Loyola University Chicago

Information Commons

Environmental Features

The Information Commons (IC) employs a number of natural and mechanical building systems and strategies, resulting in a totally integrated design. The building's form, space, function, materials and construction all act to enforce and support each other in creating an environment that maximizes comfort while reducing energy consumption by approximately 50 percent.

The IC maximizes thermal comfort and indoor air quality. Unlike many older buildings with ceiling-supplied forced-air heating and cooling, which are less efficient and difficult to control, the IC uses a combination of underfloor air distribution and radiant concrete ceilings that provide thermal mass to cool in the summer and heat in the winter.

This unique mechanical design, coupled with an automated high-performance building envelope, harnesses natural ventilation, eliminating the need for mechanical systems during two months of the year. The advanced mechanical system and the building envelope are constantly monitored and adjusted by a central building computer system to achieve a very energy efficient structure.

The environmentally engineered building seeks silver-level LEED certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System, the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance green buildings.

This environmentally-engineered building has achieved silver-level certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance green buildings.

Key design elements of the IC include:

  • Chicago's first double-skin facade for passive management of heat flow and natural ventilation throughout the year
  • Sensor-activated, mechanically operable blinds on the building's east and west sides which automatically lower when heat and light levels elevate above set levels.
  • Sophisticated systems controlled by an array of sensors, which monitor the temperature, humidity and CO2 levels within the building. Radiant concrete-slab ceilings provide thermal mass to cool in the summer and heat in the winter
  • A green roof that absorbs rainwater and relieves some of the runoff into Lake Michigan
  • Sensors which monitor light and only turn on the energy-efficient fluorescent lights when they are needed. When rooms are unoccupied, the lights stay off.
  • Carpet tiles made from recycled content and formaldehyde-free products (for more information: IC environmental features detail.doc
  • Specific surface coatings on glass, shades and blinds to mitigate heat gain

Climate Control

Seminar Room/Bookends—the rooms are maintained in response to a desired temperature via a room thermostat. The carbon dioxide levels in the rooms are monitored. If Co2 levels rise above 1100 ppm, the unit will take less return air from the room and more fresh air from outside.

Center Core/Open Area—this is the open seating area including the Group Study rooms. These areas look to maintain the proper Co2 level, 1100 ppm, but can be overridden by temperature. Whenever conditioned air is being supplied to the spaces, both air temperature and volume are modulated in response to space conditions.

BAS—The Building Automation system divides the seasons into Winter and Summer. It looks at the season, indoor conditions, and outdoor conditions, and reacts as follows:

Winter—whenever the outside air temperature is below 55F. When in this mode, the space is maintained at 71F + 1.5F. The BAS utilizes several mechanical systems to help maintain the indoor air temperature set point. The air handlers serving the open areas will modulate its discharge air temperature, usually between 58F and 68F, to provide just enough heating or cooling to offset the space thermostats.

The east perimeter has hot water baseboard heaters just below the floor line which react to thermostats/sensors located near the glass in each quadrant of the north and south ends of the floor.

The ceiling radiation has hot water running within tubing throughout the ceiling. This system is divided into two zones, east and center/west. The flow and temperature are modulated to help maintain the space temperature.

Summer—this has multiple levels of cooling: Natural, Hybrid, and Mechanical. The desired indoor set point is 73F = -1.5F.

Natural occurs whenever the outside temperature is between 55F and 68F. While in this mode, the air handlers will turn off and the windows on the west side will open, the east windows will modulate and the fourth floor awning will modulate to maintain draft within the Winter Garden. However, any detection of moisture, or if the indoor relative humidity rises above a predetermined point that condensation may occur on the ceiling, the windows will close.

Mechanical cooling occurs whenever the outside temperature is above 74F, or if outdoor moisture is detected at a lower temperature. The air handlers are now operating to provide air circulation. These modulate their discharge air temperature while the floor diffusers modulate the volume of the conditioned air in response to the space temperature.

Recycled Content Carpet

Approximately five billion pounds of carpet are replaced each year in the US. Much of the old carpet, along with plastic soda bottles and other textiles, can be woven into new carpet fibers. Recycled content carpet has a similar look, feel, and price as virgin fiber (typically polyester, nylon, and olefin) carpet, but takes advantage of post-consumer recycled materials.

Recycled carpet can be made from recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or from recovered textile fibers. PET plastic is usually found in plastic soda bottles. About 40 two-liter soda bottles are recycled per square yard of carpeting. The backing used for recycled content carpet is the same as traditional carpets.

Recycled content carpet fiber is said to be more resilient and colorfast than virgin fiber carpet. Recycled carpet usually comes with the same warranties for colorfastness, static control, and resistance to stain, crushing, and matting as virgin synthetic fiber carpets.