From the beginning, Thomas Sidwell institutionalized a strong focus on physical activity for all his students, boys and girls. In 1895 he built the first school gym in Washington, D.C., and was an early proponent of girls’ athletics.
To meet the needs of today’s students and student athletes, the school’s strategic plan called for the construction of a new, modern facility that would meet the requirements of the toughest environmental standards. The resulting athletic center opened in fall 2010. Sidwell Friends is seeking LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Partially underground, the building is nonetheless filled with natural light, thanks to glass windows that line the east-facing exterior wall. This also cuts the need for artificial lighting. The athletic center features two full-size and four half-size basketball courts, an indoor track, an athletic performance center with fitness equipment, a wrestling room, and a dance studio. A new outdoor turf field on the roof is marked for football, lacrosse, and soccer.
Heating and cooling: The athletic center is the first building to have its heating and cooling run out of the central utility plant in the Middle School basement, besides the Middle School. No extra chillers or boilers were needed.
- Energy efficiency: Because two and a half sides of the athletic center are underground, the walls are well insulated, and underground temperatures remain steady at around 55 degrees—perfect to counter the heat generated by solar heat gain, lighting, and the physical activity of the students.
Lighting: Almost every room in the building has occupancy light sensors that automatically turn lights on and off as people enter and depart rooms. The main gym area has many light switches so that courts can be lighted separately.
Flooring: Flooring is polished concrete, some of which has recycled content, so no additional flooring was placed on top. The wood flooring is made from wood harvested only from sustainable forests. The carpets are made of recycled materials.
Paint and Materials: Low VOC paints were used throughout the building. No vinyl material was used.
Bathrooms: The bathrooms have dual-flush toilets and low-flow urinals.
Turf Field: The turf field above the athletic center, while made of plastic, needs no mowing, uses no chemicals, and used an in-fill product made of recycled tires in its construction.
- Architect: Cannon Design
- Project Management: JFW Inc.
- Landscape Architect: Andropogon Associates