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SHS Earns Connecticut Green Building Award

Published: November 10, 2017

The Sandy Hook Elementary School building earned the 2017 Connecticut Green Building Council (CTGBC) Energize Connecticut Award of Excellence at a November 2 award ceremony, held at Alexion Pharmaceuticals in New Haven.

According to CTGBC the award is its “best in-show award.”

“The Sandy Hook Elementary School,” an announcement on the CTGBC website reads, “stood out to our jurors as the most outstanding project submission this year. Congratulations to the project team and the entire Newtown community on this wonderful achievement.”

Svigals + Partners Associate Principal Julia McFadden represented the architect firm at the event and Sandy Hook School Principal Dr Kathy Gombos represented the district.

“It was great,” Ms McFadden said following the event.

The school building opened ahead of the 2016-17 year. The former Sandy Hook School building was demolished in the fall of 2013 following the tragedy on 12/14.

From the start, presentations for the new building included descriptions inspired by and drawn from the fields and hills around the property. Attention was also paid to sustainability.

According to Ms McFadden, the sustainability consulting firm Atelier Ten, which Svigals + Partners worked with on the project, submitted the building project for the award. At the award ceremony Atelier Ten Director Mark Loeffler gave an introduction for the project.

Ms McFadden said Atelier Ten, which is based out of New Haven, tracked the whole project and submitted paperwork to the United States Green Building Counsel (USGBC). Atelier Ten made sure Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) products were being used, Forest Stewardship Council-certified sustainably sourced wood was used, and consulted and advised Svigals + Partners on strategies to use daylight, like using daylight sensors and sunshades on windows, to mitigate sun glare. Atelier Ten also helped calculate the roof water runoff that is directed into the cistern and bioswale on the property.

Svigals + Partners, Ms McFadden said, attempted to meet required the state’s High Performance Building Construction Standards and attain USGBC LEED Gold Certification, which is still being assessed through school use.

According to the CTGBC description for honoring the building with the Energize Connecticut Award of Excellence, “Sustainability, nature, and community were key factors in the design of Newtown’s new Sandy Hook School. In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy, many challenges presented themselves to the design team — meeting the latest security guidelines, managing media involvement, and most importantly, nurturing a community in the aftermath of hardship. With respect to the former, would there need to be significant trade-offs between meeting security requirements and overall sustainability goals? These challenges manifested into one collective goal: to create a learning environment that embraces nature, sustainability, art, and the community’s heritage while incorporating the highest standards for security guidelines ever seen in a Connecticut school building.”

Attending the event with Dr Gombos was “great,” Ms McFadden said, because she heard updates about how the school is being used. She added it was particularly nice “to hear that they are still just thrilled with the school and it has been such a wonderful environment, how the teachers are getting outside and using the courtyard.”

Instead of a typical trophy, Dr Gombos was given a self-sustaining closed biosphere with water, rocks, mini-shrimp, and plankton to mark the award, according to Ms McFadden.

“We are hopeful that after these years, and as they are approaching the five year anniversary [of 12/14] that the school can be a symbol of renewal and hope and care that we will continue to give our children,” Ms McFadden reflected.

Interim Superintendent of Schools Lorrie Rodrigue also responded to the news of the award saying, “It gives us great pride that Sandy Hook was selected as the recipient of the [Energize Connecticut Award of Excellence]. The efforts to be ecologically friendly both through the design and practices at Sandy Hook will be a model for other districts.”

A full list of CTGBC 2017 award winners is available online at

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