Engaging Teens, Improving a Community: BTC a Model for Sustainability

As featured in High Profile Monthly, October 2015
By Nate Peck, LEED AP, president of Kaplan Construction

Photo credit: Robyn Ivy

Introducing teens to the design, preconstruction and construction processes helps improve our industry and hopefully will encourage them to pursue an education and career in architecture, engineering or construction. Providing teens with an actual project, in this case the Brookline Teen Center, adds more relevance and interest in the construction process. The fact that the end product would result in an amazing center for the use and benefit of their peers played a major role in their participation, connection, and overall excitement about the project.

Founded by Paul Epstein, a Brookline High School social worker and graduate, the Brookline Teen Center is the only dedicated facility providing out-of-school activities for teens in grades seven through twelve who attend school or live in Brookline. Located in a former garage, the 12,000 SF space underwent extensive renovations to be transformed into a vibrant and modern environment suitable for teens. The BTC features a bowling alley, gym, recording studio, lounge, outdoor patio, café, aerobics dance studio, game rooms, and study hall. Kaplan Construction began working with the BTC in 2008 and many meetings were held at the Kaplan office with the team, consisting of architects, engineers, consultants and the teens themselves.

Paul’s mandate required that the teens were to be the client. During the four years it took to conceive, design and construct the BTC, almost all project meetings were attended by teen representatives who offered input on desired facilities and design.

“Kaplan Construction was truly our partner in realizing the vision for the Brookline Teen Center,” said Matthew Cooney, executive director for the Brookline Teen Center. “Kaplan’s deep roots in Brookline and their dedication to our community, combined with the company’s tremendous construction expertise, have helped this neighborhood come together to create a place for local youth to learn, grow and have fun.”

From the earliest stages of the conceptual design process, the BTC organization was committed to sustainability as a core value. The building will serve as a community resource for youth, who are aware of and committed to the future of their environment. The BTC features many environmentally responsible elements including the use of sustainable building materials, water-efficient practices, and a green mechanical and electrical system within a more energy-efficient exterior envelope. The project has been certified LEED Silver by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

Having the input of the teens was an unexpected benefit, particularly with the use and distribution of recycled materials. Kaplan used corrugated metal siding, hardi-panels, and highway guardrails repurposed from a nearby road project for the “skin” of the new elevator tower and canopy additions. Not only did this result in savings, it helped define the “edgy” look requested by the teens.

“Many building projects that are youth or education-focused use strategies to solicit ideas and involvement from teenagers. But what Kaplan did on this project went above and beyond,” said Paul Epstein, founder of the BTC. “Their attention to detail and commitment to collaboration with myself and the architects was unwavering.  This has all translated into a building of outstanding quality and usability.”

Kaplan’s renovation of the Brookline Teen Center (BTC) won a National Excellence in Construction Award (EICA) from the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). Kaplan received a Pyramid Award in the Community/Public Service category from ABC National and an Eagle Award from ABC Massachusetts for this project. Other accolades include the Boston Society of Architect’s Award for Design Excellence, Brookline Preservation Commission’s Preservation Award for Adaptive Reuse, and AIA New England’s People’s Choice Award.

Architectural design for the BTC was provided by studio MLA Architects of Brookline and GMI Architects of Boston. Additional project team members included GLC Development Resources, Stantec, RSE Associates, Acentech and WSP Flack & Kurtz.

Click to read article in High Profile Monthly