New Academic Library & School of Architecture

IMEG provided engineering design services for Judson University’s new Harm A. Weber Academic Center, home to the School of Art, Design and Architecture and the Benjamin P. Browne Library. The new building included natural ventilation, natural daylighting and photovoltaics – making it one of the “greenest” buildings in the United States. The facility uses an integrated thermal energy recovery system to minimize life-cycle costs, while providing a healthy environment for students. Energy consumption is reduced 40% by optimizing solar gains in the spring and fall, allowing the building to run naturally, with little or no mechanical intervention, for six or more months of the year. The project achieved LEED Gold certification.

The building draws cool air at the lower level, circulates the air throughout the facility, and ultimately exhausts through roof terminals. It creates a stack effect which both draws and exhausts naturally buoyant warm air. It is constructed primarily of precast concrete to serve as a thermal mass, radiating warmth or coolness. The exterior walls are built out approximately four feet from the precast concrete walls to contain the chases for vertical air flow.

Daylight harvesting was maximized using glazing and a deep exterior envelope pocket. Studies were performed to angle each window to limit direct exposure. The four-foot-thick wall cavity serves to reduce the majority of direct solar gain. The cavity produces a light shelf surface that bounces light from the tapered sill to the ceiling spaces within, allowing both ambient and indirect lighting. A glazed atrium in the middle of the library/studio element serves as both a daylighting element, as well as the conduit of fresh air supply. IMEG engineers provided solutions for multiple challenges, including:

  • Designing all aspects of the building – structural, envelope, windows, natural ventilation, daylight harvesting, photovoltaics, smoke evacuation, and backup HVAC – to operate as one large, integrated system
  • Overcoming the Midwest’s extreme humidity and temperature differentiation and complex building application of a library and art gallery with critical preservation demands
  • The building size nearly doubled half-way through designs due to receipt of an $8 million EPA energy grant, yet the delivery schedule remained the same
  • IMEG’s structural engineers worked closely with a precaster for constructability coordination due to the high pitched roof, vast amount of wall panel penetrations, and excessive lateral forces of the all-concrete, four-story structure. Special joints were required to connect the concrete panels and accommodate the close window penetrations to the panel edges
  • The library required a floor plan without columns, requiring underfloor structural support. Solid steel beams defeated the air flow needed for natural. Custom steel trusses with openings were designed to permit air to flow freely
  • The photovoltaic system in the south wall generates 22kW of electricity, which is fed into the building’s electric service. The heat generated by the PV panels warms the air in the adjacent natural ventilation chases, which speeds up and increases the overall system’s draw of air
  • Smoke evacuation strategies were custom-designed, based on computational fluid dynamic analyses that demonstrated how smoke could be effectively vented from the structure

2009 – Building Design + Construction Best of 2009 – Building Team Award
2009 – Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute – Honorable Mention
2008 – ACEC-IL Building/Systems Technology Honor Award
2007 – Consulting/Specifying Engineer’s ARC Awards – New Construction – Silver Medalist
2007 – Midwest Construction’s Best of 2007 Awards – Educational Facilities – Merit Award

Judson University
Elgin, IL
88,000-sf New
Services Provided

Structural, Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, Fire Protection, Technology