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Ryan Center for the Musical Arts Earns LEED Gold

New Evanston campus features state-of-the-art mechanical and lighting systems

  • LEED certification recognized worldwide as premier mark of achievement in green building
  • State-of-the-art mechanical/lighting systems contribute to the Ryan Center’s energy savings 
  • The highly-sustainable structure engages and invigorates the campus and larger community
  • Building’s green qualities will provide decades of energy/water savings for the University

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University’s Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Center for the Musical Arts is an award winner in sustainability, making the Evanston campus “greener” than ever.

The Ryan Center has been certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold for New Construction (v2.2) by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

LEED is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class strategies and practices. To receive LEED certification, building projects must satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels of certification, which differ for each rating system.

LEED certification is recognized worldwide as the premier mark of achievement in green building.

The Ryan Center is a sleek glass-encased 155,000-square-foot building. It is the new home of the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music

Designed by Goettsch Partners, Inc., a Chicago-based architectural firm, the contemporary limestone and glass five-story structure includes three state-of-the-art performance spaces: the 400-seat Mary B. Galvin Recital Hall, the 163-seat black box-style Shirley Welsh Ryan Opera Theater and the 120-seat David and Carol McClintock Choral and Recital Room. 

The sprawling center also includes classroom space, 99 soundproof practice rooms, 66 faculty teaching studios or offices and additional office space for staff and administrators. The center’s fifth floor houses School of Communication administrative offices.

“Northwestern University started this project with a goal to achieve a minimum of Silver-level LEED certification,” said James Goettsch, FAIA, design partner and chairman/CEO at Goettsch Partners, Inc. “That commitment to sustainability was evident from the competition through to project completion.” 

“Being an institutional client, Northwestern was willing to consider an extended return-on-investment period, versus a typical owner/developer. This long-term thinking will provide decades of energy and water savings for the university,” Michael F. Kaufman, managing partner, added.

“The innovative nature of a mostly glass music school, combined with attention to detailing, such as a double-skin facade, allowed us to provide extensive light to occupants, while still providing acoustical isolation and an energy-efficient enclosure,” said Patrick Loughran, FAIA PE, LEED AP, technical principal. 

Northwestern University’s goal for the music school was to build a highly sustainable facility, one that engages and invigorates the campus and larger community. The University intends to use the building as an educational tool to encourage and advance the science and knowledge of green building and operating practices.

The Ryan Center’s sustainable and energy-efficient features follow:

  • The double skin facade in many of the building’s areas provides acoustical isolation and greatly improves the thermal performance of the facade.
  • Because the building is adjacent to Lake Michigan, the building’s lower level is susceptible to a high water table, the under-slab drainage system is connected to a grey-water tank. This grey-water system provides grey-water for the toilet and irrigation systems in the building and reduces water usage.
  • The building was not only designed to be energy and water efficient, using 49 percent less interior water, but also sought to create a healthy environment for occupants that promotes sustainable behavior. Features include the use of low-emitting materials and products; materials with recycled and regional content that are low-emitting, including air testing; and access to daylight and views. 
  • Additional sustainable design elements include high-efficiency and low-flow water fixtures, which reduce potable water consumption; high SRI roofing material to reduce the heat island effect; and energy-efficient lighting to decrease energy consumption. 
  • The integration of the high-performance facade and innovative systems result in anticipated design energy EUI of 72.5 kBtu/sf/yr (as analyzed in the final proposed LEED energy model) that is well below the ASHRAE baseline building EUI of 108.6 kBtu/sf/yr, and the national average site EUI for university educational buildings of 120 kBtu/sf/yr.
  • State-of-the-art mechanical and lighting systems contribute to the Ryan Center’s energy savings. 
  • The Ryan Center site location includes access to public transportation, and the University has instituted a campus-wide discount for LEFE (low emission, fuel efficient) vehicles. 
  • There also are many options for bicycle storage available near the Ryan Center and throughout the Northwestern campus.

“The site was well situated to allow us to take advantage of many LEED points and to incorporate design elements that allowed us to exceed the original goals and achieve Gold- level certification,” said Scott Seyer, AIA, LEED AP, design principal. 

The credit for the Ryan Center’s recent LEED/GOLD accreditation extends beyond the architectural firm of Goettsch Partners Inc., to several other firms involved in the project, including Cosentini Associates -- MEP/FP, engineers; Schuler Shook, architectural lighting designers; Atelier Ten, sustainable design consultants; Epstein Global, LEED consultant; and Power Construction Company, general contractor.

“The University recognizes the importance of environmental stewardship and incorporates green building design principles in all new construction,” said Bonnie Humphrey, Northwestern’s director of design and construction. “Needless to say, we are very proud of obtaining LEED Gold on such a magnificent building. We hope that this project illustrates that sustainable architectural design can be a thing of beauty.”

Toni-Marie Montgomery, dean of the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music, also expressed her gratitude to all those involved in achieving the Gold certification level for the Ryan Center for the Musical Arts.

“The entire Bienen School of Music community applauds Goettsch Partners for their accomplishment in combining uncompromising functionality with stunningly elegant form,” Montgomery said.

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