Hartford Classic Magnet School

Traditional schools in the Northeast are masonry, "old school thinking". This project show progressive thinking for implementing a durable material for a building type that has a small construction window of July to August in order to minimize disrupting existing school programs.

City officials in Hartford, Conn., took a new approach in soliciting proposals for a building to house a magnet school that previously had been located within an existing nearby high school. The RFP for the Hartford Classical Magnet School took a develop-design-build approach, asking a developer to partner with an architect and contractor to not only provide design and construction elements but also to suggest a site.

“This project was a first for the City of Hartford in terms of having a school delivered as a turnkey project,” says Mark Hopper, partner and design architect with Schoenhardt Architecture + Interior Design in Tariffville, Conn. The company created the winning design in partnership with the National Development Council of New York City. Whiting-Turner Construction Co. in New Haven served as construction manager, completing the design-build team.

The project combined a renovated 120,000-square-foot office building, which serves as the main school building, with the addition of 30,000 square feet of space for the theater, gymnasium and a main entry lobby. High-performance insulated architectural precast concrete panels were specified for the new structures’ façades. Coreslab Structures (CONN) Inc. in Thomaston, Conn., consulted on the project and produced the precast components.

The 9-inch-thick panels feature 3 inches of insulation sandwiched between two wythes of concrete, creating an R-value of 17 and a high sound density. The wall assembly also provides a fire rating that exceeds three hours. The system eliminated vapor and air infiltration while also minimizing maintenance. The panels saved time beyond offering a fast erection schedule, as they also offered a durable interior surface and an attractive façade without having multiple trades involved.

Three key ingredients drove the project team’s decisions, Hopper notes: remaining cost-conscious, meeting the tight schedule for opening some of the school’s operations in only a few months and meeting the programmatic needs of the facility. “As designers, we also wanted the project to be aesthetically pleasing.”

Project Details






Hartford Public Schools


Schoenhardt Architects


Michael Horton Associates, Inc.

Construction Manager:

Whiting-Turner Construction Co.

Sq. Footage:

150,000 total (120,000 sf school and 30,000 sf theater, gymnasium and lobby)

Structural Precast Elements:

9-in-thick insulated architectural precast concrete panels


Back to