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Award Winner - May 2013

Sidwell Friends School Athletic Facility

Washington, D.C.


Sidwell Friends School Athletic Facility Washington, D.C.



S U B M I T T E D    B Y

Cannon Design in Grand Island, N.Y.

Size: 73,000 square feet

Project Cost: $39 million

Quick Tour:

  • Four-court gymnasium
  • Fitness facility
  • Wrestling room
  • Coaches' offices
  • Locker rooms

The importance of physical education and athletics at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., dates back to 1883 when the school was first founded by Thomas Sidwell. Over the years, the school has continued to uphold that commitment, most recently with the creation of a 73,000-square-foot athletic facility.

The $39 million facility, which opened in the fall of 2010 and is situated partly underground, features a four-court gymnasium with competition courts, retractable bleacher seating for 600, a fitness facility, a wrestling room, coaches' offices, and lockers for students, faculty and officials.

Prior to the construction of the new facility, which is home to a middle school (5-8) and upper school (9-12), the urban, 14-acre campus had limited land for physical education programs and activities. A study was conducted to look into the feasibility of locating new athletic facilities under an existing 400-meter track and football field.

The facility's design makes use of natural light from glass windows that line the east-facing exterior wall; while the gymnasium has ceiling-mounted lighting, which also helps to supply heat to the space. To boot, an HVAC method was created that reversed conventional gymnasium ventilation design. That is, instead of supplying ventilation air at the top of the space and extracting it to the bottom, the best approach for Sidwell Friends School's gym was to collect the air where it was warmest, near the roof.

The facility's underground design avoids contributing to light pollution and heat-island effects. Much of the building's cooling is provided by the surrounding earth. To dehumidify constantly ventilated spaces, such as locker rooms, without overcooling them, the air handling system uses desiccant wheels to remove moisture from the air stream. A molecular sieve energy recover wheel pretreats the stream of incoming outside air by transferring energy from the incoming air stream to the exhaust stream, cooling the incoming air in summer and warming it in winter.

The facility also has four contiguous basketball courts, enabling the school to hold practice in a shorter timeframe. Meanwhile, the new artificial turf football field and indoor arena have increased seating capacity significantly as well as the quality of athletic function.

The facility is served by commuter bus lines and a subway, while bicycle storage and showers encourage alternative transportation. The facility does not contribute to night-sky light pollution or increase the number of parking spaces. With regard to innovation and design, the athletic facility boasts low-mercury lighting that is used throughout the building that minimizes the contribution to mercury pollution; green cleaning policy and low-impact maintenance equipment policy preserve indoor air quality; education and outreach program incorporating brochures and signage informs the public about the building's green features; 40 percent of materials are regionally manufactured.


Additionally, 50 percent to 75 percent of construction waste is diverted from landfills; dedicated collection and storage area provided for recyclables; building materials, including steel and concrete, incorporate more than 10 percent recycle content; 20 percent of building materials manufactured regionally.

The project has attained LEED Gold certification.


FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.sidwell.edu



W H A T   T H E   J U D G E S   S A I D

"The dramatic site intervention is one of this project's most interesting aspects. Nice balance of efficient "underground" space with natural daylight and clarity of layout. Though the program is simple, there is still an elegance to the layout and the performance court appears to provide a nice spectator experience."

Bill Massey

"The composition gym achieves a nice level of natural light for a space that is buried in the ground."

Greg Houston

"Creative use of an extremely tight site and sustainable innovations."

Katie Barnes

"Great use of site space to maximize recreation value. More facilities should make use of displacement ventilation to reduce energy loads."

Troy Sherrard



A S S O C I A T E D    F I R M S

Civil Engineer: Vika Capitol LLC

Contractor: Whiting-Turner



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