Microsoft School of the Future

Microsoft School of the Future photo

School District of Philadelphia


Philadelphia, PA




Site/Civil Engineering

CSA Group provided site/civil engineering/design services for a new technical high school for the School District of Philadelphia. The “School of the Future,” is designed for 600 students and costs some $62 million. It has the latest technology - from interactive digital textbooks and computerized tablets to electronic play diagrams for the basketball team and is being built by the School District of Philadelphia in partnership with the Microsoft Corp. Microsoft's contribution is not monetary, but it is supplying services worth millions of dollars, including a full-time on-site project manager, planning and design expertise, staff training and ongoing technology support. It plans to bring in other technology partners

The site includes parking for facility and employees, and a bus loading/unloading area. The school features five levels, with the performing arts center occupying the lowest one. Unique to the school is an amphitheater. As in a traditional auditorium, the seating declines toward the stage, making the structure a perfect fit for a tract of graded land on a site that drops off 16 ft. vertically over 160 ft. horizontally. The exterior includes curvo-linear features, metal paneling, a concrete retaining wall and simple spread footings. Like the rest of the school, the performing arts center is supported by a concrete superstructure and metal stud back-up system.

Site design had to be sensitive to the environment surrounding the site, including Fairmount Park, the Philadelphia Zoo, residential neighborhoods and wetland areas. Existing trees were surveyed and marked to clearly delineate which would be removed. All disturbed areas are being restored to their original condition.

A driving force in the design and construction of the school has been the mission to attain gold LEED certification. The pursuit of LEED certification accounts for the atypical utility designs. The school will have a water catchment system on the roof, where rainwater will be collected in a cistern, filtered and used for non-potable applications such as toilet water. The auditorium's roof will be covered with vegetation to shield it from ultraviolet rays, both extending its lifetime and insulating the building.

CSA site/civil engineering design contribution to the project was recognized by the Urban Watersheds Revitalization Conference and given The Stormwater BMP Recognition Program Award for its work in designing the site.

CSA Group, the site/civil engineer of record, was subconsultant to the Prisco Group of Hopewell, N.J., the prime architect for the facility.

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