University of Chicago – South Campus Chiller Plant / Murphy/Jahn

© Rainer Viertlboeck

The project for a new chiller plant at the provided the opportunity to design for function, performance, materials, construction while simultaneously considering how the technical equipment could be displayed as if it were a piece of art. The resulting expression of the South Campus Chiller Plant is a modern celebratory display of technical equipment. As the utility equipment is exposed, other elements of construction remain “uncovered” – concrete walls and floors, steel structure, ducts, light fixtures, and pipes.

The University of Chicago – South Campus Chiller Plant received the 2009 AIA Chicago Chapter Award, the 2008 Chicago Architecture Foundation Patron of The Year Award, and the 2008 Midwest Construction’s Best Award.

Architects: Murphy Jahn
Location: Chicago,
Client: University of Chicago
Lead Designer: Helmut Jahn
Structural Engineer: Burns & McDonnel, Werner Sobek Engineering & Design
MEP: Burns & McDonnel , Primera
Project Area: 26,400 sqf
Project Year: 2009
Photographs: Rainer Viertlboeck

© Rainer Viertlboeck

The plant’s façade language composed of two principal systems which facilitate showcasing of the major equipment while allowing the building to “breath” in and out in response to individual internal air intake and exhaust requirement. In major equipment rooms, there will be a floor to floor Low Iron Ultra Clear Glass curtainwall supported on Steel Bar Mullions – all the building’s technical systems are visible from the street – equipment, piping, valves, columns, girders, beams, and floor decks.

© Rainer Viertlboeck

In those areas where the building needs to “breathe” the skin is clad with continuous sheets of profiled perforated stainless steel panels held 4” in front of precast concrete planks. The mechanical nature of the façade construction as well as the “uncovered” nature of the structure allows the building’s function to grow as demand increases.

© Rainer Viertlboeck

View this project in Google Maps

* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "University of Chicago – South Campus Chiller Plant / Murphy/Jahn" 15 Nov 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 May 2015. <>
  • javedani

    really cool.
    it reveals the beauty of the “machine”.
    it also reminds me the pompidou center’s atmosphere.

  • Hank Jarz
  • up_today_arch

    Fine… I like this type of projects…

  • Michael

    The glass expanse to reveal the workings of an industrial plant reflects O’Hare airport’s heating and air-conditioning plant (1963) designed by Murphy/Jahn’s predecessor firm, C.F. Murphy.

  • wpgmb

    interesting project, but it would have been nice if they had put a little more effort into the stale bldg sections.

  • ArchWro

    I agree with you, that this building is undubtly very interesting, but in my opinion we also should ask ourselves if this idea is orginal. As far as i am concerned architect somehow showed similar idea to the ones claimed by Le Corbusier. This Swiss architect was the first one who used to think about the building like we think about the machines.

  • Philippe

    Great design, emphasizing function and using the machinery and pipework as architectural elements. Remark: compressors and rotating machinery are usually very noisy: how is the building soundproofed?

  • Nikhil funde

    Chiller efficiency is the amount of energy (electricity) it takes to produce a “ton” of cooling. It is expressed as kw/ton. All chillers have a designed kw/ton efficiency that was established when the chiller was commissioned. Plant design, water treatment, maintenance practices, chiller age, cooling tower design, cooling load and plant operations dramatically effect chiller operating efficiency and operating costs
    Chiller Operation, Service and Maintenance A chiller “operator” is known by several titles, including Stationary Engineer, HVAC Engineer and Service Technician. Operation and maintenance includes collecting and logging data from various gauges, controls and meters located on or near the chiller. Service contractors, who specialize in equipment repair, are contracted when major repairs or overhauls are required.
    There are essentially three types of maintenance performed on chillers; water chemistry, mechanical maintenance and operational procedures. Water chemistry is maintained to keep proper balance and minimize the effects of scale, corrosion and micro-biological / debris fouling. Mechanical maintenance includes proper lubrication, adequate liquid refrigerant, oil levels and pump curve tests. Operational procedures include eddy-current tests, oil analysis, calibration of gauges and meters and other various tests.