Text description provided by the architects. The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (ECE ILLINOIS) is the epicenter of new technology and groundbreaking innovation. Intended to go beyond a collection of bricks and mortar, the new ECE building will be the heart and soul of the department – a place where curiosity is celebrated and intellectual collisions occur naturally. The building, containing 230,000 square feet of research, instructional and office space, is designed by SmithGroupJJR to inspire and support interdisciplinary learning and research. From its inception, the building design was driven by energy efficiency. This high-performance building is the direct result of integrating culture, energy research and architecture – a new paradigm for sustainable design.
The University of Illinois was determined to set new standards in building energy use and explored opportunities that could potentially enable the building to supply its own energy. Designed to be net-zero ready, the ECE Building demonstrates a sincere commitment to sustainable design while emulating the spirit of the department that is recognized for pushing the limits of technological innovation. From displacement and demand control ventilation, heat recovery chillers with net metering to chilled beam technology, the building is an important addition to the campus in terms of its minimal carbon footprint. The ECE Building will use 50% less energy than the minimum building energy efficiency standards established in ASHRAE 90.1-2007. This is an exceptional achievement considering the energy-intensive nature of a laboratory building with an instructional clean room.
The ECE Building will be a sustainability prototype for future buildings on the University of Illinois campus. Inspired by the technological discoveries of ECE ILLINOIS, SmithGroupJJR created an architectural expression that pushed the limits of innovation while maintaining aesthetic continuity with the traditional brick campus. The building features a pressure-equalizing terracotta rainscreen cladding system in conjunction with an R-30 thermal envelope for optimum energy performance. Passive solar design features such as optimal building orientation, 30% overall glazing and exterior shading devices lend to greater daylighting and reduced energy loads. In addition to maintaining a consistent material palette, terracotta baguettes and the solar canopy act as exterior shading devices on 80% of the glazing. Comprehensive sustainability features were incorporated into every aspect of the building’s exterior and interior. Energy efficiency was not only the priority, but the driver for every decision throughout the design process.
ECE ILLINOIS’ new building provides a home to imagine future innovation, to incubate technological advances and to lead sustainable research practices. More importantly, this building is an environmental steward. The holistic approach towards design – linking culture, energy research and architecture – represents an organizational model to achieve significant advances in sustainable building performance. The new ECE building is a breakthrough in design innovation as well as a catalyst for future discoveries in energy research – a special place worthy of celebrating the achievements of ECE ILLINOIS.