This project stems from the University’s objective to push parking to the perimeter of the campus to enhance the internal pedestrian paths and open space. Out of this objective emerged the idea of combining a new parking structure with a university visitor center to form an entry element to the campus from the south.
The building sits on the beach of Lake Michigan at a significant bend in Sheridan Road – a prominent connector of Chicago to its northern suburbs. This location allows the Visitor Center to celebrate the campus’ unique location on the water, as well as give it prominence from the perimeter of the campus. The architecture responds to these two different conditions – campus and lake.
The parking structure is framed by planes of limestone – the historic material of the campus. On the north and east façades, vertical fabric fins infill the limestone to help screen the visibility of the garage while remaining open, thus eliminating the need to mechanically ventilate the parking. The fins facing the lake animate the view from the beach and relate to the adjacent sailing center.
The Visitor Center is carved out of lower two floors of the mass with a double–height hall and auditorium at the south end. The tall curtain wall takes advantage of the views to the beach and the lake, as well as provides a transparency and visibility into the space reinforcing its function as an entry to the campus.
The primary sustainable strategy for the parking structure is its design as open and naturally ventilated. The fabric screens that clad the north and east side of the building tie it to its lakeside context and screen the parking function from view, but are designed to provide enough openness to ventilate the parking floors without fans.
In the Visitor Center, the selection of sustainable materials is a major contributor to the overall project strategy.
Products that have low VOCs, are locally or regionally sourced, have significant recycled content and use FSC-Certified wood have been used throughout the facility.
Additional the building systems were carefully designed to provide both energy efficiency, especially via low lighting power density, and occupant control.
Northwestern was an active participant in the building’s securing LEED Silver certification by signing a 2-year contract for renewable power to offset 12.4 kWh of the building’s power use.
Finally, the project’s general contractor, provided careful monitoring of the indoor air quality during construction and developed and stuck to an aggressive construction waste management plan that diverted nearly 90% of construction waste from landfill.
The building, as a whole, includes parking for more than 75% of its total area, so it was not eligible for LEED Certification. For this reason, we submitted only the Visitor Center portion of the project for certification as a Commercial Interiors project. This strategy dictated the energy-use metrics that have been gathered for the project.
The project’s lighting design, including occupant-controlled task lighting, yielded a Lighting Power Density (LPD) of 0.73 W/sf, which is 27.32% below the baseline target of 1.01 W/sf.
Additionally, the careful selection and purchase of efficient equipment has resulted in 57% of the building plug load being used by Energy Star-rated equipment.
The project is at the edge of Northwestern University’s Evanston campus, affording it easy access and connectivity to both campus and Evanston amenities. The downtown suburban location has a development density of over 82 units/acre and the facility is within ½ mile of parks, supermarkets, banks, places of worship, museums, restaurants and many other venues for culture and entertainment. Additionally, there are stops for both campus shuttle bus service and Pace busses a short walk from the building. All of these factors combine to yield a Walk Score of 37 and a Transit Score of 50.
The Visitor Center is housed in a parking garage structure with 429 parking spaces, but they are all public-use spaces and none are dedicated specifically for this facility’s use.
The Visitor Center build out water conservation strategy consists entirely of managing the potable water use. Through the careful selection of low-water-use flow and flush fixtures, the project water use of 69.16 kgal/year represents a 32% reduction from the baseline of 108.33 kgal/year.
The project team worked together to develop a construction waste management plan that diverted nearly 90% of construction waste from landfill.
Additionally the material selections and procurement met the following goals for healthy, sustainable and locally-sourced materials:
- 100% of adhesives, sealants, paint, coatings, flooring and composite wood meet low-VOC requirements of the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) Rule #1168.
- 24.5% of construction materials contain recycled content.
- 41.8% of construction materials were manufactured regionally and 23.9% of construction materials were extracted and manufactured regionally.
- 93.6% of new wood on the project is FSC Certified.