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George Davis Hall in the fall.

LEED Gold Certification for Energy Efficient Whitcomb Art Center

Knox College's new art facility recognized for sustainable construction and operation

May 21, 2018

Knox College Whitcomb Art Center

Already recognized for its innovative design and construction, Knox College's Whitcomb Art Center is now gaining national recognition for its energy efficiency. The $8.6-million academic facility, which opened in 2017, recently received LEED Gold certification from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). 

Designed by Lake|Flato Architects, the Whitcomb Art Center gained strong scores from USGBC for energy efficiency, reduction and recycling of construction waste, reuse of historic building materials, and the high quality of the indoor spaces for teaching and advanced work in the visual arts and art history

It's the second LEED Gold building at Knox. The renovation of historic Alumni Hall received LEED Gold certification in 2016.

The art center scored 61 out of a possible 110 points to achieve LEED Gold status, the second-highest certification level recognized by the USGBC. The 30,000 square-foot art building houses studios and classrooms for painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, printmaking, graphic design and art history.

The center got a high score—12 out of a maximum of 15 points—for indoor environmental quality. Approximately 40% of the walls are glass, which provides views to the outside from 95% of the interior spaces. Windows and skylights are energy-efficient, and a number of rooms have operable windows for natural cross-ventilation.

Excellent lighting is vitally important to students in the visual arts, according to Mark Holmes, associate professor and chair of art and art history. "The amount of daylight in the Whitcomb Art Center is a huge benefit for students," Holmes said. "Students can see their work in good light. They can make better color choices and more effectively critique their work."

At the same time, innovative design and construction is yielding a 17% reduction in energy use compared to similar structures.

"We installed modern, efficient heating, air conditioning, and ventilation systems," said Scott Maust, Knox College's director of facilities services. "You don't have the big fluctuations of heating and cooling, while we're also reducing the greenhouse gas that's generated to heat and cool the building."

Getting a good score for energy efficiency is made more challenging because of the expansive interior needed for work in visual arts. "It's easier to regulate climate in small spaces, but the large open spaces are necessary here—they're one of the advantages of the building," Maust said.

The Whitcomb Art Center also received points toward LEED certification for reusing historic building materials. The site at Prairie and South Streets once housed a century-old lumberyard, and wood siding from one of the lumberyard sheds was reused in two of the new building's entryways. Hardwood flooring, more than 120 years old, removed during the renovation of Knox's Alumni Hall was reused as flooring in the Whitcomb Center's lecture hall. And the Whitcomb Center's north face features antique brick pavers salvaged by the College when some old sidewalks were rebuilt.

The Whitcomb construction project, managed by general contractor P.J. Hoerr, won high marks for waste diversion. "Instead of taking all construction waste to the landfill, the general contractor used separate dumpsters to maximize recycling of concrete and brick, cardboard, wood, and steel." More than 80% of construction waste from the project was recycled.

The art center also won points for sustainable site design by Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects. The site features two rain gardens that channel stormwater runoff into the ground, instead of draining to the municipal sewer system. Grounds include native prairie plants designed to help reduce weeds and save time and energy required for maintenance.

The Whitcomb Art Center won major awards in 2017 for its design and construction. They include a Master Builder of the Year award for P.J. Hoerr from Star Building Systems and an Honor Award to Lake|Flato from the American Institute of Architects.

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Printed on Tuesday, December 11, 2018