University of Illinois Wins DOE Net Zero Retail Building Design Challenge



An interdisciplinary team of architecture and engineering students from Illinois Institute of Technology (Illinois Tech), in Chicago, won the US Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Decathlon in the retail construction division.

The college competition challenges the next generation of building professionals to design high-performance, low-carbon buildings powered by renewable energy. Students from the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering and the College of Architecture designed a functional retail building that produces as much energy as it uses in a year – net zero energy.

The winning Illinois Tech team designed the Nook, a 7618-m2 (82,000 square feet) mixed-use retail space located on vacant land in Chicago. The students analyzed the cost, environmental impact, energy performance and sustainability of the building. They also ensured that the building meets the real needs of the surrounding neighborhood and respects retail trends, to achieve economic and environmental sustainability.

Architecture and engineering students from the Illinois Institute of Technology (Chicago) join forces to win the US Department of Energy (DOE) competition to design a net zero commercial building.
Image courtesy Illinois Tech

The team focused on achieving a zero energy goal by integrating both passive and active engineering and design strategies, including: building natural lighting, natural ventilation, night purging, an enclosure well insulated and airtight building, high efficiency equipment, fixtures and fixtures, radiant floor and ceiling panels, HVAC control automation, ground source heat pump, green roof and photovoltaic (PV) system ) mounted on the roof. The resulting design forms an environment for high retail volume, positive impact on energy use and community engagement.

“While engineers have studied building operating systems as a way to reduce a building’s energy loss, this interdisciplinary project between the Armor College of Engineering and the College of Architecture is a unique approach, merging disciplines to find a comprehensive, useful, and beautiful solution to a common problem, ”Illinois Tech said in a press release.

Learning to integrate the design of building energy and environmental systems, driven by engineers, but in the context of architectural form and function, has the potential to have great impacts on people with minimal impact on people. ‘space,’ said Brent Stephens, department chair of the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at Armor College of Engineering. “It is only with the combined efforts of architects and engineers that we can truly find both intelligent and realistic solutions to common problems.”

The area surrounding the site has eight schools, and the need for a community center and modern retail convenience, such as traditional hybrid retail and e-commerce distribution centers, was integral to the design. from the start.

“The Nook is a non-traditional two-level commercial building designed to foster a sense of community with surrounding schools and their students,” said Margarita Ramirez-Rodriguez, team member, architectural engineering student at Armor College of Engineering.

The building was designed to be operational year round, with a rainwater harvesting system feeding the green roof, sensors to adjust lighting and saving energy, and a solar panel feeding excess energy in rechargeable batteries.

In addition to its role as a community center, the facility can be used as an emergency shelter with rechargeable batteries that are also capable of supplying power to the building during power outages, peak hours and at night. In an emergency, such as a power failure, the building would reduce its energy consumption by 75%.

The sawtooth design of the roof is inspired by the historic factories that surround it, but also allows for natural lighting, rainwater harvesting and ventilation. When open, the shape and orientation of the roof channel the prevailing West / East winds, producing passive negative pressure for better exfiltration.

The student team worked with a range of industry partners including ASHRAE Illinois Chapter, Chicago Public Schools, dbHMS, Larson & Darby Group, SCB, Baumann Consulting, Cushing Terrell, Elevate Energy, Passive House Institute US and zpd + a Architects.



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