The Kurtz Center for the Performing Arts

A Green, Sustainable Design

Penn Charter's David L. Kurtz Center for the Performing Arts is the first major "green" building in East Falls.

The school won LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification based on the building’s sustainable design. Certification is awarded on a system of points related to site development, water savings and energy efficiency, materials and indoor environmental quality.

A performing arts center is an energy-intensive structure, and Penn Charter selected Voith & Mactavish Architects for the project, in part, because of the firm's experience with sustainable design. The architects' design incorporates many "green" features, including:

  • Green Roof. A 10,000 sq. ft. green roof growing a variety of sedums covers the theater roof to capture storm water, reduce the “heat island” effect, and provide a natural habitat for birds and pollinating insects. The green roof also provides additional thermal and sound insulation for the building.
  • Storm Water: The storm water that is not held by the green roof goes through a vortex-type water quality unit under the parking lot to reduce particulates in the water. The water then flows to a 9,500 sq. ft. infiltration bed beneath the synthetic turf field where it is released back into the earth.
  • Materials. Schist, the stone used on existing Penn Charter buildings, and slate are local materials. Using them rather than materials transported longer distances saves fossil fuel and earns LEED points. There are many recycled products in the building; the bathroom tiles of crushed glass bottles are an obvious example, but the following were also made of recycled material: steel structure, stairs, toilet partitions, theater railings, porch railings, catwalks, carpet, bulletin boards, acoustical ceiling tiles, window frames and doors.
  • Wind Power: An energy source for the Kurtz Center is among the most sustainable on the planet – wind.
  • Cupolas. The building has a high-efficiency heating and ventilation system. The cupolas, a design element that echoes Penn Charter’s iconic tower, provide more than decoration: they save energy by creating a natural ventilation pattern for cool and hot air. They also help with daylighting; in fact, almost all of the frequently occupied spaces have access to significant daylight.
  • Water Conservation: Dual-flush toilets help reduce water use, and the open space on the site helps manage storm water (plus it reduces heat-island effect and provides habitat).
  • Fuel-Efficient Vehicles. Drivers with low-emitting and fuel-efficient vehicles have preferred parking spots close to the front entrance.

The Kurtz Legacy

Radio pioneer David L. Kurtz went on the air for the first time in 1963, broadcasting as WDVR FM from a cramped space on Chelten Avenue in Germantown, just blocks from Penn Charter.

An electrical engineer and a music lover, Kurtz combined his skill with his passion to create a station that broadcast beautiful music around the clock and in stereo, which was unheard-of back then. In the mid ’60s, Kurtz partnered with Jerry Lee, one of his original seven staffers, and they grew the station into a broadcast powerhouse. According to the archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia, the two men are credited with laying the foundation for FM radio as a viable music format and business platform.

The Kurtz family, lead donors to the new performing arts facility, named the center in memory of David L. Kurtz as a tribute to him and his legacy.