Sustainability Effects are Pure Gold

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For British designer Alan Short, it was a dream project.  For the wall and roofing panel installers at Wiesbrook Sheet Metal in Plainview, IL, it was definitely a challenge.

Judson University, Elgin IL, needed a new facility to house its expanding Benjamin P. Browne Library as well as its fledgling architecture program – a building that would draw (no pun attended) both attention and acclaim.  Judson’s first step was to conduct a competition to select the best design that met the University’s specifications.  Short & Associates of London was selected for the design, as well as the firm’s experience in utilizing natural ventilation systems. 

The result was the first truly “green” college building in the United States.  And both design and execution have been reaping awards ever since. 

Performance of the wall and roofing panel phase fell to Wiesbrook Sheet Metal.  Every roof and wall panel on the three wings of the building was a custom cut and fit and in the case of the wall panels, custom fabricated.

McElroy Metal provided over 104,000 sq. ft. of 4’ x 10’ Flat Sheets with a Kynar 500 Copper Penny coating for the wall and trim, and over 24,700 sq. ft. of Medallion-Lok roof panels with a  Kynar 500 Ash Gray coating.  On site installation required over 12,000 hours, following more than 1,700 hours of shop prep.  It was the largest roofing project that Wiesbrook had ever undertaken, more than three times larger than the company’s last school.

Wiesbrook has only rave comments for general contractor, Shales McNutt of Elgin.  “They were absolutely great to work with.”

The main building is basically made of concrete.  Exterior walls sit about four feet away from the basic cement building and this is the space used for the natural ventilation. Readers will note the natural ventilation shafts by glancing at this article’s pictures.  The space between the inset windows is the open shaft that utilizes the natural tendency of warm air to rise.  This creates a vacuum, which draws cool air in at the bottom, circulates it and exhausts it through rooftop ventilators.  Air on each floor is drawn laterally by the upward pressure of the stacks.    Many ceiling and walls are exposed to radiate coolness or warmth.  A basic mechanical heating and cooling system provides essential temperature control during the months when the natural mode isn’t possible.

In addition to its natural ventilation, the building also features an integrated photovoltaic system and other innovative recovery devices.  A recent article about the building in Midwest Construction magazine stated “this thermal recovery system has been calculated to reduce fossil fuel costs by 50% by optimizing the high solar gain periods of spring and fall.”  These and other experts say the building should achieve an LEED silver rating.

Burnidge Cassell Associates in Elgin provided the architectural oversight during the construction phase for contractor Shales McNutt, also of Elgin.  The architects made walk-bys twice every week of the project. 

The 88,000 sq. ft. building is divided into the three functions that the building serves.  The library/studios comprise one area; the classroom portion is shaped like

a bowtie; and last, the academic offices and studios which is shaped like a bar.

The project required 6 months from the mock-up until the actual installation of the wall and roof panels began, then 15 months to finish.    One wing was removed from the project because of budget constraints, but then added back on during the project.

Competitive bids were taken on all parts of the project.  Wiesbrook never found out if they were the low bid for the wall and roof panels.  It came down to three contractors that were asked to provide mock-ups and then the final decision was made to grant Wiesbrook the job.  They got the job not solely based on the mock up, but because the project manager was familiar with jobs Wiesbrook had completed in the area, the workforce that would be providing the installation, and the general reputation of the company.