Northwestern University’s new music building occupies a prime site fronting Lake Michigan. Challenged to provide a dramatic architectural statement, the building design signifies the public importance of the School of Music and optimizes views of the lake. The new facility wraps and connects with an existing 1970s music building, consolidating the school’s programs for the first time ever.
Guided by the university’s master plan, the 152,000-square-foot building forms a new quadrangle with the other fine and performing arts facilities to provide a physical identity for the arts community. The dynamic, Z-shaped building plan defines the eastern edge of a new arts green then jogs to the western edge of the lake. A three-story atrium provides the main entry and gathering space, fostering visual connectivity between floors and offering striking lake views.
Building materials relate to other campus facilities, with the three main performance venues—recital hall, opera/black box, and choral—all clad in limestone. Classrooms, offices and practice rooms are enclosed with a double-skin façade for absolute acoustical separation. This façade, along with a greywater system and other initiatives helped achieve LEED-NC Gold certification.
The 400-seat recital hall is the signature venue. A 40-foot-high double-skin glass wall provides performers with a dramatic backdrop of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline. To address acoustics, the inner glass slopes inward, eliminating reverberation. Horizontal woven-wood panels on the other sides further absorb reflections while lending warmth. The entire room works in harmony to provide a striking visual and acoustical setting for world-class performances.
The LEED Gold Ryan Center for the Musical Arts approaches sustainability with a subtle yet confident hand. Sustainable design features weave their way throughout the details of the music school, not unlike how the building weaves its way through the surrounding campus. By layering sustainable attributes into the design as a menagerie of integrated elements, their coordinated contribution results in a richness unattainable otherwise.
The conceptual diagram for the building’s arrangement skillfully organizes the orchestra of internal spaces yet also enhances its immediate context. Public spaces are created for gatherings and concerts. New bike and walking paths link the campus to the lakefront. Most crucially, by integrating internal connections to the Regenstein Hall of Music, new purpose is given to a 1970s-era building that was nearing the end of its normal life.
In order to properly function as a leading music school, the tuning, control and isolation of acoustics is critical for both the classroom and performance spaces. Yet a building composed of isolated black box spaces with no light or views along the shore of Lake Michigan would be regrettable. The design team found a solution in the unique use of a double-skin façade. Employed along classroom and performance spaces, the double-skin façade was fundamental to achieving the necessary acoustic isolation while opening the spaces to natural light and views of the city, lake and surrounding campus. As a bonus, the double-skin wall greatly improved the thermal performance of the façade, contributing to the 34% reduction in overall energy usage for the building.
Adjacent to one of the world’s largest freshwater lakes, the project design was extremely sensitive to its water use. An integrated greywater system captures over 38 million gallons of wastewater and repurposes it for landscape and sewage conveyance. The result is a 100% reduction of potable water usage for landscape. Additionally, despite the immediately adjacent abundance of fresh water, efficient fixtures and automated systems were employed to reduce the interior potable water usage by nearly 50%. These efforts supported the fundamental project philosophies to respect the building context and reduce the consumption of natural resources.
At the new Ryan Center, a commitment to sustainable design was integral from the earliest design charrette. The result was not a single, overpowering system which made the project sustainable but a series of strategic considerations which delicately addressed real concerns. With an engineer’s precision and an artist’s touch, these concerns were resolved layer upon layer until a comprehensive yet specific solution to sustainable design was achieved.
a. Predicted EUI in kBtu/sf/yr excluding on-site renewable energy contribution – Predicted EUI in
kBtu/sf/yr, excluding on-site renewable energy contribution, is anticipated at 72.5 kBtu/sf/yr (as
analyzed in the final proposed LEED energy model), which is well below the ASHRAE baseline building EUI of 108.6 kBtu/sf/yr, as well as the national Energy Star average site EUI for university educational buildings of 120 kBtu/sf/yr.
b. Predicted EUI in kBtu/sf/yr including on-site renewable energy contribution (carbon offsets will not be counted) – N/A, as there are no on-site renewables such as PVs or wind.
c. Predicted % regional energy reduction per Energy Star Target Finder – Approximately 40% based on the predicted project EUI and average shown above.
a. Parking spaces per occupant – No new parking spaces have been provided as part of the project’s scope of work. As part of the LEED strategy, in order to promote the use of more environmentally friendly forms of transportation and low-emission vehicles when motorized commuting is necessary, Northwestern University has implemented a parking rate discount of 20% to faculty, staff, students and campus visitors who drive low-emitting and fuel-efficient vehicles.
b. WalkScore rating – Walk score of 92 and transit score of 56. Additionally, the LEED certification
includes the achievement of SSc4.1 Public Transportation and SSc4.2 Bicycle Storage and Changing Facilities.
a. Percent (%) precipitation managed on site – 0%
b. Percent (%) wastewater reused on site – 316,311 gallons of wastewater used for irrigation (100% reduction of exterior potable water); 38,544,000 greywater is captured and reused for sewage conveyance and irrigation. The result is a 100% reduction of potable water for irrigation.
c. Predicted annual regulated potable water use, gallons/sf/yr: 1.14 gal/sf (interior water only)
d. Percent (%) regulated potable water reduction from baseline: 49.43% reduction of interior potable water
Construction Waste Diversion – 89%
Recycled Content – 30%
Regional Materials – 42%
Certified Wood – 77%
Additionally, all low-emitting adhesives, sealants, paints, coatings, carpet and composite wood were used.