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United States of America
The John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School, located on the Aurora University Campus, is an innovative facility that serves students from four regional public-school districts and is designed to address regional and national deficiencies in science, technology, engineering, and math education. This 32,000 SF facility serves students in third through eighth grades. The School and its new educational model results from the collaboration of University officials, school district leaders, teachers, nonprofits, local businesses, legislators, and its architects.
The building, including its flexible furnishings and state-of-the-art laboratory technology, is designed to inspire student passion for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. This environment complements the building’s innovative curriculum and includes eight grade-school workshops, an open forum where classes can work together, and six laboratories that are shared by University and STEM school students.
The curriculum for students was developed through a unique collaboration between area educators and local corporations, covering STEM fields as well as art, music, and more. Corporations including Argonne National Laboratory, Fermilab, Caterpillar, Excelon, Nicor Gas, and Tellabs helped plan the STEM labs to reflect 21st century as well as their own needs.
Workshops and laboratories are designed with flexible furniture and technology, eliminating the traditional front and back of a classroom. Power sources that extend from the ceilings and all corners of the room can be used for instruction. Exposed piping and ductwork for plumbing and HVAC, and glass fronted mechanical rooms, technology rooms, and plumbing chases allow students to see and understand the building's “backbone features”.
Sustainable Design Intent and Innovation
This STEM school highlights sustainable design as a learning opportunity. Building features are exposed and highlighted for their educational value. Classrooms feature generous natural light— which helped earn the building LEED Platinum sustainability points — and much of the piping, plumbing, insulation, and shelving is exposed so students can learn how they work. In many areas glass walls separate classrooms from corridors so students can see activity within. A rooftop garden and a greenhouse, as well as the school’s boiler room and data center, are enclosed with glass so that students can peer in. Some construction is left exposed and an exposed beam is signed by members of the project and construction team.
• The school’s large wind turbine is prominently located, like a large functional sculpture, to give students insight into how renewable energy is generated. The building’s solar panels are prominently located as well and are visible from the ground and the accessible greenhouse.
• Structure and function that serve as teaching tools, with a garden and greenhouse on the roof, solar panels, and a wind turbine. Interior features, including piping, plumbing and insulation, are exposed to allow students to learn how they work.
• The design includes main building design features as learning tools and as part of the school curriculum. The mechanical room data room, piping, plumbing chase, and insulation are exposed so students can learn how they work. Electricity and vacuum is fed from the ceiling so that equipment can be plugged in virtually anywhere. The doors and adjacent windows in classrooms are designed in accordance with the “golden rectangle” proportion that prevails throughout nature, and so can be used here as an instructional tool.
• During the planning stage, special attention in design was given to security and safety of the grade school students along with visibility of ongoing university level classroom.
• Dedicated space inside the building that is accessible and available for shared use by the community.
• This new purpose-built STEM building is a "laboratory for learning": Its design reaches a broad educational spectrum. It looks like a serious science laboratory appropriate to university students and faculty; yet it is also has a playfulness and "fun factor" that appeals to grade school students.
The John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School was certified LEED Platinum by USGBC, recognizing the high energy-efficient performance of its design of the building. At the time of this award, it was one of only three schools in Illinois and one of only 43 schools in the USA and 47 schools worldwide to obtain LEED Platinum status.
The building’s sustainable energy performance was evaluated and compared to our models and manufacturer’s data. A Thermal Comfort survey is being completed to provide for the assessment of building occupants’ thermal comfort over time. The design team will collect anonymous responses from regular occupants about thermal comfort in the building, including assessments of overall satisfaction with thermal performance and identification of thermal comfort problems.
Energy consumption in the school is expected to be approximately 39.26% more efficient than a baseline new building, with 12% renewable energy.
The following energy efficiency approaches were analyzed and integrated in the building: integration of renewable energy systems, such as wind turbine and photovoltaic panels, into the building electrical system; analysis of energy efficient measures towards lighting systems and controls; daylight and glare analysis of openings to determine window improvement such as, addition of the vertical and horizontal sunshades in the curtain wall systems; analysis of energy efficient measures towards HVAC and plumbing systems such as improved cooling efficiency, condensing boilers, energy recovery wheels, green fume hood, etc.; and analysis of passive cooling and insulation to determine incorporation of vegetated garden roof, white built up bituminous roof membrane, envelope improvement.
Special green features include:
• Exterior “light shelves” serve an important sustainability role for the building, reflecting light deeper into the building and reducing energy needed for artificial lighting. Similar structures inside the building maximize this effect.
• State-of-the-art heating and air conditioning technology. Under normal operation, HVAC systems maintain set-points and indiscriminately introduce at least 20% outside air to meet codes. The HVAC system in the school introduces more outside air, as much as 100%, instead of recycling it, allowing for the CO2 levels to be reduced to optimum level of human comfort.
• Sensors in each room automatically control the lighting, heating, and cooling systems based on occupancy. This ensures that no resources are wasted by lighting or air conditioning a room that’s not in use.
• Onsite renewable energy generation is large enough that it at times exceeds the school’s demand. When this happens, the excess power is purchased by ComEd and is credited to the school. In essence, the meter “spins backwards.”
• The building features rooftop solar collectors. A prominent wind generator celebrates sustainability near the main entrance and serves as both an educational and functional kinetic sculpture.
• Playful exterior and interior LED lighting, color, graphics, and specially commissioned artwork animates the building's exterior as well as interior spaces.
The STEM school is a partnership between Aurora University and local school districts, for teaching Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math to both 3rd through 8th graders and university students. In addition to the classrooms for the grade schoolers, the project consists of six science labs that are shared with the university students, who also serve as teachers.
Grade schoolers arrive by bus from neighboring schools and are greeted by teachers. In addition, the university campus is served by public buses as well. One parking spot is provided per faculty member and university level Teaching Assistants, but parking spaces are not provided for the STEM students.
Since it is located on the border of a university campus, this school, with its secure drop offs adjacent to building entries, allows elementary and middle school students to come and go without entering the main campus. This unique, innovative classroom environment affords young STEM students access to higher educational resources that would be difficult to provide within an elementary school setting.
- Approximately 90% of precipitation is managed onsite: STEM Partnership building reuses precipitation for irrigating the rooftop garden and the perennial landscaping.
- The STEM Partnership reuses approximately 12% of its waste water.
- STEM annual regulated water volume is approximately 257.21 kGal (total calculated fixture water use annual volume.
- The STEM Partnership building water use reduction is 31% less than baseline.
The STEM school was designed minimize waste and improve indoor air quality.
The design reduced waste in various ways that contributed to its LEED Platinum certification. These include:
- Observe Value Engineering principals. Multiple functions are performed with one material rather than requiring multiple materials to perform one function: We avoided extraneous materials that do not contribute to function. The school’s lean and exposed design frequently exposes the concrete floor and metal roof deck and structure as final finish elements.
- Precast concrete for portions of the building’s structure are locally sourced and fabricated to size.
- This school is a major addition to an existing building. On that building, existing brick was repainted for reuse, rather than replaced.
- The school is efficient in area and volume. Less material is required by the design, so less waste is generated at the jobsite.
- Standard material and product dimensions were observed. The school is built primarily "on module" to reduce cutting and special fitting, which creates scrap.
- Where possible, we selected construction systems that do not require temporary support, shoring, construction aids, or other materials that would be disposed of as debris during the project.
- We primarily selected materials that do not rely on adhesives, which require containers and create residue and packaging waste, and which also helped eliminate "outgassing."
- By selecting materials with integral finishes and allowing the final finish to be somewhat “raw,” we minimized applied finishes, laminates, coatings, adhesives, and thus the associated scrap, packaging, and waste.
- Where possible, we avoided materials that are sensitive to damage, contamination, environmental exposure, or spoilage on-site, which increase the potential for jobsite waste.
Design Architect (FIRM)
Cordogan Clark & Associates