Unusual school gets unusual new building

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – A New Haven school devoted to the environment has a new building with state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly technology. Even the construction materials used are something you probably have not seen before.

There was a grand opening ceremony for an unusual inside space at Common Ground High School. The school itself is unusual, but mostly associated with the outside, with crops growing, and chicken running around.

“A farm school, in the forest, but also in New Haven,” is how 2012 graduate Michael Bruno described it during the ceremony.

The new building is just as different, starting with the material from which is it made. This is the largest building in the country made of cross laminated timber, which is kind of a super-plywood made from sustainable forests.

“Where you take sticks and you laminate them crossways from one another and it give a lot of strength in two directions,” explained architect Alan Organschi. “So they use them for slabs to replace that might be a concrete slab or a deck.”

There is eco-friendly lighting, powered by solar panels on the roof. The building is heated and cooled by a geothermal heat pump. The building is, of course, for learning, and acoustic panels made from recycled newspapers cut noise from outside the classroom down to almost nothing.

“You feel how quiet it is?” asked Common Ground Senior Christopher Dickey during a building tour. “All it does is to help us stay more focused and stay more productive in what we’re doing.”

What they are doing is studying nature and the environment. They spend a lot of time outdoors. When all 180 students had to come together indoors, however, they used to have to all cram into the cafeteria.

“So we had to move all of our tables and set up chairs and it was very cramped and we just had a ton of students in there,” said Common Ground junior Julia Farquharson.

The new building has a space that can fit the entire school easily, and doubles as a gym where the basketball team can practice, as well.

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