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  • Writer's pictureEric Eichler

Commitment to Sustainability

Updated: Jan 29, 2021

Forge has a deep commitment to sustainability. We feel that sustainability can and should underpin every aspect of the design and construction of new buildings and landscapes. Designing and building responsibly should be integrated into the project delivery process for owners, architects, engineers, and contractors. In most cases, deciding at the beginning of a project to integrate modest or even somewhat aggressive sustainable features will result in no additional cost, and will decrease the long-term operating cost of a capital asset.

Campus North Residential Commons radiant tubing installation
University of Chicago

Eric Eichler is a LEED accredited professional and has been fortunate to work on two major recent projects with very sustainable designs. The Logan Center for the Arts and Campus North Residential Commons were both LEED Gold certified by the USGBC, and contain elements that go beyond contributing to LEED certification.

The Logan Center for the Arts received an ICECF grant for 60% of the cost of a photovoltaic solar panel system to be installed on the sawtooth roof structure above the complex’s art studios and wood and metal shops. The grant funding was not secured until well into construction of the building. Eric led the design and construction team to make adjustments to the skylight structure and electrical systems to accommodate the installation of a large array of solar panels. These panels contribute 3% - 5% of the building’s electricity, depending on the season. This may not sound like a large percentage, but for a large building with seven theatrical venues, it amounts to nearly $30,000 savings on electricity per year.

The Campus North Residential Commons is a very innovative, sustainably designed building. Sustainability was built into the project delivery process. As part of a design competition led by Eric Eichler, the competing firms were required to meet energy use targets and to submit energy models with their design proposals. The aggressive energy targets established by the University led the successful design from Studio Gang to feature radiant concrete slabs to temper the space, with no forced air for heating or cooling. The concrete slabs contain many thousands of feet of radiant tubing, which receive a mix of hot and chilled water depending on whether the building is in heating or cooling mode. Each floor of the building contains four zones of temperature control. The system allows slab temperatures to vary by zone depending on outside air temperature and solar exposure. By eliminating the need for forced air to heat and cool the spaces, the building promotes the use of natural ventilation. Architectural metal grilles on the facade are not only for aesthetic purposes, but provide solar shading, and allow each student room to have fully operable windows, with the grilles also providing fall protection outboard of the operable windows. White precast concrete façade panels, the building’s architectural signature, also contribute heavily to energy performance. The panels are as deep as 24” in some locations, allowing them to provide a super-insulated building envelope that helps the radiant system function properly. Together, the radiant heating and cooling, insulated facade, and use of natural ventilation combine to provide an integrated design that reduces energy use and increases comfort. The building opened in September 2016 and is projected to reduce energy use by half compared to the University’s most recent residence hall of this scale, which opened in 2009.

#forgeprojects #uchicago #sustainability

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