Studio E Architects is pleased to announce the grand opening of Albert Einstein Academies (AEA) newest facility at 458 26th Street in the Grant Hill neighborhood of San Diego, California. On September 2 this new charter Middle School (AEACMS) opened its doors to 475 enrolled students. At maximum capacity the school will be home to 600 sixth, seventh and eighth grade students. This is Albert Einstein Academies’ second campus. Their charter elementary school remains at their existing location at 3035 Ash Street, a few miles northeast of the new middle school.
This is an exciting example of adaptive reuse – a long vacant and dilapidated former convalescent hospital was transformed into a vibrant place of learning. The 38,000sf, 4-story building contains 20 daylight-filled classroom spaces along with a variety of support spaces that include specialty labs, offices and informal gathering areas. The state-of-the-art renovation was completed within 9 months for a construction cost of $3.6 million. That’s an impressive $95/sf.
Says David Sciarretta, AEA Executive Director, “We are thrilled with our new building. The design is a direct support for our students’ achievement and for fostering a well-balanced community of learners and leaders.”
A highlight of the building is the new open stair that has been inserted between the street-side lobby and the multi-purpose space at the level below. A bright super-graphic on the wall adjacent to the stair displays the principles of International Baccalaureate education. Additional graphics are prominently displayed on walls throughout the building reinforcing the school’s educational philosophy.
At the top level of the building, the open plan media center has views to an adjacent park. This multi-functional space combines areas for individual study and collaboration as well as gathering and socializing. A “genius bar” complete with Apple computers is a popular place for students to perch. Near the media center is a Maker’s space – fitted out with the all the latest tools and gadgets, including the school’s 3-D printer.
The lowest level of the building enjoys the most direct access to the exterior recreation area, and hosts a dedicated fitness room – complete with work-out equipment and padded flooring. Also found on this level is a new elevated lunch deck, which adjoins the multi-purpose room. From here, students and faculty can enjoy a snack or meal while overlooking sweeping views of the downtown skyline.
The project has been submitted for Silver level certification under the LEED for Schools program of the United States Green Building Council, and also participated in the San Diego Gas & Electric Savings by Design program. The design is inherently sustainable by virtue of the reuse of an existing structure. The thermal perfomance of the building envelope was improved with additional insulation and new, energy efficient, operable windows. New, highly-efficient mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems were installed to exceed current codes and reduce long term operating expenses.
The design and construction team’s effort to transform this building both architecturally and in terms of energy efficiency impressed Jeff Cox, Project Executive with San Diego Gas & Electric. Stated Cox, “Seeing the facility in its original (abandoned) condition, it was difficult to imagine it serving as the school it is today. For reference, I have handled about 75 major projects this year and this facility stands alone as the most impressive effort I have seen of any building type.”
The project’s exterior perforated metal screens were added to provide a new modern face to the building, while also providing window shading and a safe, enclosed outdoor learning space off several of the classrooms. The building’s entrance is marked by an awning, wide stairs, and concrete seat walls to provide a welcoming street presence.
The site challenges included a 20’ elevation drop between the building and the upper & lower parking areas to the west. The former lower parking lot was transformed into multi-purpose sports courts. A new ramp, stair, and crosswalk were added to allow students to safely move from the school to the recreation area. The lower lot incorporates an on-site drop-off loop in addition to the required parking.
The project marks another collaboration with Bycor General Contractors, and our first with Hughes Marino representing Albert Einstein Academies on the team.