Architects: Solomon Cordwell Buenz
Location: Chicago, Illinois, USA
General Contractor: Pepper Construction
Consultants: Halvorson & Partners, Elara Engineering
Client: Loyola University
Size: 69,000 sf
Photographs: Jim Steinkamp of Steinkamp Photography
On the shores of Lake Michigan, Loyola University Chicago’s Information Commons collects the student body, less through the amenity of internet access than through its open, daylight setting with breathtaking views, inaugurating the library of the digital age. Through the realization of a collective space for internet-based research, the essential ingredient of collaboration is folded in to digital education. This LEED Silver building combines computer technology and innovative building systems with an inspirational open and flexible design to celebrate a new era of campus architecture focused on student collaboration and resource conservation.
Working with Loyola, SCB envisioned the concept of a transparent, open computer space using the clearest glass available and a visually delicate structure to maintain views from the campus through the building to the lake. The biggest influence on design came from a commitment by the University and SCB to incorporate cutting edge sustainable technologies. SCB worked in conjunction with German based Transsolar KlimaEngineering to establish new sustainable technologies. Transsolar KlimaEngineering performed a detailed climate analysis to understand the external environment in order to use the natural environment to heat and cool the building. Transsolar’s investigation was used to create optimal design parameters for the building. Their analysis included wind speed and solar radiation impact. The results indicated that an integrated façade and mechanical design were needed to mitigate heat gains from the rising and setting sun. Each facade was analyzed and different enclosures were designed to meet the unique orientation to the sun.
The most energy efficient operational mode occurs when the exterior environment can be utilized to achieve interior thermal comfort. When these ideal conditions occur, a sophisticated building automation system, with input from an exterior weather station, is programmed to open automated windows in the east and west façades. Opening the windows in these façades allows fresh air from the lake to naturally ventilate and cool the interior space. An active double-skin façade on the west elevation is used to stimulate this non-mechanical natural flow across the building from east to west.
In addition, wind pressure flowing across the top of this double-skin cavity helps exhaust warm air from the building by pulling the air through automated windows at the cavity’s top. Located in this cavity is the primary shading device for the western facade. Four-inch horizontal blinds that track the sun’s movement throughout the day reflect radiant energy and protect the interior of the building from excess heat gain while allowing natural daylight to light the space. The result of these innovative techniques is a building that achieves a 52% energy reduction below ASHRAE-90.1-1999 minimum requirements.
SCB’s design integrates a modern architectural vision with existing Art Deco buildings to create a space maximizing comfort. The concept of a transparent, open link between the university’s past and its future is described by glass walls enclosed between limestone “bookends” using materials, scale, and details similar to those of the existing historic buildings. Matching the Information Commons’ inventive library program is an equally innovative approach to mechanical and structural systems, utilizing passive computer-controlled technologies to attain energy efficiency.