The Plan: BASIS Independent Brooklyn


A completed chemistry lab at BASIS Independent Brooklyn.
A completed chemistry lab at BASIS Independent Brooklyn.

When completed, the private school BASIS Independent Brooklyn will sit near the New York Bay waterfront in Red Hook. But much of the five-story building will have been constructed 145 miles to the west in New Holland, Penn.

SEE ALSO: NYC’s Embrace of Modular Construction Is Slow but Steady

The new institution, which has already opened to grades kindergarten through eighth but will add high school classes over the coming years, used modular construction to build its $40 million,100,000-square-foot school. Creating the building, which will house 1,000 students, involved 163 modular building blocks, 2 million pounds of steel and 614 cubic yards of concrete floors. Shipping costs alone exceeded $1 million. While these figures may seem stark, building modular was actually cost-effective for BASIS, which was operating on a tight budget and tighter schedule. To comply with the neighborhood’s new post-Hurricane Sandy construction guidelines, the school was forced to raise its design 16 feet off the ground. With modular construction, it was able to build multiple elements of the school on site, including the parking garage on the entire ground floor, the gymnasium and the auditorium, while the two classroom towers were being built in the Keystone State.

The third floor cafeteria.
The third-floor cafeteria.

“BASIS likes a clean, modern design on a budget,” said Phil Carhuff, the principal and founding architect of Carhuff + Cueva, a Tucson, Ariz.-based firm behind the design. “[The school] likes to invest in the teachers and its curriculum and less on the facilities, but it still wants an attractive environment for the students.”

According to Mark Reford, the chief executive officer of BASIS Independent Schools, the network deliberately chose Red Hook as the site of one of its two private schools (the other is in San Jose, Calif.). The goal was to attempt to build a country day school in the heart of urban Brooklyn.

“Red Hook is a very creative area,” said Mr. Reford. “It’s filled with a lot of people doing really interesting things. We felt that it was a great location to put a school and [students can] visit art restoration studios … and galleries.”

Proximity to the Red Hook ball fields and the 360-degree views of the Port of Red Hook, Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty were also selling points.

A completed hallway at BASIS.
A completed hallway at BASIS.

“Unlike so many New York City schools, we wanted it to be filled with light,” said Mr. Reford. “We wanted it to have great views from all directions and we wanted to find a location where there would be access to healthy outdoor space.”

BASIS was also committed to being a good neighbor to the greater community—the school can serve as an emergency location for Red Hook.

“If something like Sandy were to ever happen again, we would be able to fill that school with people from the Red Hook community,” said Mr. Reford.