One of the top schools in the country is moving in a few weeks to Windsor. If all goes as planned, CREC’s Academy of Aerospace and Engineering, a school housed until now in a smaller building in Hartford's Learning Corridor, will start the school year in a gleaming new facility on Kennedy Road. It's a stunning transformation for the property too, that until two years ago was the site of an aging corporate complex. Sold to CREC by owner Mark Greenberg for a reported $10 million dollars, the only thing remaining from the old buildingis its steel frame, that has been cleverly incorporated in the new structure – and is now invisible. What is striking obvious is the futuristic design, that would not be out of place in a science fiction movie. The school sports an aviation-inspired zinc-clad curved “wing” that will contain middle school science laboratories, while on the other side the facade is covered by panels inspired by Hubble Telescope's deep space photograph of the Lagoon Nebula. A quarter-barrel roof with an exposed trussed structure at the gymnasium references the design of an airplane hangar.
It's a fitting theme for the grades 6-12 school that aims to setting the standards in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education in a state with long tradition in these fields – and in the past few years has achieved it in spades. In 2014 the school was honored as the best school in the state in the annual U.S. News High Schools report, while this year it ranked 3rd in the state and number 171 in the nation among the more than 29,000 schools the magazine evaluates. In STEM education the academy ranked 76th in the nation, by far the best score in the Connecticut An important aspect of all this is that the school has a very high percentage of minorities – 66 percent – and an equally high number of economically disadvantaged students – 43 percent. The new facility will expand these advantages to more students than ever. While the school could accommodate a little more than 400 students until last year, the new facility will house more than 700, hailing from all the districts of the Greater Hartford area.
The facility itself is a fitting example of applied science. A large array of solar panels covering the parking lot greets the visitor, while climate conditioning in the building is regulated by photovoltaic louvers, that are used to maximize exposure to the sun for energy collection, while adjusting shading to need to reduce cooling costs. According to CREC, the building's overall energy usage and generation as well as water consumption will be monitored by a building management system with the data displayed on televisions throughout school.
Inside the building, the main lobby will host a full-size, theme-related artifact, suspended within a three-story atrium – but CREC has not revealed the design yet. The entrance to the media center was planned to mimic NASA's “Mission Control” and overlook one of the school entrances, but again, details will have to wait.
Design and function of this kind don't come cheap, though, and the project had a price tag to match - $77 million dollars. CREC's Construction Services managed the development of the facility, and the organization will also operate the school.
Ribbon cutting for the facility is expected in the next few weeks, with first day of school planned for September 7.