Lessons in Sustainability
Education center proves to be a good green neighbor.
When Evanston/Skokie School District 65 in Illinois began planning the Joseph E. Hill Education Center in Evanston, district officials envisioned a wide range of family resources—from early childhood education programs to adult literacy and GED classes—as well as district administration offices under a single roof. Dedicated in late 2002, the new center not only achieves this goal, but also enhances the Evanston community through innovations in sustainability. The nature of the consolidated program of functions itself minimizes energy expenditures to access its wide variety of
programs and services. In addition, sustainability is enhanced through optimal site planning, including preservation of green space, an innovative storm water management system and materials selection.
Open extended hours (Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.), the two-story, 72,000-square-foot building houses the district's early childhood center and administrative offices. The first floor provides space for 12 early childhood
programs serving 400 students; kitchen and dining facilities for 900 students; a family center currently offering language and GED classes for District 65 parents; a board room seating 150; health, speech therapy, occupational and physical therapy offices; gymnasium; and a playground. The second floor houses 25 administration offices; four meeting rooms open to the community; computer information center; and teacher center, distributing materials and supplies to 625 district instructors. Altogether, the building provides space for 143 employees and parking for 125.
Preserving Green Space
The 7.5-acre site, which is about the size of two city blocks, formerly housed one of the
district's elementary schools and a soccer field. Originally, school district officials envisioned a single-story building with two separate entrances to isolate public functions and accesses from administrative and professional development areas. As an alternative, designers proposed a two-story building, stacking 25,000-square-feet above the 50,000 square foot first floor to minimize the building footprint. A single building entrance
controls access to public and administrative areas.
Site disturbance was further reduced by locating the new center adjacent to the existing elementary school. Consolidating the buildings and parking areas as a "campus setting" preserved approximately half of the site as green space. The community park retained a
significant number of old specimen trees, reducing the heat island effect, which was further enhanced through the use of a reflective roof on the building itself. In addition, some of the soil excavated for the new building was used to build up low areas, reducing
the volume of soil disposal, eliminating drainage problems and creating landscape features.
The new site plan improves traffic circulation within the neighborhood. Prior to this, school buses were forced to "stack and hold" on the street in front of the elementary school. Adequate circulation space now enables buses to pull off the street reducing congestion and enhancing child safety. Finally, the use of low cut-off exterior light fixtures minimizes the visual impact of exterior lighting on the community.
On-Site Storm Water Filtration
The site's proximity to the North Shore Channel itself was an opportunity to filter storm water on site and release it to the channel, eliminating the need for the community of Evanston to build additional storm water infrastructure to serve the new facility. Completed in 1907, the North Shore Channel is part of a 56-mile system of canals designed by the Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago to divert water from Lake Michigan into the Des Plaines and Calumet rivers, essentially reversing the flow of Chicago-area rivers. This system is designed to protect the water quality of Lake Michigan, a major source of drinking water for the Chicago area.
Working closely with the Water Reclamation District, project civil engineers designed a storm water system that collects rainwater from the roof and paved areas, retains and filters it underground, and releases treated water to the channel. Twelve-inch drainage pipes, rather than the standard six-inch pipe, enables the system to retain a larger volume of storm water. These pipes lead to an underground three-chamber trickle filtration system that removes oils and sediment. Treated water is gradually released into the North Shore Channel.
Enhancing Sustainability Throughout
In an innovative choice of materials, a local recycling company, which collects, cleans, chops and dyes used tire material, supplied the resilient playground surface. Use of locally available material reduces energy demand in transporting materials to the site. Colored light blue and white, the surface also helps to reduce the heat island effect.
Other materials selections met good practice standards for reducing the consumption of natural resources. Structural steel, aluminum panels used on the façade, and an aluminum curtainwall glazing system all contain high-recycled content. Brick was obtained within a 500-mile radius of the project site.
Other elements of the sustainable design strategy included:
* ASHRAE 90 energy performance standards to the mechanical system and lighting design and an HVAC system zoned to correspond to standard operating of both the public and administrative areas. A building automation system maintains mechanical systems at optimal levels.
* Operable windows that admit natural ventilation in mild weather.
* Lighting controlled by photocells in the lobby and public areas.
* Paints and carpet selected for low VOC content.
* Low-flow plumbing fixtures are used in all 27 bathrooms. In addition, sensor controlled plumbing fixtures are installed in public restrooms.
A Good Neighbor
Increasingly institutions are choosing to incorporate sustainable design strategies as much as possible to conserve natural resources, enhance operating efficiencies and improve the quality of life for building users and the community. Evanston/ Skokie School Illinois District 65 is no exception. By concentrating a wide range of programs and services within a single building and making thoughtful decisions about site, materials and systems, school district officials have created a functional sustainable building that is itself a good neighbor within the Evanston community.
Mark Banholzer, AIA, LEED AP is a vice president with Cannon Design, Chicago, IL. He can be reached at (312) 346-2270 or via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.