early learning center

The Packer Collegiate Institute

Brooklyn Heights, NY

14,600 SQ FT

In construction

In 2014 HSA began developing plans to transform a landmark 1920’s commercial building one block from the Packer Collegiate Institute’s main campus into a new Early Learning Center.



Our staff worked closely with teachers and administrators to craft the ideal environment to reflect Packer’s early learning program, which is based on the Reggio Emilia system with an emphasis on natural materials and the belief that children learn most deeply from their own observations of the world around them.

The Center includes five Pre-K and Kindergarten classrooms, an Innovation Lab, an Art/Science Studio in a rooftop addition, a pantry//teachers’ lounge, a playroof and green roof. A large multi-purpose room serves for assemblies, student performances, and an indoor play area, including a climbing wall, for physical education classes.



The building’s façade will undergo a full restoration and also includes new windows and moving the entrance to the north side of the building on Clinton Street. An entrance canopy and additional graphics will relate to Packer’s home campus.

A one-story addition on the rooftop will house a play area enclosed by a custom fence of powder coated steel in a playful pattern while a sloped green roof will shield rooftop mechanicals.


The building was originally constructed in 1923 as a handsome mixed-use commercial building of white brick and terra cotta. Built on a prominent corner site, it is currently located within the Brooklyn Heights Historic District.

HSA shepherded Packer’s adaptive reuse of this building through the NYC Landmarks Commission hearing review process to obtain a Certificate of Appropriateness for the rooftop addition and entry/graphics design proposal.



When developing the new design, HSA proposed integrating Passive House standards with adaptive reuse. The goal was to maintain the historic integrity of the existing façade while implementing modern and environmentally conscious renovations and additions.

As an integrated exercise in design, the renovated and expanded building will include various interdependent elements: an enveloped designed with Passive House principles; triple glazed windows; and a new mechanical system to include split system heating and AC as well as ERV’s. One major challenge was to design and control thermal breaks where the new construction meets the historic and where posts for the rooftop play fence penetrate the thermal envelope.

The benefits of Passive House are manifold, both environmentally and economically. We hope that by integrating this energy-saving practice into historic restoration, we can encourage others to adapt methods of energy efficiency when transforming landmarked buildings.