P.S. 6 Eric Dutt Eco Center

P.S. 6 Eric Dutt Eco Center

New York, NY

Award Winner
MKM Landscape Architecture PC

Architectural Design: Downtown Designworks Architecture PLLC
Landscape Contractor: Windsway Construction LLC
Structural Engineer: Murray Engineering
MEP Engineer: Beitin Assoc.
General Contractor: Hilt Construction

MKM collaborated with The Downtown Group on the design of this unique rooftop facility and year-round science classroom for Elementary School PS 6 in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. This intensive green roof and outdoor classroom offers numerous hands-on learning opportunities for students, and serves as a model for all schools on how to optimize productive and educational programs on otherwise under-utilized roofs.
— Anne Vaterlaus, Director of Design, Mark K. Morrison Landscape Architecture PC

Setting a High Bar for Environmental Education

When P.S.6’s beloved science teacher Eric Dutt suddenly died in 2007, leaving his dream of arooftop garden and greenhouse unfulfilled, the school community rallied around the idea of bringing his dream to life. Located atop a three-story building on Madison Avenue and 81st Street, and just a few blocks away from Central Park, P.S.6’s intensive green roof became a logical link in New York City's ecosystem. Seen from above, the lush green island of the green roof blends with street canopies and provides a welcome break in the prevalent rooftop blight. The rooftop includes an intensive green roof with individual planting zones for each school grade, a green wall, a greenhouse classroom, 16 solar panels, a composting center, a weather station, a picnic area, an outdoor classroom and a turtle pond powered by a windmill. The landscape areas are divided into distinct plant analogues that include emergent species within the pond, drought tolerant grasses to simulate a meadow, and bog species around the pond and dry stream-bed. The green roof is a Wildlife Habitat site certified by the National Wildlife Federation.

Students cultivate vegetables and herbs from seed in the greenhouse that are transplanted into raised planting beds. With the help of teachers and parent volunteers the students at P.S. 6 Eco-Center grow fruits, vegetables and herbs for the school cafeteria's salad bar. They collaborate with the cafeteria staff to develop recipes for the produce grown on the roof.

P.S.6’s green roof construction and ongoing use have become a testing ground for green roof integration into NYC’s public school system. Issues such as P.S.6’s structural building modifications, accessibility, and integration of green roof environment into science curriculum are examined by the staff of all NYC schools interested in pursuing green roof installation. In addition, P.S.6 green roof hosted city-wide free NYC eco-school workshops, such as "How to Create Wildlife-Friendly Schoolyard Habitats".

The garden, tended by the schoolchildren, school staff and parent volunteers, has flourished. "The shade garden fills in beautifully, and the green wall is thriving", says Allison Godshall, a P.S.6 environmental science teacher. Simone Braga, one of the participants of the Eco-Schools workshop hosted in June of 2013, has described the P.S.6 green roof oasis: “The flowers, the water dripping inside vases, birds drinking from everywhere, and grapes too! I forgot that I was in a very busy city.”

The Eric Dutt Eco Center inspires faculty, students and their families toward scientific discovery and exploration of the natural world and serves as a model for green roof opportunities available to public and private schools.