programs, two acres of open space, and a 105 space below-grade parking garage.
The Community Complex is organized into two halves flanking a “green spine” at the center of the site. This “green spine” creates a direct visual and physical connection between a new crescent-shaped civic plaza along Cambridge Street and Donnelly Field.
During the school week, the two halves form a single building for the schools - the classroom building on one side of the “green spine,” the community complex with shared spaces (gyms, cafeteria, auditorium, pools, etc.) on the other. The community building remains open for public programming in the evenings, weekends, and holidays while the academic wing is closed, reducing energy usage and maintaining security.
A range of gathering, recreational, and reflective spaces define the green spine and surround the building on all sides. The landscape design also manages storm run-off on site with a greywater system for irrigation and toilets, bioswales, detention systems as well as native and drought-resistant flora.
By providing a highly efficient envelope, advanced building systems, and a 190 geothermal well field, the complex boasts a EUI of 25. The photo-voltaic array covering 74,070SF of the roof achieves 60% on site power generation with the balance provided by purchasing green power. The project is 100% electric resulting in an emissions-free building with a net EUI of 10. Now, as the building completes its first year in operation during the pandemic, the Owner, Architect, and Contractor have tuned the highly flexible building and systems to allow the building to remain open to serve the City.