Cambridge Public Schools - New Energy Efficient Schools (Cambridge, MA)

With goals of creating a Net Zero Energy (NZE) community by 2050, Cambridge began its citywide initiative by building two new NZE schools: the Martin Luther King, Jr. School (grades K-5) and Putnam Avenue Upper School (grades 6-8). Collectively, the project was a 172,000 SF replacement school and community space built on the existing site of the Martin Luther King, Jr. School. The new school was designed to accommodate 740 students and to offer community access to the gymnasium, cafeteria, and auditorium during non-school hours. The communal spaces exist between the two schools, joining them together. These varying needs influenced the school design to ensure that evening access could be granted to the community while locking out the school portion of the buildings.

AKF’s MEP / FP and Energy + Performance teams worked together to design a comfortable and energy-efficient building. AKF’s design includes a hybrid geothermal system with individual room controls to ensure maximum energy savings. AKF also designed a lighting control system that keeps lights off when ample daylight is available. To conserve water, AKF designed storage systems for greywater that can be reused. The AKF team collaborated to coordinate the rooftop MEP equipment to maximize the open roof area for photovoltaic (PV) panels. AKF worked closely with the architect to design a custom PV panel mounting system to maximize the number of panels that could be mounted on the roof and the façade. Many manufacturers now offer PV racking systems based on the premise used on this project. AKF also provided energy modeling services to help predict the likelihood of achieving NZE on site.

Based on the large size of the building and the extended hours of community use, this project targeted 50% on-site energy generation instead of NZE and purchased renewable energy credits to make up the shortfall. The project served as a great learning experience for the community of Cambridge. Staff take pride in their new home and have taken steps to ensure they help keep energy use down by using limited plug loads. As the next school project for the City of Cambridge is being designed, the staff and students at the MLK and Putnam Avenue Schools are sharing the lessons learned and inspiring the rest of the school district to improve their energy efficiency.

Project Expertise

Peter Reilly
Peter Reilly, PE


Frank Dodge
Frank Dodge
Jeff Rios
Jeffrey Rios, PE


Shannon Kaplan
Shannon Kaplan, PE

Technical Statistics

OWNER: Cambridge Public Schools
PROJECT NAME: New Energy Efficient Schools
ARCHITECT: Perkins Eastman
AWARDS: 2016 Learning by Design Magazine Grand Prize Award
Cambridge MLK