Structural Engineer: Albert Putnam Associates, Albert Putnam PE, Brunswick, ME
Mechanical Engineer: J.H. McPartland and Sons, Andrew McPartland, PE, Houlton, ME
Text description provided by the architects. Belfast, Maine—July 15, 2014—The University of Chicago’s Warren Woods Ecological Field Station, designed and built by GO Logic, has become the first Passive House–certified laboratory in North America, and the fifth in the world (the first outside of Germany).
The Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago set out to incorporate an extremely high standard of sustainability for the remote field station, laboratory, and cabins.
“With a mission of ecological research and education and its relatively remote location, long-term sustainability in the field station’s design and operation was imperative,” said Joy Bergelson, Chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolution, of the University of Chicago. “By exceeding typical LEED standards and allowing for a lower-maintenance facility with an extremely low operational cost, Passive House was the answer.”
Known for its expertise in Passive House design with a contemporary aesthetic, the University of Chicago commissioned GO Logic, an architecture and construction firm based in Belfast, Maine, to design and build the field station, with construction support from local firm Energy Wise Homes in Lansing, Michigan.
“We were intrigued with several challenges in this project,” said GO Logic principal Matthew O’Malia. “In addition to the complex technical requirements of the laboratory in a humid environment, the high levels of occupancy by researchers and the high levels of heat generated by scientific research equipment, including plant growth chambers, a -80°C freezer, an incubator, and tools for DNA extraction, had to be accounted for in order to achieve Passive House certification.”
After architects and researchers collaborated, GO Logic’s solution to reducing overheating was a layout with the laboratory on the (comparatively cooler) north face of the building, leaving the remainder of the sloped roof structure open to provide tall ceilings in the seminar space and a private lounge for the scientists above the lab tucked into the upper extent of the roof’s pitch. Extensive solar glazing was oriented south for the main seminar space.
Nestled in 42 acres of land adjacent to Warren Woods State Park in Berrien County, Michigan, the 2,200-square-foot project incorporates distressed wood exterior siding coupled with perforated steel sliding screen panels used for solar shading and outdoor storage; the combination reflects the building’s highly technical function within a natural, rustic landscape.
Employing a super-insulated building shell, solar shading, and the first-ever, GO Logic–patented insulated slab-on-grade foundation system, the lab facility was awarded Passive House certification by the Passive House Institute in Darmstadt, Germany, in July 2014, setting the benchmark for sustainable institutional facilities worldwide.
Used by the Department of Ecology and Evolution for research projects and educational programs and classes as well as departmental retreats and events, the facility offers a fully equipped research laboratory where small groups of students and researchers will grow, process, and study plants. The facility also includes a seminar space, bathrooms, a kitchenette, and three sleeping cabins in a southern Lake Michigan landscape containing several types of habitat, including lowland hardwood forest, climax beech-maple forest, and remnant wet prairie, where ecological restoration has been performed and research will be conducted. Botanical experiments will also be performed in fenced test plots on site.
GO Logic, an architecture and construction firm based in Belfast, Maine, creates sustainable, well-designed buildings and master plans, including private residences, institutions, and housing developments. GO Logic currently has five Passive House–certified projects, with a sixth pending. Visit gologic.us.