New SafeStart Infant Toddler and Family Development Center at Community Services for Children

•January 11, 2011 • Leave a Comment

COMMUNITY SERVICES FOR CHILDREN, a not-for-profit provider of early learning and child care support services for young children and their parents, low-income families, and child care providers, has outgrown their existing facility and are expanding their successful SafeStart program into a new $5.4 million day treatment center for infants and toddlers at CSC’s Donley Children’s Campus in East Allentown.

SafeStart, a nationally funded Early Head Start-Child Welfare collaboration with the Lehigh and Northampton County Children and Youth Departments, serves drug/ alcohol-affected, abused/ neglected infants and toddlers, ages 0-3 and their families, to overcome health problems, developmental delays, and emotional trauma. The program strengthens families to stop the cycle of abuse. With early, intensive intervention, their future can change from failure and costly consequences to success.

With funding from ARRA, US Department of Health and Human Services, the Children and Youth Departments of both Lehigh and Northampton Counties, and an aggressive capital campaign, CSC contracted with USA Architects of Easton, PA and Spaces for Children to design the new 12,000 sf Infant Toddler and Family Development Center – the region’s only therapeutic classroom program for abused infants and toddlers.

The program provides a therapeutic-based setting, six hours per day, five days per week for infants and toddlers to receive individualized loving, high-quality care and developmental services. Low therapeutic teacher-to-child ratios support the physical and emotional needs of the child. Specialized therapies to lessen symptoms of drug impact and consequential developmental delay such as occupational, physical, sensory, speech/language and feeding therapies are provided onsite, as needed. Psychological observation and consultation are made available on a weekly basis to all children. Daily transportation, all meals, and care giving materials are provided for each child.

The one-story building with sloping roofs and residential appeal includes classrooms, therapy rooms, mental health related spaces, parent-child greeting room, preparation kitchen, laundry facilities, indoor play area, administration offices and storage. The design features clad wood windows surrounding the building, and cupolas along the length of the roof to maximize natural lighting conditions. Construction is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2011.

Located in Allentown, PA, CSC is a local administrator for Head Start and Early Head Start/SafeStart programs that serve more than 35,000 children and families in the Lehigh Valley, as well as 11 other counties of Northeastern Pennsylvania.


William Allen High School – The “Face” of Education

•December 21, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Mitch Miller, AIA, CCS had two goals in mind when he began specifications for the new four-story Ninth Grade Center for his alma mater, William Allen High School: LEED® Certification and showcasing Canary pride. Miller turned to TRENWYTH® by Oldcastle to accomplish both.

Using TRENWYTH ASTRA-GLAZE SW+®, Miller was able to color match the school mascot’s signature blue, creating a striking exterior and encouraging school spirit while also attaining Silver LEED certification. ASTRA-GLAZE SW+ by TRENWYTH contributes to LEED credits in recycled content, energy efficiency and regional production.

The state-of-the-art 107,000 square foot facility is designed to host the high school’s 800+ ninth graders and contribute to the ever growing school community. With a modern design that includes a completely green vegetated roof, the Ninth Grade Center represents a giant leap into the future for the largest school in Allentown, PA.

Architect Firm: USA Architects, Planners + Interior Designers
Principal Architect: Armand Christopher, Jr., AIA
Project Manager: James Petro, AIA, CDT
Associate/Director of Specification: Mitch Miller, AIA, CCS
General Contractor: Alvin H. Butz
Masonry Contractor: Eshbach Brothers
Project Team: Joy Cohen, AIA, CDT; Eric Delong, AIA; Nathan Fehnel; Ray Boyce, CDT; Severine Rennie, LEED, AP


Bridgewater Municipal Complex Ribbon Cutting

•October 13, 2010 • Leave a Comment

It’s Fire Prevention Week!

•October 4, 2010 • Leave a Comment

As a Construction Official, the safety of my family, friends, and co-workers is always on my mind.  Since joining USA Architects, I annually promote Fire Prevention Week.  But this year, life safety and fire prevention is close to my heart.  One recent morning a lamp malfunctioned in a bay window at my Aunt’s house.  She was not home. A neighbor spotted the fire almost immediately, called the Fire Department, and grabbed a garden hose.  The good news is the fire was out within seconds of the Fire Department arriving, the bad news is that the damage was done.  It only takes minutes for thick black smoke to fill a house.  If my Aunt had been home, she would have probably been in the shower, which is on the same level as the fire.  As she walked out of the bathroom upon hearing the smoke alarm, she would have been hit with thick black smoke with temperatures of 100 degrees at floor level and 600 degrees at face level!  Inhaling the air can scorch your lungs and the heat can melt clothes to your skin.  My Aunt was very fortunate.  Her kitchen cabinets, on the other side of her house, however, were melted and everything was a shade of grey.  She is displaced from her home for 6 months in order for repairs to be completed.

What is Fire Prevention Week?  Fire Prevention Week started in 1922 in memory of one of the most historic and horrific fires in history.  On October 8th & 9th 1871, the Great Chicago Fire killed 250 people, left 100,000 people homeless, and burned over 2,000 acres to the ground.  Many have blamed the fire on a cow…yes, a single cow…while some blame it on boys smoking, an irate neighbor, and even a meteorite!

This year’s theme is Smoke Alarms.  We already know what they do… they ring when you burn the toast!  Unless the alarm is hard-wired to a burglar alarm, it is all too easy to pull the batteries out and walk away.  (Fact:  Nuisance alarms were the leading reason for disconnected alarms).  Partly due to this mentality, smoke detector installation and maintenance is not a new topic of Fire Prevention Week.  In the history of Fire Prevention Week, smoke detectors were the center of attention 7 times to date with catchy themes such as “Where There’s Smoke, There Should Be a Smoke Alarm”, “Test Your Detector – It’s Sound Advice!” and “Let’s Hear It For Fire Safety: Test Your Detectors!”.

Seriously, each year nearly 3,000 people die in U.S. home fires. Cooking is the #1 cause of home fires and injuries. Electrical problems are #2.  Smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in a reported fire IN HALF. These facts are the reason it is so important to regularly test and replace your existing smoke detectors.  Websites such as the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) and the United States Fire Administration (USFA) provide a great deal of information on smoke alarms along with other ways to prevent fires.  Both pages have videos, links and printable fact sheets… including safety of decorative electrical appliances (I should print this one for my Aunt!).  These sites also have interactive sections to help children understand the importance of fire protection.

Would you please join me on spreading the word about Fire Prevention Week?

Some information reproduced from NFPA’s Fire Prevention Week Web site, ©2010 NFPA.

NFPA’s Fire Prevention Week site (

U.S. Fire Administration, 16825 S. Seton Ave., Emmitsburg, MD 21727

Building Safety Month – Week 4

•May 24, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Backyard Safety

As warm weather quickly approaches, folks are blowing off their decks, uncovering their bbq grills and opening their pools to enjoy the “dog days of summer.”  USA Architects wants to remind everyone to not only enjoy themselves but have fun safely.   According to ICC, “Zero to low cost simple steps can help to keep your family and friends safe in the future:…”

Building Safety Month – Week 1

•May 4, 2010 • Leave a Comment

This year, on their 30th anniversary, the ICC has decided to create Building Safety Month!  Yay!  The monthly topics are split into 4 themes per week.


WEEK ONE // May 1 – 8, 2010

Energy & Green Building

This week’s topic focuses on innovative ways to reduce your energy consumption and discusses the latest in sustainable design.  Think outside the box:  Energy Efficiency and Green Building methods apply to where you live, work, and play!  Do you know the size of your carbon footprint? 

Building Safety Month 2010 website has links for each week/theme and includes facts, tips, videos, and games.  Click here for more information.

Design Sensitivity Strengthens Learning Experience for Autistic Students

•April 26, 2010 • Leave a Comment


Development Learning Center, MCSSSD

Autism is a pervasive developmental disability with a wide range of symptoms that affect a child’s language, social, cognitive, and sensory development. Autism affects nearly one (1), in one-hundred fifty (150) births nationally and less than one (1) in ninety (90) births in New Jersey, and  that number is predicted to rise through the next decade. Although there is no cure for autism, early intervention and structured teaching enable students to maximize their skills and learning potential. Further, the built environment plays a significant role in the overall success of the education and care these students receive.

USA Architects has over 10 years experience in the design and programming of educational facilities for this exceptional group of students.  Traditional educational design, where the classroom is designed to stimulate students simply does not apply.  Conversely, the design of educational environments for autistic students requires careful attention to factors that may negatively stimulate a child.  As a sensory-sensitive population, sensory stimulation – sound, light, color, patterns – should be controlled. The architect must use a different palette for the design aesthetic and built environment.

Main StreetA firm understanding of the educational program is the foundation of good design.  This springs from the architect and educator sharing ideas and speaking in a common language that bridges the divide of their traditional roles. Perhaps, most importantly for the architect is an understanding of the complexity of degrees of varying symptoms across the autistic spectrum.

In the design of facilities for students with autism which vary from a traditional school, the architect must consider the teacher to student ratio, which in some cases may be one-to-one. In addition good design often incorporates dual-use spaces to minimize size and maximize simplicity. In all cases, good quality architecture considers sustainability and environmentally responsive design.

Design considerations

  • Sustainable Design – indoor air quality
  • Acoustics
  • Softer interior design, flooring, to prevent injury
  • Lighting
  • Storage Space to reduce clutter
  • Programming – Designing “real-world environments,” i.e “bringing the world to the classroom”
  • Dual-use spaces
  • Security
  • Technology
  • Least restrictive environment
  • Way-finding