DMR Architects’ preK-12 education architects design projects that shape young minds.

Headshots of the four new employees who joined the DMR team.

DMR Expands Practice to Address $300 Million Educational Project Pipeline

DMR Expands Practice to Address $300 Million Educational Project Pipeline 2560 1450 DMR Architects

DMR Architects’ legacy in New Jersey’s education landscape continues with additions to its education practice that address needs for elementary, specialty high school, and higher learning spaces and facilities, and a current pipeline that includes more than $300 million in education projects throughout the state.

“We pride ourselves on the ability to offer our clients access to some of the best architectural minds available in New Jersey,” said Pradeep Kapoor, AIA.  “It is a testament to our team that we can take the visions of our board of education and higher education clients and turn them into tangible successful solutions.”

Shyam Perangur, AIA comes back to DMR with more than 30 years of experience including his work at DMR from 1997-2000 focusing on new construction, addition, renovation, and capital improvements projects in preK-12 districts.

His previous work with DMR includes new schools in Sparta and Lacey, as well as upgrade projects in Teaneck, Hasbrouck Heights, Nutley and statewide for the NJSDA (previously the NJEDA). Coming back to the role of Sr. Project Manager, he has been playing an integral role in DMR’s work for the Edison Board of Education, valued at $100 million.

He earned a Master of Architecture from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, a Master of Science in Architecture (History, Theory & Criticism) from the University of Cincinnati, and a Bachelor of Architecture from Bhopal University in Bhopal, India.

Hyunjin Jang joined DMR as a Job Captain with more than 15 years of experience.

His current projects include the Highland Avenue Learning Annex & Recreation Center in Wood-Ridge, a $32 million design-build project that will include new construction of 49,000 SF in addition to interior renovations to 12,000 SF of existing space at the Doyle Elementary School. The new construction portion is primarily classrooms to address the growing population, as well as a gym, kitchen, and new offices, and the renovation scope will add a security vestibule and provide upgrades to classrooms, the media center and the art room.

He earned a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from Hanyan University in Seoul, Korea, a Bachelor of Architecture from Pratt Institute and a Master of Science in Architecture from Columbia University.

Juliana Moreno joined the Construction Administration department as a Designer with more than five years of experience, which she is applying to her work at the Hudson County Vocational High School at Bayonne High School. The project is being completed through a design-build approach and will support vocational and career technical education in mechanics, construction, carpentry, plumbing, electrics, finance, digital communications, criminal justice, cosmetology, and medicine.

She earned a Bachelor of Architecture from New York Institute of Technology.

Brianne Aveta also joined the firm as a Designer with more than five years of experience. She is working with Mr. Perangur in Edison, including on the 48,000 SF addition to J.P. Stevens High School which will add 30 new classrooms, as well as several other projects at Thomas Jefferson and Woodrow Wilson Middle Schools.

She earned a Bachelor of Architecture from The Pennsylvania State University.

The media center at the Blanquita B. Valenti Community School, showing flexible furniture, book storage and in the distance, the glass-enclosed makerspace.

Media Center is Centerpiece of Technologically-Advanced Blanquita B. Valenti Community School in New Brunswick

Media Center is Centerpiece of Technologically-Advanced Blanquita B. Valenti Community School in New Brunswick 789 444 DMR Architects

Students at the DMR-designed Blanquita B. Valenti Community School are enjoying their first year at the three-story, 127,000 SF facility featuring a media center, technology lab, makerspace, and science demonstration rooms in addition to other traditional education spaces.

DMR is committed to being one of the best of breed for designing technological advancements in education spaces, striving to set another new standard for learning, mentoring and interacting for the 900 K-eighth graders.

The project is one of more than 30 projects that DMR has worked on for the New Brunswick Board of Education since 2010 including assessments/reports/long rang facility planning; Energy Savings Improvement Program (ESIP) projects; HVAC upgrades; roofs; and fields, in addition to the auxiliary gym addition at New Brunswick High School which is currently under construction.

“The media center was an especially important element to this project; it needed to be a meaningful learning environment for students who are tackling the alphabet for the first time all the way up to kids who are taking advanced STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) activities and coding classes,” said Lloyd Rosenberg AIA.

The 3,000 SF space features wraparound, floor-to-ceiling windows, bookshelves incorporated into the backs of seating and furniture, and a classroom with electronic whiteboards for small-group instruction.  Additionally, an area of the media center that is encased in glass windows is used as a makerspace filled with things such as virtual reality tech and 3-D printers.

Planning incorporated flexibility and adaptability throughout the building as shown in the multipurpose room with removable seating so that it can be easily converted for activities such as school dances and science fairs.  DMR’s design also provides a separate entrance for its kindergarteners so that their earlier pick-up time does not disrupt classes for the rest of the students.

In a creative land arrangement, the Blanquita B. Valenti Community School replaced the Lincoln Annex School, formerly St. Peter’s High School and Elementary School, which was demolished for construction of the state’s first free-standing cancer hospital.

A rendering shows what the addition to J.P. Stevens High School will look like.

Edison BOE Moves Forward with $100 Million in Projects

Edison BOE Moves Forward with $100 Million in Projects 789 444 DMR Architects

A Nov. 1 groundbreaking ceremony marked the commencement of a 48,000 SF DMR-designed classroom addition at J.P. Stevens High School in Edison. It is part of a $100 million investment by the Edison Board of Education at six of its facilities.

“Working closely with the district, DMR designed these spaces to improve the education-related experience for the students that utilize these buildings,” said Kurt Vierheilig, AIA, LEED AP BD+C.  “We commend Dr. Aldarelli and the school board for advancing improvements to their facilities which will improve the learning and development of their students.”

The projects will be phased over several years to reflect current technologies, changes in education strategies, and address the dynamic increase in New Jersey’s sixth largest municipality’s school-aged population.

“The Edison school system is well-known for its high academic standards and ability to prepare students for post-graduation studies and careers,” said Pradeep Kapoor, AIA, LEED AP BD+C.  “The work we’re doing will assist teachers and students in their pursuit of the best education practices.”


Members of the DMR Architects team pose in the lobby of the Blanquita B. Valenti Community School at the ribbon cutting event.

Construction Milestones at DMR-Designed Schools Reveal Unique Funding Sources and Delivery Methods

Construction Milestones at DMR-Designed Schools Reveal Unique Funding Sources and Delivery Methods 789 444 DMR Architects

DMR has recently participated in construction milestone celebrations in four New Jersey municipalities, delivered through a variety of funding and procurement methods for projects that enhance the learning experience for school-aged children while also being fiscally responsible to residents.

In Carteret, sixth through eighth grade students recently began their second year in the new DMR-designed Junior High School.  This is the successful culmination of a project that started with a referendum to build the first new education facility in the borough in 40 years.  DMR played a key role in creating and presenting materials to residents about the need for a new school as well as the benefits to taxpayers.

“Our work in Carteret included adjusting the program to make sure that we adhered to a strict tax dollar value that was palpable to residents as well as selecting projects so that its five schools and all 4,000 students benefited from the referendum,” said Lloyd Rosenberg, AIA. “DMR was also involved in strategic planning with the Carteret School Board and Mayor on finding the best site for the new Junior High School that fit its educational needs and budget.”

In Plainfield, the DMR-designed Charles and Anna Booker Elementary School was constructed through the New Jersey Schools Development Authority design-build program. This is the first year for 700 K-fifth grade students to matriculate in the facility that replaces the outdated Woodland Elementary School with 41 classrooms in addition to rooms for science demonstrations, a technology lab, a media center, physical therapy, a speech room, a cafetorium, a multi-purpose room with a stage, a playground, and basketball courts.

The design-build method will also be used to fund the construction of Hudson County Vocational at Bayonne High School, a project for the Hudson County Schools of Technology, Bayonne Board of Education, Hudson County, and the Hudson County Improvement Authority.  DMR is the architect of record for the project which recently broke ground and will provide vocational and career technical education in mechanics, construction, carpentry, plumbing, electrics, finance, digital communications, criminal justice, cosmetology, and medicine.

In New Brunswick, the DMR-designed Blanquita B. Valenti Community School just opened replacing the Lincoln Annex School, formerly St. Peter’s High School and Elementary School, which was demolished for construction of the state’s first free-standing cancer hospital.

“This was a very unique situation where the building had outgrown its benefits to the city but the land underneath it was valuable enough to fund a new state-of-the-art educational facility that will shape the minds of students for generations to come.”

DMR designed the three-story, 127,400 SF facility with advanced educational spaces including a media center, technology lab, makerspace, labs, and other traditional educational spaces.

“Just as each school system requires its own customized solutions for additional space, new technologies and teaching modalities, STEM labs and spaces for extracurricular activities, they also need tailored approaches to funding.  Sometimes we take what we’ve learned working with one municipality and apply it in another because their education needs and funding barriers are similar.”

Among other funding sources for school districts is New Jersey’s Energy Saving Improvement Program [ESIP]. DMR-planned projects totaling more than $35 million in Edison, Hackensack, Tenafly are currently in progress. Through the program, energy-related projects, such as HVAC upgrades and solar panels, are funded using the value of the energy savings that result from the projects so that school boards do not have to utilize municipal capital reserves or utilize taxpayer dollars.

At 1,100 SF, the new entrance at Hackensack High School serves more like like it's own space, which includes bench seating.

Five-Year Total for Upgrades to NJ Schools Exceeds 100 Projects

Five-Year Total for Upgrades to NJ Schools Exceeds 100 Projects 789 444 DMR Architects

While known for creating many cutting edge preK-12 education spaces, including some of the most advanced in the country, DMR is also responsible for nearly 125 projects categorized as essential building upgrades, health and safety concerns, needs for special populations and other facility maintenance needs over the past five years.

“Long before administrators can even think about adding spaces for biomedical chemistry labs or STEM spaces, they need to invest in ongoing maintenance and upgrades to utilities, security and other systems,” said Janet Pini, AIA. “DMR’s team provides diverse expertise backgrounds that allows us to help clients end to end on project components including securing funding, choosing the most cost-effective solutions and materials, and sequencing work to impose the least amount of disruption to the school year.”

DMR’s work valued at $85 million of essential upgrades includes:

  • 37 Building Skins (Masonry, Facade, Windows, Roofs)
  • 28 Building Systems Upgrades
  • 15 Classrooms/Capacity Generation
  • 13 Interior or Outdoor Physical Education Fields, Locker Rooms or Fitness Spaces
  • 10 Auditoriums
  • Seven Security Upgrades

DMR is also managing 53 projects for the New York City School Construction Authority (NYCSCA) at preK-12 facilities throughout the city.

Schools Turn to DMR To Redesign Entryways For Identity and Security

Schools Turn to DMR To Redesign Entryways For Identity and Security 789 444 DMR Architects

Education boards in Carteret and Hackensack have recently turned to DMR to help solve the equation of how to make school front entryways more secure for students while still being a welcoming focal point for those visiting the building.

Hackensack High School is a 260,000 square foot facility that was previously using a nondescript walkway to a security door as its main entrance, while signage down the street misdirected people to the school’s annex.

“They needed something that said, ‘Here I am,’ and is a point of pride for students, parents, teachers and administrators,” said Donna Coen O’Gorman, AIA.  “When we create a new front entrance, we are giving a school and the neighborhood an identity, welcoming people into the building, improving safety and foot traffic patterns, and providing a preamble for what to expect inside the facility.”

The rewards of building esteem in the school community from visual impact are only the secondary benefit:  in a day when security threats are an unfortunate pre-occupation with administrators, the challenge of protecting teachers and students is a critical focus.

Plans for the new entrance on Beech Street include an 1,100 square foot portico, with backlit aluminum letters atop, new landscaping and an ADA accessible drop off.  The entrance will be ready for the 2022-23 school year and also includes bullet resistant glazing, closed circuit televisions, key card access, a secured vestibule and security lighting that have been seamlessly integrated into the overall design.

“It’s a mistake for school boards to assume that a building entrance upgrade is just modernizing doors and windows,” said Lloyd A. Rosenberg, AIA.  “It’s about aesthetics, security, and how buildings function in service to students, staff, and visitors, which requires experienced architects to make programming and design choices.”

Work on Carteret’s new state-of-the-art Junior High School started long before construction workers broke ground when DMR Architects created a design plan that integrated the already-existing High School on the same property through a pedestrian bridge connected to the new, 60,000 square foot school. With the new Junior High School opening this fall, exterior upgrades were also designed at the high school to distinguish its identity and increase security.

Also in Carteret, an exterior renovation to the Columbus Elementary School required identifying a new location for the main entrance and several programming changes, including moving the main office and creating a main entrance lobby.

“In the case of Carteret’s Columbus Elementary School, the main entrance needed to be located at a prominent location but also to a space where it would function more efficiently,” continues Donna Coen O’Gorman.  “We created a portico addition that would make a visual impact but also support the school’s programming.”

The entrance design will include controlled and secure access, a security office, bullet resistant glazing and bollards and will now be located next to the cafeteria, streamlining drop-off and pickup of early- and late-entrance and eliminating the need for visitors to walk through the school.

A science lab, with utilities hung from an opening ceiling, and the author's photo.

Working with Your Architect to Support the Next Generation of Creative Thinkers

Working with Your Architect to Support the Next Generation of Creative Thinkers 2560 1450 DMR Architects

By Donna Coen O’Gorman

Where STEM and STEAM curriculum were once offered as after-school clubs—and in whatever classroom space was available—that students with an already existing interest or aptitude in math and the sciences could opt into, more schools are now incorporating these education modes into regular classes and expanding the applications beyond science and math.

This shift in education practices requires a physical shift away from the traditional classroom layout with student desks lined in rows facing the teacher to flexible spaces and furniture, materials and spaces that can be incorporated into the lesson plan, and ever-advancing technologies that engage students and better support more forward-thinking practices.

DMR has been the go-to firm for nearly a quarter of all public school buildings in New Jersey since its inception in 1991—responsible for some of the state’s most advanced learning institutions and spaces—with a current roster that includes the new Junior High School in Carteret and several projects in Passaic at the Passaic Academy for Science and Engineering (P.A.S.E), Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. School No. 6 and Theodore Roosevelt School No. 10.

Building New

In Carteret, DMR’s plans applied the most forward-thinking divergent learning practices to the school district’s program curriculum and the State’s Department of Education Facility Efficient Standards with classrooms for traditional subjects with dedicated spaces for enhanced art and music education, a think tank, a flexible media center that will replace the library, a dance studio, and a STEM lab for the municipalities 600 seventh and eighth graders.  These plans satisfied the community’s need for adaptable spaces that could be easily updated as education practices and students’ needs continue to evolve.

“This Junior High School has been a long time coming, but previous attempts for community support failed, because plans only addressed one issue – overcrowding,” said Rosa Diaz, Superintendent of Schools in Carteret.  “The DMR team’s thoughtful application of knowledge regarding current learning environments and their ability to identify ways that a facility we build today can continue to adapt and support the best educational modalities to come, helped us present a funding referendum that everyone in Carteret could support.”

Our plans were used as background materials that led to the approval of the first new educational facility in Carteret in more than 40 years.

Working Within 

While DMR met Carteret’s needs with a new facility, in Passaic our plans at Passaic Academy for Science and Engineering (P.A.S.E) addressed practical concerns like how to maximize the functionality of an existing space, find adaptable furniture, and provide appropriate ventilation so that the school could expand its biomedical science program.  In this case, DMR’s decision to hang the utilities and the ventilation hood from the ceiling freed up space in the lab for furniture including an anatomage table, a highly sophisticated technology that will position its students on par or ahead of even some college and university pre-med programs.

DMR’s work in Passaic also includes the art studio at P.A.S.E that acts as a classroom and an art gallery for its students through moveable workstations, soft lighting and interactive exhibit areas.  We have also designed state-of-the-art auditoriums in its School No. 6 and School No. 10 and a data center in support of the data analytics program at P.A.S.E, complete with an interactive, LCD tile video wall to be used to teach digital signage technologies.

Looking Forward

The requests for alternative learning options have been growing for several years. In 2018, we completed the Frank J. Gargiulo Campus, where all aspects of the physical facility are incorporated into the learning experience and the building itself doubles as a teaching tool. Numerous architectural elements provide this level of education. Architectural and engineering students learn firsthand about building systems as infrastructure, such as mechanical lines and the school’s server room, are exposed. Students in the culinary program grow their own food in the hydroponic garden. The theatre is not simply a space for large school gatherings, but rather an intimate learning space with functions such as a control room and catwalk. Television production students coordinate the broadcasting of school news and events across academies.

We expect these requests to continue as divergent education spaces like these can prepare and create excitement for careers that are becoming more and more technical and students prove to be more prepared for the modern demands of higher education and the workforce. After location, the school system is the most important attribute that homebuyers look at; even people who don’t have children. Community leaders are wise to invest in creating learning environments that help current students stay competitive in a very crowded college environment.

School Named for Civil Rights Activists Breaks Ground

School Named for Civil Rights Activists Breaks Ground 789 444 DMR Architects

A new school, named in honor of civil rights activists who helped end segregation in Plainfield, is on its way.

On July 14 DMR joined the New Jersey Schools Development Authority (NJSDA) and project stakeholders to break ground on the new Charles and Anna Booker School.

The 120,000 SF school is designed to educate approximately 840 K-5 students. The new school will include 41 classrooms, an art room, a vocal/music room, an instrumental lesson room, a technology lab, a science demo room, a computer lab, a gymnasium, a cafeteria, a media center, a playground, and a basketball court.

In 1965, Charles Booker and his wife Anna won the legal case, Booker v. Board of Education of City of Plainfield, which ended segregation in Plainfield schools.

“Just as the Bookers were pioneers of civil rights, the NJSDA is at the forefront of providing education spaces that support innovative ideas from both teachers and students,” said Lloyd Rosenberg, AIA.  “We are proud to be part of this project, which will certainly change the educational experience for Plainfield students.”

Under a design-build contact, DMR is working for the general contractor, Epic Management on the school, valued at $45 million.

DMR previously completed NJSDA design-build projects in Paterson and Bridgeton.

Ceremony Marks Construction Start and Naming of New Brunswick School

Ceremony Marks Construction Start and Naming of New Brunswick School 789 444 DMR Architects

A May 12 groundbreaking ceremony marked both the start of the construction and naming of the new Blanquita B. Valenti Community School, named in honor the late pioneering freeholder in Middlesex County.

The state-of-the-art, K-8 school is being constructed on a now-vacant tract of land at 50 Jersey Avenue and will replace the former Lincoln Annex School. Plans call for the building to feature 3 stories and 127,000 square feet of learning space.

Working for the developer, New Brunswick Development Corporation (DEVCO), DMR designed the new building which will serve 900 students.

“It takes a village to raise a child,” said Chris Paladino, President of DEVCO. “It certainly helps when the village includes great teachers, committed administrators, loving parents, County leadership, a Mayor, a hospital chairman, and a president of the state’s largest healthcare system who appreciate and truly understand what the power of partnership is.”

“This is a pioneering educational facility providing spaces that support creativity and analytical thinking, skills that will elevate New Brunswick’s appeal for families with school-aged children and equip its students with expertise and knowledge that will be critical for entering higher education and the greater workforce,” said Kurt Vierheilig, AIA, LEED AP BD+C. “We designed the interior and exterior spaces with the understanding that all kids are unique, requiring and deserving a customized education formula to help them excel in school and in life.”

The ceremony also marked the unveiling of the name of the school in honor of the late Blanquita B. Valenti, an educator in central New Jersey for nearly 40 years. She was the first Latina to serve on the New Brunswick Board of Education, serving from 1971 to 1974. Her numerous other public capacities also included the New Brunswick City Council from 1990 to 2010 and the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders (now Commissioners) from 2005 until her retirement in 2019.

Through a collaborative development effort, the new Blanquita B. Valenti Community School will be built without taxpayer dollars and will allow for the construction of the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey Cancer Pavilion, a 500,000+ square foot, state-of-the-art cancer hospital, on the current Lincoln School Annex site at 165 Somerset St.

“If you don’t invest in the community and the people who live in the community in a culturally-competent way, if you don’t invest in education and business development, all the clinical programs in the world won’t make the community happier or healthier,” added Barry Ostrowsky, CEO of the RWJBarnabas Health System.

The Blanquita B. Valenti Community School is scheduled to open at the start of the 2023-24 school year.

Above, Kurt Vierheilig, AIA, Director of Design and Janet Pini, AIA, Project Manager at the May 12 event. 

Approved ESIP Will Fuel $12.5M in Projects

Approved ESIP Will Fuel $12.5M in Projects 960 540 DMR Architects

With the recent approval of a New Jersey Board of Public Utilities’ Energy Savings Improvement Plan (ESIP), the Hackensack Board of Education will begin energy improvement projects valued at $12.5 million, without utilizing its capital reserve or impacting taxpayers.

The proposed improvements will ultimately result in cost savings of nearly $11 million over the next 20 years and reduce Hackensack’s carbon footprint by 5,146,261 pounds of CO2 annually.

As architect of record for the district, DMR brought the ESIP program—designed to provide public entities a funding option for energy-related improvements using the value of the energy savings that result from the projects—to the BOE’s attention as a sustainable way to pay for the much-needed upgrades. Projects include:

  • HVAC upgrades at all schools including 53 classrooms at Hillers School and Hackensack Middle School, which will also receive ventilation upgrades;
  • Unit ventilators, steam traps, radiators, boilers, transformers, air handler and chiller replacements across facilities;
  • The replacement of more than 10,000 lighting fixtures with LEDs;
  • Solar panels on all buildings, a project that will save $206,000 annually;
  • Weatherization of all building envelopes;
  • Upgrading building controls to enterprise management systems

“This milestone is the next step forward in implementing important projects that will increase energy efficiency, reduce energy consumption and improve the educational experience for all students and staff,” said Hackensack Superintendent Robert Sanchez.

“The HVAC and window replacements are particularly timely as the board prioritizes ensuring that students, faculty and staff are returning to healthy buildings,” said Donna Coen O’Gorman, AIA.

According to the Environmental Defense Fund, the average American car emits about seven tons of CO2 a year.

“In essence, we are reducing carbon emissions similar to if we took nearly 370 cars off the road while also benefiting everyone in Hackensack but without costing anything to our taxpayers,” continues Mr. Sanchez.

In addition to management of the ESIP program, additional architect of record projects are underway including: window replacements at Hillers School; restroom renovations at Jackson Avenue School and Fairmount Elementary School; elevator additions at Jackson Avenue School and Fairmount Elementary School; and a new portico at Hackensack High School.

Pictured above, solar panels at Hackensack High School. Photo courtesy of EZNERGY.