The Neighborhood Academy

Pittsburgh, PA
Two buildings, approximately 40,000 and 60,000 square feet
Products Used:

Project Highlights

  • Max. Wall Height: 23’ infill (above a 10’ base wall)
  • Panel Width: 48 inches
  • Panel Thickness: 8 inches
  • Wall Type: Non-load bearing, exterior infill

Project Details

Efficiency and getting the most value for every dollar are always top priorities in education. That’s especially true for a private school such as The Neighborhood Academy of Pittsburgh, Pa., whose mission is to break the cycle of generational poverty by providing a holistic college-prep education for students in grades 8-12 who come from low income families.

The Neighborhood Academy opened in 1993 as a summer-school program for at-risk youth, and expanded to become full-year day school in 2001. By 2008 the school had outgrown its leased environment and launched a capital campaign to finance a new campus.

As with any approved nonprofit scholarship organization, budget constraints are always a concern, so getting the most value for its construction budget was essential. Equally important, because the school relies heavily on volunteer efforts and community donations, long-term operating and energy efficiency were critical concerns.

The ACCEL-E wall system that was used on the school’s two new buildings played an important role on both fronts. In addition to enabling efficient, cost-effective construction that allowed the school to open the new buildings in time for the 2011 school year, the innovative wall system also provides long-term value by ensuring the new buildings will be cost-effective to operate and maintain through improved energy efficiency and enhanced sustainability.

Efficient Construction With Responsive Service

The Neighborhood Academy’s new campus consists of an academic building that houses classrooms, library, science labs, art studios and a cafeteria, and an athletic building that includes a field house, gymnasium, locker rooms and training room. The ACCEL-E panels were used as exterior infill on both pre-engineered steel buildings, with heights reaching as high as 23 feet, on top of 10-foot concrete masonry supporting walls on the athletic building.

Despite the height of the walls, however, the panels were easily installed by crews with no specialized training or lifting equipment, noted Dan Driskill, project foreman for T.D. Patrinos Contracting, which erected the buildings.

“Even four feet wide and 23 feet long, the panels were very manageable to handle and install because they were so lightweight,” he said, adding, “And the panels were accurately made to the pitch of the roof.”

ACCEL-E panels are made using an exclusive process that fuses specially designed cold-formed steel framing components with continuous rigid expandable polystyrene (EPS) foam insulation. Replacing conventional framing and insulation with pre-engineered ACCEL-E panels streamlines the construction process and can reduce labor and onsite disposal costs. Window and door openings are pre-cut, and pre-punched knockouts and an open cavity simplify the installation of electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems.

Driskill also gave high marks to SYNTHEON representatives, who introduced the building crews to the innovative new panels and made frequent onsite visits to ensure the installation went smoothly.

“This was new for me, but pretty much anybody who’s done metal framing could do this,” said Driskill,. “I enjoyed working with the system and I would look forward to working with it again.”

He said SYNTHEON representative Dennis Nugent went out of his way to help the onsite crews accommodate a late onsite engineering change in the structural steel building frame, which altered several critical wall and window specifications.

“He was very helpful, and did whatever it took,” said Driskill. Site Superintendent and Project Manager Scott Rupert concurred, adding, “From my experience they were very responsive.”

Long-Term Value and Efficiency

Beyond the immediate construction efficiencies, the ACCEL-E panels will ultimately provide even greater value in the long term, enabling The Neighborhood Academy to achieve its stated goal of ensuring its new campus is energy efficient and environmentally sensitive.

The ACCEL-E system overcomes many common causes of poor energy efficiency by the fusing of steel framing components and insulating panels into a single continuous system. This eliminates air gaps, sagging and irregularities, reduces thermal bridging and heat transference, blocks air intrusion, and adds thermal resistance.

As a result, ACCEL-E panels offer tested insulating values that surpass traditional framing techniques. For The Neighborhood Academy, this should translate into a significant reduction in the energy required to heat and cool the buildings.

The EPS foam insulation does not shrink, settle, emit harmful VOC gases, or contribute to diminished air quality. In fact, the product is Greenguard® Indoor Air Quality Certified. In addition, the steel framing members are made of recycled steel, and are themselves recyclable, all of which further contribute to The Neighborhood Academy’s commitment to respecting the surrounding natural environment with woods and gardens that characterize the new 7.8-acre campus.