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New Engineering Building Designed to Be Green

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September 12, 2005 | by Megan Fellman
Ford building

Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The new Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center at Northwestern University is an innovative and environmentally sustainable building designed to use 20 percent less energy than one built to conventional high-quality construction standards.

The center — to be dedicated Oct. 6 — is the first Northwestern building built with the specific goal of being certified in environmental sustainability by the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System®.

Located at 2133 Sheridan Road, just south of the Technological Institute, the six-story, 84,000-square-foot building is the focal point for the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science’s initiatives in design education, including the Engineering Design and Communications (EDC) program for first-year undergraduates.

Early in the design process, the McCormick School administration and the building committee established leadership in environmental sustainability as an objective for the $30 million facility to complement McCormick’s innovative curriculum in engineering design.

“Our students expect us to incorporate environmentally sustainable principles into our thinking and planning for the future -- it is part of their culture,” said McCormick Dean Julio M. Ottino. “This building is a great example of green engineering principles applied in a creative teaching and research environment.”

The building itself is an important educational resource for McCormick students, allowing them to see the positive aspects of a green building in an urban setting. By checking a visible display, soon to be located in the main lobby, students will be able to monitor energy usage in the building.

To keep energy costs down, the building’s design provides natural daylight to more than 75 percent of the building’s interior spaces, which is notable considering that two of the six floors are below ground. In addition, an automated solar tracking system throughout the building closes window shades in the face of direct sunlight and opens shades in areas facing away from the sun. An innovative raised-floor system provides more precise temperature control at the individual-occupant level, resulting in more efficient heating and cooling of interior spaces.

Many of the materials used to construct the building, such as steel, glass, concrete with recycled “fly-ash” content, carpeting and ceiling tile materials, have recycled content. Additionally, the building’s design incorporates effective collection, storage and management of recyclable materials.

On the exterior, a number of measures minimize the building’s impact on the surrounding environment:

- A light-reflective roof reduces the “heat island” effect of the building on the site.

- Exterior lighting lights the ground and not the surrounding sky, reducing urban light pollution near the University’s historic Dearborn Observatory.

- A specially integrated retention basin, located beneath the building, captures ground water that is used to irrigate the building’s surrounding landscape and the historic Shakespeare Garden to the east. Any excess is returned directly to ground water rather than to the city sewer system.

The University engaged a team of experts in environmentally sustainable building design from the Rocky Mountain Institute in Snowmass, Colo., to review design constraints and recommend specific measures that could be implemented to achieve certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, part of the U.S. Green Building Council. In addition, the building committee worked closely with The Garden Club of Evanston, whose members are the Shakespeare Garden’s caretakers.

In addition to EDC, the McCormick programs now housed in the center are the Institute for Design Engineering and Applications (IDEA); the Walter P. Murphy Cooperative Engineering Education Program; a portion of the department of electrical engineering and computer science; the department of civil and environmental engineering’s Infrastructure Technology Institute; and two professional master’s degree programs: the Master of Product Development and the Master of Management and Manufacturing. (The Master of Management and Manufacturing program is run jointly by McCormick and the Kellogg School of Management.)

Ford Motor Company donated $10 million toward the new building. Other corporate donors include ITW, Deere & Company, 3M and Steelcase. The building was designed by the architectural firm of Davis, Brody, Bond of New York, and Turner Construction Company was the general contractor.

Topics: University