Adaptive Reuse and Renovation for Avenues: The World School

Existing building retrofit; Adaptive Reuse and Renovation for Avenues: The World School; STV


STV provided mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and structural engineering design services for the adaptive reuse of a landmark building in Manhattan into a 200,000-sq-ft K-12 private school called Avenues: The World School. Courtesy: Chris CooperEngineering firm: STV
2013 MEP Giants rank:
Adaptive Reuse and Renovation for Avenues: The World School
New York, N.Y., United States
Building type:
School (K-12)
Project type:
Existing building retrofit
Engineering services:
Code Compliance, Electrical/Power, HVAC, Lighting
Project timeline:
May 2012 to September 2012
Engineering services budget:
$1.8 million
MEP budget:
$5.17 million


Avenues: The World School in New York's Chelsea neighborhood is the first in a series of more than 20 private pre-K-12 schools the client plans to open in major metropolitan cities worldwide in the next decade. The school is housed in a 12-floor 200,000-sq-ft converted warehouse that was formerly used to store TV-production sets and is located adjacent to the High Line public park. The school opened in September 2012. There were numerous engineering challenges on this project, as well as a compressed time schedule and tight budget. Extensive remediation and modifications were made to the building, and the entire interior of the existing building was demolished, all while maintaining its landmark status. So much of the building was renovated that the structural engineers worked to avoid triggering a seismic code upgrade, which would have been extremely costly in terms of analysis and planning.


There were several MEP issues on The Avenues project. The building was originally constructed as a warehouse in the 1920s, so incorporating the functions of a modern school into this space presented numerous challenges. The interior core of the building had to be demolished to meet the functional requirements of a school building. An entirely new electrical system was installed in the building. From the start of the project, electrical engineers coordinated with Con Edison of New York to obtain the necessary approvals. This was critical in keeping with the project's tight construction schedule.

STV used value engineering to keep down the costs of MEP systems, while still allowing the building to be efficient. The existing building already allowed in natural light, which was used to great effect throughout the structure. Additionally, while working within the strict budget, the team incorporated sustainable materials into the energy-efficient utilities. For example, a number of existing boilers in the basement were incorporated into the design as a cost savings. STV directed the raising and reconstruction of the majority of the roof to allow for a basketball court, outdoor recreation area, and mechanical spaces. This created a new, multi-story structure on top of the existing one where loads were still traced down to the existing foundations.

Constructing a new roof structure that would hold extremely large pieces of mechanical equipment such as air handlers, cooling towers and an emergency generator on the existing roof posed another challenge. To create the new recreational/athletic area, a full-size basketball court opening was cut in the roof slab to allow for a new popped-up gym roof constructed with long-span steel beams. The original two-level bulkhead was removed and replaced with a three-level structure that houses new elevator machines, cooling towers, and a generator. The new structure followed local building zoning and code laws and also met the requirements for the building's landmark status. Revit building information modeling software was crucial in designing within the space constraints and in coordinating and communicating with the contractors.

The school required extensive infrastructure for technology, and space was at a premium. Much of the wiring, ductwork, pipes, and other services were routed through hallways with minimum heights, to reduce the amount of exposed mechanical services in the classrooms. STV discovered Avenues was an (E) designated site, indicating the presence of potential hazardous materials contamination. A 10,000-gal oil underground storage tank was buried beneath the loading dock. STV worked with the New York City Office of Environmental Remediation (OER) to address the issue. The firm alerted the New York State Department of Environmental of Conservation (NYSDEC) that oil was released next to the tank. STV prepared a Spill and UST Closure Report to delineate impacts from a prior release of oil at the building and developed a Remedial Action Plan, approved by the NYSDEC. After the tank was removed and the site was cleaned, the NYSDEC issued a Notice of Satisfaction from the OER, allowing Avenues to apply for a Certificate of Occupancy.

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