The new Kansas University (KU) Facility for Collaborative Research in Sustainable Energy officially opened on July 16, 2011. The Center for Design Research will help address challenges and create new knowledge about sustainable practices in fields such as architecture, design, engineering and business. The Center for Design Research is a design-build project of Kansas University’s renowned Studio 804.
Dan Rockhill, J L Constant Distinguished Professor of Architecture, leads Studio 804, a program in the School of Architecture, Design and Planning which engaged more than 20 KU students in the project as designers, workers and even fundraisers.
Greg Thomas, Professor of Design and Director of the Center for Design Research, describes Studio 804 as an incubator for innovations in products and services in the area of “smart energy”. The building features a wind turbine, an electric vehicle charging station, an energy-conserving plant-covered roof, and a vented wall that promotes cross-ventilation in the summer and circulation of warm air in the winter. The building is one of the first LEED Platinum-certified buildings in the community and will feature a “smart grid” meter that provides continuous data about energy use at the site.
According to Greg Thomas, the Center for Design Research will encourage collaboration among faculty and students in many disciplines. “It will help address challenges and create new knowledge about sustainable practices in fields such as architecture, design, engineering and business. The facility will showcase new technologies and be open to the public to share knowledge developed at the center,” he said.
Reflecting the highest standards of sustainable design
The modest structure’s exterior stonework was created from cottonwood limestone tailings—the waste product from manufacturing stone. The material illustrates the strength of Studio 804—the ability to transform an otherwise useless scrap into an aesthetically pleasing material through a combination of inventiveness and cheap labor.
The building is clad in masonry and glass, framed in wood and steel. The masonry exterior walls cavities are filled with blown cellulose insulation. There is no wiring in the walls in order to maximize insulation and prevent thermal leaks. Additional roof mass, in the form of plantings around the edges and a solar array in the center, helps insulate from above.
Natural light filters through an electrochromic, butt-glazed curtain wall that forms most of the building’s south façade. A 10-inch-thick (9.6 centimeter) trombe wall—composed of 6-inch-thick (15 centimeter) concrete masonry units filled with sand and clad on both sides with 2 inches (5 centimeter) of limestone—sits 2 1/2 feet (76 centimeter) behind the glass and provides much of the building’s heat during winter. From the exterior, the trombe wall appears to be just a continuation of the building’s envelope under glass, but it takes on a completely different character on the interior. Between every other course, there are thick sheets of laminated glass laid horizontally within the joints. From the meeting area inside, these give an otherwise heavy feature a glow when it’s backlit by the sun.
From a steel-plate floor to the custom-fabricated curtain wall to the hand-hewn recycled limestone skin, the Center for Design Research plainly makes the case for an elegantly and simply composed architecture that’s also up to the highest standards of sustainable design.See more
An energy-efficient university building in Lawrence, Kansas, by Dan Rockhill of Studio 804 which forms part of the University of Kansas architecture, design and planning curriculum and traces the entire process of planning and construction up to realization received one of four Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prizes for North America.Read full media release – Holcim Awards 2011 for North America »
The jury acknowledges the project for its particular educative concept and the engagement with issues of sustainable construction illustrated in the program. The in-depth participation of students in the construction process is demonstrated as a successful component in the curriculum, substantially amplifying the learning outcomes beyond the pure experience of being a construction worker. Through the openness of the building’s function, this experience is shared not only with the few students who participate in the project – but is also transferred to the community and future students. The adoption of the building’s approach within the community is grounded by its integrative financial concept.
The planning and construction of the design-and-build Center for Design Research is part of the University of Kansas architecture, design and planning curriculum. In a program that has been running for 15 years, graduate students enter a full-year course that traces the entire process of planning and construction up to realization.Download project entry poster (PDF, 1.08 MB) »
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