Proj Overview

NYSCA Gymnasium Prototype Provides Blueprint for Urban School Settings


The Universal Physical Education Program, launched through the New York City's mayor's office, is aimed at current Pre-K - 5 schools that lack an indoor gymnasium. The program utilizes a section of the school's play yard to develop a stand-alone multi-purpose gym building, providing students with a recreational space year-round in all weather conditions. MDSA, the architect, created a prototype gymnasium annex design that can be applied in various urban school settings with minor modifications.

The prototype design was customized for eight additional school sites across Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. Coreslab Structures (CONN) Inc. manufactured the precast concrete for four of those public schools, PS 81Q, PS 246X, PS 36Q, and PS 112K. The scope of work for each site differed depending on existing site conditions and the added amenities desired by the client and user.

The construction duration for all prototypes was 15 months. Each gym was constructed within existing play yards; therefore, a compact and highly efficient plan of 5,724 gross square feet was developed to fit on the individual sites and still retain the greatest amount of open space. 

The building prototype design includes the main gym space equipped with six basketball hoops, an overlaid volleyball court, an instructor's office, storage, janitor's closets, student and staff restrooms, and a large vestibule with coat storage. A mechanical mezzanine is above the accessory spaces adjacent to the double-height gym space. Site work varied based on existing site conditions, with some sites receiving new playgrounds, running tracks, and turf soccer fields. 

Precast Solution


A multifunctional and high-performance building envelope was required for the Universal Physical Education Program. Instead of using the agency's long-standard concrete masonry units and brick cavity walls, the design team proposed architectural insulated precast concrete panels as the building envelope and structure. The precast panels are composed of an 8" thick interior structural wythe, 3" polyisocyanurate insulation (R 6.5/in) with fiber-composite connectors, and a 3" minimum face wythe. The panels achieve a steady-state R-value of 21.5.

Precast concrete was selected because it accelerated the building schedule. Precast fabrication and concrete foundation construction were completed simultaneously, allowing precast erection to begin immediately after foundation work was completed. 

The panels are bearing walls supporting a cast-in-place concrete mezzanine slab and steel roof joist with metal deck and concrete fill. The exterior wythe thickens and continues above the roof to form a parapet. At the same time, the panel insulation neatly terminates at the roof insulation for a perfectly continuous insulation wall/roof junction with no thermal bridging. High-performance windows and doors were set in line with insulation to complete the high-performance envelope, resulting in reduced energy loads and increased occupant comfort. Electrical conduit and junction boxes for power and low voltage receptacles and lighting were a clean interior appearance and to reduce the number of trades on site. A total of 26 precast panels, 10' or 12' wide x 27' tall, were erected in five days and eliminated the need for scaffolding typically required for masonry buildings. 

Utilizing the aesthetic versatility of precast concrete, the architect customized the exterior precast details and finishes for each site to make the new gymnasium annexes blend seamlessly with the existing schools. While the overall building layout, including the number and location of doors, windows, and louvers remained the same, the precast mix design, brick color and pattern, projecting cornices, and trim were revised to mimic the existing school's details. Architectural insulated precast wall panels helped to achieve a well-sealed and high-performance building envelope that does not rely on intricate field detailing of the air and thermal barrier which is often a source of leakage. These projects helped to change the client's standards regarding the use of precast on large and small-scale projects.  

Architectural Precast Concrete Details


PS 81Q Gymnasium Annex | 1716 Bleecker St., Queens, NY
Temporary classroom units were removed from this site to make way for a new playground, turf soccer field, and cushioned running track. Projecting bands of tan brick and a concrete base on the precast concrete panels complement the school building. Brick banding terminates to announce the entrance to the gym, conveniently located across from the existing building's exit. The well-lit gym interior features vibrant blue wall pads with acoustic wall panels above to mitigate interior noise. 

PS 246X Gymnasium Annex | 109 E. Tremont Ave., Bronx, NY
This project included a new playground, a painted running track, and a soccer field. The red brick and light precast color matched the existing building. Projecting precast window surrounds and "fins" with integrated lighting create playful shadows on the façade of the gymnasium. Additionally, the precast panels were detailed with various projections that added visual interest. The interior color scheme used multiple blues and greens for safety padding, acoustic panels, and glazed ceramic tile in response to the school's desire to include Caribbean colors. 

PS 36Q Gymnasium Annex | 116-06 Everett Place, St. Albans, NY 
This gym annex complements the existing school with modern precast concrete detail reinterpreting paired horizontal bands which wrap up and over wall openings for windows and louvers. New stairs and a ramp were added to integrate the new building with the sloping site. The interior features playful red wall pads, adding vibrancy to the otherwise neutral color palette. 

PS 112K Gymnasium Annex | 1506 71st St., Brooklyn, NY 
The existing school building on this tight urban site embraces the new gym building. The school building's masonry quoins and projecting belt lines are reinterpreted on the new gymnasium in modern projecting precast details matching in color and texture. Thin brick embedded in precast concrete with careful attention to coursing, precast bands in a smooth finish, and subtle reveals resulted in a refined aesthetic. The interior is brightly colored, with volleyball netting and conventional court markings.  


There are no records.
Project Team


New York City School Construction Authority

PCI-Certified Precast Concrete Producer:

Coreslab Structures (CONN) Inc., Thomaston, CT


MDSA | Michael Freedman, New York, NY

Engineer of Record:

Thornton Tomasetti, New York, NY

General Contractor:

KG Construction Services, Nanuet, NY

Key Project Attributes

  • Universal Physical education Program utilizes the existing footprint of each school's play yard to develop a stand-alone multi-purpose gymnasium
  • The prototype gymnasium annex design can be applied in various urban school settings with minor modifications
  • Architectural insulated load bearing precast concrete walls enabled new gymnasium annexes to blend seamlessly with the existing schools' façade 

Project/Precast Scope

  • 26 Panels per Building
  • Size and Finish vary per Prototype