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Kresge Hall is Northwestern’s first LEED platinum building

Overhauled academic facility serves as model for future construction and renovation
Kresge Hall is the first University building to be certified as LEED Platinum. The 63-year-old academic building reopened in August 2016 following two years of extensive renovations.

EVANSTON - A 63-year-old Northwestern University academic building is now officially its greenest.

Thanks to extensive renovations, Kresge Hall has achieved Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum status, the highest sustainable building certification awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council. Kresge, originally constructed in 1954, is the University’s first LEED platinum building and the 11th to earn LEED certification between the Evanston and Chicago campuses.

LEED certification is the most widely used green building rating system in the world, providing a framework to create healthy, highly efficient and cost-saving green buildings.

Home to the Weinberg College of Arts and Science’s humanities programs at Northwestern, virtually all undergraduates pass through Kresge Hall at some point in their academic careers. The storied building has been transformed from a rite of passage to a modern, comfortable and healthy environment for the campus community.

“I am so proud of Northwestern for investing in this important project that improves the student and faculty experience for our humanities,” said John D’Angelo, vice president of facilities management. “I am equally proud of the design and execution team, which met all program goals, experience goals and budget goals. It proves that collaborative, thoughtful design need not be more expensive and results in a higher-quality product.”

Two additional University facilities are being scored for LEED certification: the recently constructed Kellogg Global Hub and 560 Lincoln, a seven-story residence hall. All new major construction and renovation projects at Northwestern are required to meet LEED standards as part of the University’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint.

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To see how far we’ve come, keep in mind that the original Kresge Hall had no insulation in the walls, no air-conditioning or ventilation other than operable windows and limited acoustic isolation between rooms ... .

Avi Lothan
Design principal, Lothan Van Hook Destefano Architecture

“Northwestern continues to improve its built environment, prioritizing sustainability in new construction and building renovations,” said Kathia Benitez, director of sustainability for Northwestern. “We pushed the envelope to gain LEED Platinum certification.”

Buildings and other campus infrastructure make up the built environment, which accounts for the vast majority of Northwestern’s greenhouse gas emissions. The University has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 14 percent since 2010.

The new-look Kresge opened in August 2016 after two years of renovation. Construction crews stripped the building to the bones in order to convert it to a high-efficiency facility.

“The project challenged us to create functional and engaging environments that will perform well for the next 60 years and position the building as an advocate for the kind of sustainable facility that will be increasingly in demand by the University,” said Avi Lothan, design principal for Lothan Van Hook Destefano Architecture, the architectural firm for the project.

“To see how far we’ve come, keep in mind that the original Kresge Hall had no insulation in the walls, no air-conditioning or ventilation other than operable windows and limited acoustic isolation between rooms, among other performance deficits.”

Kresge Hall has a broad range of sustainable features, including:

  • A 254-panel rooftop solar array that provides 5 percent of the building’s electricity
  • 100 percent low-emitting interior materials (paints, flooring, sealants, etc.) that dramatically reduce indoor air pollution
  • Daylight sensors that automatically dim or brighten the building’s high-efficiency LED lights based on sunlight
  • Highest-grade possible exterior insulation and windows
  • Radiant ceiling panels that use chilled water from the Central Utility Plant to reduce the amount of energy needed for air conditioning

“The mechanical systems had to be highly calibrated and commissioned like a Swiss watch,” said Elena Romero Jensen, project manager of the Kresge renovation for facilities management.

Kresge Hall earned 86 points on the LEED certification’s 110-point scale. A minimum of 80 points is needed to achieve platinum status. Complete LEED scoring and a rundown of the building’s sustainable features are available via sustainNU’s green building profile of the building.

The U.S. Green Building Council is a non-profit with a mission to “transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life.” More information on LEED is available on the organization’s website