McKinley High School, Buffalo, NY

“Annual runoff reduced by approximately 80,400 gallons through the use of green infrastructure.”

– Landscape Architecture Foundation; Case Study Brief

2014 NY Upstate ASLA Merit Award for Built Design

The McKinley High School reconstruction was part of the $1.4 billion Buffalo Public Schools Reconstruction Program aimed at modernizing the city school system. The school reconstruction included a 13,000-sf building addition as part of a 40,000-sf building renovation.

Overall budget: $30 million
Site budget: $1.5million

Construction Administration & Oversight · Green Infrastructure & Stormwater Management · Landscape Architecture

McKinley High School is a vocational school for construction and horticulture trades in the City of Buffalo School District and was renovated as part of the Buffalo Public Schools Joint Reconstruction project.

The project meets all the stormwater requirements through the use of green infrastructure features that become part of the everyday student experience. Rain gardens at the front entry of the school manage run-off in addition to being welcoming gardens that are studied by the horticulture students.

Rather than diverting stormwater off site, the project uses run-off as an asset. Rain water becomes the primary water source for the school’s gardens and green roof all while being playful, artistic and interactive.

The newly formed interior courtyard creates a living classroom for the horticulture department, providing space for students to design, install and care for their own gardens as part of the classroom experience.

The project was designed in 2008, before NYS adopted mandatory Green Infrastructure methods in 2010.  A traditional retention basin would not be accepted by the district, as it would displace the urban school’s only athletic fields, and adding on to the existing underground detention system would be a burdensome task.  We convinced the district that Green Infrastructure, integrated with the design and part of the school’s curriculum would meet the requirements and add value to the student experience.

Rain water flows off the overhead canopy as a sheet of water, captured in a sidewalk trough, travels through the sidewalk into the adjacent rain gardens.  Permeable pavements and a 3,000 gallon stormwater harvesting system allow water to be collected to support the courtyard water feature and re-used for irrigation of the school’s extensive landscaping.  The green roof is seen from the upper floor hallways.