Greenhouse to foster eco-friendly farming at the Institute of Environmental Sustainability, Loyola University Chicago

An integrated dormitory, academic facility and giant urban garden at the Institute of Environmental Sustainability, Loyola University Chicago

Story by: Charles Moxham
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The Institute of Environmental Sustainability at Loyola University Chicago includes an academic wing and a dormitory wing in red brick. The glass Ecodome is between them.
At Loyola University Chicago’s Institute of Environmental Sustainability, students walk the sustainable talk every day. Trends editorial director Paul Taylor looks at how the building by architects Solomon Cordwell Buenz achieves that aim.

As the need for sustainable thinking ramps up, so too does the need to inspire engineering, agricultural, and science students to look hard to the future. And what better way to help them envisage a viable green world than by offering a living, operable example just outside the dormitory window or through a glass cutaway in the floor?

The Institute of Environmental Sustainability (IES)on the south side of Loyola University Chicago campus is all about real-life lessons. Designed by architect firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz with Devon Patterson and Jim Curtin as design principals, the integrated learning facility is a coming-together of green building strategies, planet-friendly energy use, eco-farming, indepth research and teaching laboratories, student housing and a social hub.

The 65,532m² complex integrates three building forms. There is an existing brick structure, BVM Hall, reworked as office, teaching and research facilities, and a central urban farm and laboratory under glass, known as the Ecodome. Bookending this is a new brick building San Francisco Residence Hall. Designed in harmony with nearby campus architecture, this building also runs along behind the dome, with some students having windows that open directly into it.

In terms of green building alone the LEED Gold-rated design is an object lesson for students. Before the facility went up, a geothermal system was laid down. Ninety-one wells plunge water to a depth of 152m to be heated or cooled by the earth's ambient temperature and sent back to the surface for energy reuse within the institute. This is not only the largest geothermal field of its kind in Chicago, it is also unusual for being directly under the floors of the academic structure a placement made necessary by the tight urban location. Glass floor panels allow students to see this eco-friendly strategy in operation first hand. Running LCD displays show the water's temperature as it descends and surfaces.

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Locating the atrium partly inside the Ecodome at the Institute of Environmental Sustainability, Loyola University Chicago helps keep students and visitors warm

The Ecodome, looking a little like a giant's glass roll-top desk, is shaped to optimise passive ventilation rising hot air is drawn out of the top of the greenhouse, while computer-controlled vents allow cooler air to enter from below. This helps air flow through the space without mechanical assistance. The otherwise inoperable curving facade is also designed to maximise solar gain and collect and channel rainwater, as do the green roofs on the adjacent structures. The grey water is stored in an 11,356-litre underground cistern for irrigation of the aquaponic plants and fish tanks alongside. It also irrigates a living wall, one of two in the facility, that grows up the dormitory wall at the rear of the Ecodome. Students can not only open a window into the greenhouse from their room, taking in its warmth, they can also reach round and pluck a hop or flower, depending on the particular crop growing up the brickwork.

"The Ecodome is the iconic focal point of IES," says Patterson. "As well as a flexible learning lab, the space acts as a link between the residential, academic and social aspects of the institute."

Besides its prominent green strategies of passive ventilation, geothermal heating and rainwater harvesting, the integrated facility is a living example of cyclic green thinking in other ways, too.

"Add to these large-scale sustainable strategies such novelties as students living in the same building as the crop space they tend and a cafe with a menu that will incorporate some of what's grown in the building, and you have this closed-loop mentality," says Patterson.

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Greenhouse to foster eco-friendly farming at the Institute of Environmental Sustainability, Loyola University Chicago A pedestrian route separates the existing Loyola University Chicago campus on the left from the Institute of Environmental Sustainability on the right. This area can be planted for outdoor crop research in the future.

Another sustainability exercise dovetails with the institute's eco-friendly operation. The Clean Energy Program and Biodiesel Lab utilises waste products from campus dining facilities, creating 380 litres of biodiesel every three hours. In winter this is used to recharge the geothermal field. It is also used to fuel the campus shuttles, and extra fuel is sold off, as part of a certified green business.

The director of the Institute, Nancy Tuchman, says the university wanted a learning facility where students could learn many different skills, but also wanted the building itself to walk the talk.

"In other words, we wanted this to be the most environmentally and energy-efficient building that we could possibly achieve."

The IES figurehead for sustainable learning has more than fulfilled that goal and created a bold icon for the south side of the university at the same time.

Apr 18, 2015

Credit list

Project
Institute of Environmental Sustainability, Loyola University Chicago
Interior design
Solomon Cordwell Buenz;
Civil engineer
V3 Companies
Structural engineer
Halvorson and Partners
Landscaping
Clauss Brothers
Cladding
Brick by Interstate Brick; metal panel systems by Centria
Glazing
Wausau Window and Wall Systems; curtain wall and punched windows; Super wall and 3250i Series; Super Sky skylights; single slope mullion system for greenhouse
Columns
Steel columns by K&K Iron Works; concrete columns by Prairie Concrete
Wall treatments
K&K Steel; planted screen wall
Ceiling
Acoustic ceiling tile by Armstrong
Lighting
Shamrock Electric
Architect
Solomon Cordwell Buenz; design principals Devon Patterson AIA, Jim Curtin AIA; project designer Monica Willemsen AIA
Construction company
Power Construction
Mechanical and electrical engineer
Elara Engineering
Climate
Transsolar
Laboratory
SmithGroupJJR
Roof
Modified bitumen by Derbigum
Hardware
Dorma and Von Duprin from LaForce Inc
Flooring
Carpet by Interface from Mr Davids; Q Stone by Provenza from Stone Source; TransCeramica
Paints
Benjamin Moore, Glidden, Sherwin-Williams
Veneers
Dooge Veneers; Formica plastic laminate;
Heating
Active chilled beams by Dadanco, installed by FE Moran; geothermal system by MT Deason Company and Centennial Plastics, installed by Intren
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