North Central / Regional Reports

University Building Cuts Energy Usage by More Than Half

CHICAGO - Loyola University’s Richard J. Klarchek Information Commons, one of Chicagoland’s most prominent green buildings, was designed to achieve a 50 percent reduction in energy usage as compared to conventional HVAC systems. The building became functional in mid-January 2008 and has quickly proven itself to be a green success.

Energy usage data collected so far indicates that the building is clearly saving more than the projected 50 percent, stated Wayne Sliwa, project manager for Loyola University. “It’s too early to give out an actual percentage, but the building has met and is exceeding design expectations,” he said. “The building also meets all the requirements of LEED Silver certification.”

The effectiveness of a green building depends greatly on its mechanical contractor, since the contractor’s area of responsibility, the HVAC system, will see the greatest percentage of energy savings. Hill Mechanical Group of Franklin Park, Ill., installed the HVAC system for the four-story, 70,000-square-foot facility. Hill is a member of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Chicago (MCA Chicago) and employs workers from Pipe Fitters Local Union 597.

“Loyola has used Hill Mechanical on other projects and they are an excellent contractor, bar none,” Sliwa said. Hill Mechanical has also worked on HVAC projects for O’Hare International Airport, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Trump International Hotel and Tower.

“Loyola’s Information Commons raises the bar for green building projects, not only in the Chicagoland area, but across the nation,” said Stephen Lamb, executive vice president of MCA Chicago. To ensure that member contractors like Hill Mechanical can meet the growing demand for green buildings, MCA Chicago created the Green Construction Institute.

“The Institute keeps our member contractors up-to-date with the latest sustainable technology,” Lamb said, “so they can maintain a competitive edge in the construction marketplace.” In addition to member contractors, the Institute provides green classes for Local Union 597, engineers, city officials, and building owners, among others. Local Union 597 pipe fitters and service technicians also receive green building training from the union itself.


Not only is the Information Commons saving more energy than originally planned, but it is living up to Loyola’s indoor climate expectations as well.

Alison Stillwell, manager of information technology services, enjoys working inside the Information Commons. “The building is highly comfortable,” she said. She added that users of the Information Commons, including the student population, were surveyed to gauge their opinion of the building’s comfort level. “The results were extremely positive,” she said.

“The lighting and the view are spectacular,” said Fred Barnhart, associate dean of university libraries for Loyola. “The temperature is comfortable and the acoustics are good, too - no big echoes like you’ll experience with some large facilities.”


The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system is the nationally accepted benchmark for green building construction, and the Richard J. Klarchek Information Commons was designed to achieve a LEED score of 2.1 Silver. The building features an innovative, energy-efficient means of heating and cooling: radiant ceiling slabs, which contain looping tubes for carrying heated or chilled water.

These slabs release hot or cold energy throughout the large open space between the limestone ‘bookends’ of the building. In cold weather, warm water loops through the tubes and provides radiant heating. In the summer, chilled water is pumped through the tubes to cool the building. The Commons’ system uses existing campus facilities to deliver the heated or chilled water to the building. A green roof works to collect rainwater, draining the excess into Lake Michigan.

“Hydronic heating and cooling - using water to regulate a structure’s inside temperature – offers outstanding energy efficiency,” said Dan Bulley, executive director of the Green Construction Institute and a LEED Accredited Professional. “The radiant heating and cooling system used by the Information Commons uses much less energy than a traditional forced-air mechanical system.”

The Commons also uses other sustainable technologies to attain energy efficiency. In warm weather, input from an exterior weather station opens automated windows in the building’s east and west facades, so that breezes from Lake Michigan can cool the interior space.

The Commons also uses a special “double-skin” facade - the first to be used in Chicago - to manage heat flow and natural ventilation through the year. The facade features two layers of glass, separated by air space. Air circulates in the cavities between the facades, while four-inch horizontal blinds track the sun’s movement throughout the day. These blinds reflect away the heat of excess radiant energy while allowing natural daylight to light the building.

“Green building technology needs to be a top initiative for the entire construction industry,” said Bulley, “and as part of that initiative, we must keep an eye on the future, so more buildings can be as innovative and as effective as the Information Commons. The Green Construction Institute is developing courses on how green building will intersect in years to come with design/build and other industry developments. Green is great, and with diligence, will become even better.”

To find out more about MCA Chicago, visit To learn more about green building, visit the green contractor Website of the Mechanical Contractors Association of America at

Publication date: 09/15/2008

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