Today’s guest co-author is Jinho Kim, visiting professor at Judson University and sustainability coordinator at Legat Architects.
Across the nation, the popularity of the “living building” concept is growing. These “net-zero” energy buildings (NZEB) have zero net energy consumption. That means they harness energy from the sun, wind, or earth to exceed net annual demand.
Recently, our students at Judson University participated in the Living Building Challenge Collaborative Chicago (LBCCC) 2014 School Annex Design Competition. The ingenuity of their ideas proves that such a net-zero school is not only on its way to Chicago, but that the next generation of school architects will approach the drawing board with a living building mindset.
A design competition for an annex to Eli Whitney Elementary School in Chicago proved that net-zero schools are soon to arrive.
First a bit more on the LBCCC. The competition, open to professional firms and students, challenged entrants to consolidate temporary classrooms at Chicago Public Schools’ Eli Whitney Elementary School campus into a net-zero addition. The school is located in Little Village, a predominately Latino neighborhood in Chicago.
The design needed to better support the school’s STEM curriculum that starts as early as kindergarten. We challenged our students to not only create a campus rich with high-performance technologies, but also to transform it into a teaching tool that supports the curriculum. For instance, how can collected rainwater or photovoltaics (i.e., solar cells) support STEM lessons? We stressed that every aspect of their design, from window size to exterior and interior materials and finishes, can affect the natural environment.
Also, the class met with the Eli Whitney principal, students, and parents to listen to their concerns and needs.
The students approached the semester-long project with enthusiasm. Two students, Lane Williams and Kevin Danikowski, received an honorable mention in the LBCCC competition. Keep in mind that they were competing against design professionals at world-renowned firms!
Vibrant colors and sustainable systems surround the “oasis” in Lane Williams’s concept.
The Oasis – Lane Williams
Lane capitalized on the importance of the courtyard. Recognizing the value of connection and community in the Little Village neighborhood, he created an activity-filled “oasis” between two existing buildings. He incorporated colorful murals in the Hispanic style to add vibrancy and respond to the cultural context.
Additionally, Lane proposed large skylights to bring natural light deep into classrooms in existing and new buildings. The skylights also act like natural ventilation shafts. A green wall on the south side of his addition offers natural shading, while a greenhouse between buildings enables planting of vegetables for school use. Lane’s sloped roof carries rainwater down to cisterns, which are partly exposed for public view. The water will run through filtering systems before reuse.
Module Zero – Kevin Danikowski
Kevin proposed a module system to achieve net-zero energy consumption for several reasons: modules are fast, easily expandable, cost effective, and recyclable. He offered well-researched details regarding wall composition to maximize recycled content (e.g., barn wood and plastic plywood sheets) and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide generated.
Kevin’s scheme includes a solar chimney that uses the sun’s energy to help naturally ventilate the facility and reduce the cooling and heating load. In summer, hot air rises and exits quickly, but in winter, a cap on the chimney pushes warm air back into the facility to help heat it.
Kevin’s learning wall offers vegetation, research stations, a fruit vending machine…even an aquarium. He also introduced a solar share program that enables residents to take advantage of the excess energy generated by the school.