Feature News

Sustainability is central in new Science Center

Mar 20, 2017

When North Central College’s new Science Center opens March 27 for spring term, its sustainability features will be on full display.

Designed with the College’s 2020 Sustainability Goals in mind, this state-of-the-art multidisciplinary building is situated in the heart of North Central’s campus, at the intersection of student and academic life.

Prominently featured in this 125,000 square feet of space are spectacular, full-story windows that jut out along the west wall. More than eye-catching, the windows are energy efficient and smart; they’re made with a new technology: electrochromic glass.

“This technology has only been available for commercial building in recent years. And we have it here,” said President Troy D. Hammond.   

Better than conventional glass, electrochromic glass lets in unobstructed sunlight while blocking unwanted glare and heat. In full-tint mode, the glass blocks 99 percent of visible light, giving protection from the sun’s harshest glare and reducing energy consumption up to 20 percent.

The energy-saving glass also eliminates the need for blinds and shades; the space inside feels more open and connected and gives unobstructed views of the outdoors. Overlooking campus green space and downtown Naperville, the large windows are located in gathering or breakout areas where students can study and work collaboratively. The glass tints and clears automatically based on input signals from exterior daylight sensors. However, students can adjust the settings themselves, using wall switches, to fit the time of day and weather outdoors, allowing more or less sunlight.

“From the beginning, we wanted this unique technology to be part of the building’s design,” said Hammond. “We worked to ensure energy efficiencies and constructed the center to meet LEED Silver certification standards. It’s also intended to be an inviting and comfortable space for all students and others to hang out.”

In addition to the “smart” glass, other energy-saving features include interior light fixtures with daylighting and control capabilities that adjust based on the quantity of natural light from the windows. On sunny days, for example, many if not all the light fixtures will automatically turn off.

The HVAC system uses high efficiency chillers and boilers. The ventilation system and air quality are constantly monitored, especially in the labs; airflow is filtered using the latest technology for electronic filtration. All these and more energy features increase efficiency and reduce energy cost.

Saving, collecting and managing water is a top priority, too. Around the exterior of the Science Center are rain gardens and permeable pavers to help mitigate storm water runoff. The biology department greenhouse will be linked to a 1,000-gallon rainwater collection cistern for watering its plants. This collection system will help reduce the building’s demand for potable water, in addition to the installation of low-flow water fixtures in sinks and dual-flush toilets. The low-flow fixtures alone will provide 20 percent water savings.

According to Brittany Drummond, North Central’s sustainability coordinator, reducing waste has been part of the campus culture for years. “This and other sustainability efforts will only expand in the new Science Center,” she said. “Research labs, the greenhouse and café will compost materials. Recycling stations for electronics, plastic bags and even granola bar wrappers, as well as waste receptacles for routine landfill and recycling, will be located throughout the building.”

Showcased inside the center is a wall display about the College’s campus-wide sustainability initiatives. Drummond said viewers can see a campus map that pinpoints all the sustainability projects. They also can read about North Central’s academic major in environmental studies, sustainability goals, accolades, and renewable energy projects, like the solar PV array, solar thermal panels and geothermal energy.

For more information about the Science Center and its March 27 opening, click here.