Growing green buildings

15th Annual Green Symposium for Central Illinois

click to enlarge UIS Student Union.
UIS Student Union.

Solar panels, monarch butterflies, energy efficiency, eco-designed chairs, clean energy, rooftop gardens, manufactured construction and pollinator pockets are just some of the sustainability topics discussed at the 15th annual Green Symposium held at the University of Illinois Springfield Student Union Sept. 20. The keynote speaker addressed how the environments we create impact the lives of people in them and the importance of “inclusive placemaking.” The annual symposium focuses on innovations in sustainable environments and is the brainchild of Cindy Davis, president and co-owner of Resource One Interior Solutions and Design.  

Davis says, “We started this to provide some leadership in central Illinois for green building. The American Institute of Architects Illinois has been a big supporter of this event, as has the Illinois Capital Development Board.” Davis became a LEED-accredited professional 13 years ago. She is a champion for incorporating sustainability in building design by sharing the latest trends in the industry through the annual symposium.

The symposium is targeted toward architects, interior designers, construction managers and others involved in the building industry. But, the issues they address are of interest to everyone who ventures outside their own home into public or commercial buildings. It’s fitting that the symposium was held at the UIS Student Union, which features numerous design elements focused on green building construction and sustainability.

Architecture for “social fitness”

WORKSHOP Architects, located in Milwaukee, specializes in designing student unions, and along with Dewberry designed the UIS Student Union.  Jan van den Kieboom discussed the concepts of “sticky” and “thick” spaces – creating spaces that attract people and make them want to stay, while also facilitating interactions with others outside their typical circle.  While student unions are natural gathering places, research reveals that not everyone feels included.  A sense of belonging and security are the foundation for involvement and becoming part of a community. Van den Kieboom says the design process must be one of “inclusive placemaking,” reaching out to a broad constituency of users, including those who often feel marginalized and aren’t as likely to participate in planning processes for new buildings and public spaces.  

“Peripheral participation” is defined as “the ability to participate from the edge.” It is a design now incorporated into buildings such as student unions. For example, instead of placing offices and spaces for student organizations on a second floor and away from the main traffic flow, these spaces are located along a pathway where those passing by have opportunities to see students engaged with a myriad of student organizations. By being “exposed from the edge” they can have casual contacts and come in more closely as they feel comfortable to do so. He defines a socially fit place as “one that strengthens healthy relations and promotes a sense of equity, inclusion and belonging.”  For example, at the UIS Student Union there is a Student Leadership Center, with spaces for student government, student life and the volunteer and civic engagement center.  These areas are on the first floor and designed to be open, inviting and accessible.  Van den Kieboom delivers a compelling case that the environments we create through building design significantly impact the lives of the people within them.

At the symposium, Mayor Jim Langfelder welcomed the attendees to Springfield. He mentioned the city of Springfield’s efforts to pass a solar initiative, pursue creating a bike-share program for downtown, and develop an integrated resource plan for City Water, Light and Power which will identify what type and mix of electrical power generation will be best suited to meet the community’s needs for the next 20 years.

He acknowledged Michael Higgins of Maldaner’s for his leadership downtown, Adena Rivas who is the recycling coordinator for the city and Elizabeth Scrafford, advocate for the Sierra Club, for her efforts challenging the city to operate the power plant in a more eco-friendly way.

Doing what’s right with what’s left

ANEW is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Los Angeles that pioneered repurposing office furniture and equipment when businesses replace their furnishings.  John Hufferd discussed a partnership between ANEW and Knoll, a furniture manufacturer, to repurpose and steward surplus office furniture. Instead of landfilling surplus furnishings, which is a common occurrence, through this partnership businesses transfer their surplus materials to a wide range of nonprofit organizations and public service agencies. Homeless shelters, food pantries, schools, health clinics, public agencies and others are the beneficiaries. Each year three million pounds of surplus materials are diverted from landfills.  Detailed tracking from dock to destination provides businesses with the assurances that their surplus items are being put to good use.  

Lisa Mattingly, Illinois Capital Development Board

Lisa Mattingly provided an update on energy efficiency and green building requirements in state construction projects.  The Green Buildings Act of 2009 requires state buildings less than 10,000 square feet to be designed using LEED silver standards and buildings 10,000 square feet or more to be certified after completion that LEED silver standards have been achieved. To date there are 17 state buildings that are LEED certified, though none of them are in Springfield.

Central Illinois initiatives

• Representatives from Harley Ellis Devereaux Architects discussed challenges and opportunities of renovating an old building to meet modern needs, with an overview of the transformation of the Mechanical Engineering Building at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.Elizabeth Scrafford, Sierra Club, discussed the clean energy provisions of the Future Energy Jobs Act and progress towards goals related to energy production from wind and solar power.

• Amanda Voorhees of Dewberry Architects discussed the sustainable design features of the new Student Union at UIS. The building is designed for LEED gold certification and a projected energy cost savings of 31 percent.

• Roger Austin discussed the solar rooftop at Crawford Murphy & Tilly headquarters in Springfield. With 3,978 solar panels on the rooftop, it is one of the largest solar rooftop projects in central Illinois. The goal was a 90 percent decrease in energy use, but the result is over 100 percent; the solar panels are producing more energy than they use.

Following the symposium, participants took a tour of the UIS Student Union to learn more about the architectural design and sustainability features. The most adventurous climbed the steep ladder to the rooftop to take a look at the green roof. Of course Cindy Davis was part of that group.

Karen Ackerman Witter is retired from the state of Illinois. She has a master’s degree in ecology and is interested in environmental issues and sustainability.

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