Art Institute of Chicago goes green

Chicago The Modern Wing, one of the first sustainable museums in the U.S., at The Art Institute of Chicago was completed this May and will receive U.S. Green Building Council's LEED-NC (new construction) certification later this year. The Modern Wing is 264,000-sq.ft., and is now the second largest museum in the country, housing the third largest art collection in the U.S., including galleries for

Chicago — The Modern Wing, one of the first sustainable museums in the U.S., at The Art Institute of Chicago was completed this May and will receive U.S. Green Building Council's LEED-NC (new construction) certification later this year.

The Modern Wing is 264,000-sq.ft., and is now the second largest museum in the country, housing the third largest art collection in the U.S., including galleries for European paintings and sculptures, contemporary art, photography, and architecture and design. There is also a state-of-the-art education center, outdoor sculpture terrace, restaurant and interior garden in the new building addition.

According to Erin Hogan, director of public affairs at The Art Institute of Chicago, applying for USGBC's LEED-NC certification will be done this fall after full commissioning of the building is finished. Once the Modern Wing receives LEED-NC Silver certification, it will be one of the most environmentally sound museum expansions in the country.

Ove Arup and Partners, London, England, an engineering design, planning and project management firm, provided the engineering and design services for many of the building's systems, including the mechanical systems, and Hill Mechanical, Franklin Park, Ill., was the HVAC contractor.

Temperature in the Modern Wing was a primary concern when designing and constructing the building addition since there is a temperature and humidity requirement for any museum or gallery that houses artwork. Saving energy was also a concern when deciding what type of ventilation system to install.

According to Katherine Holden, building services engineer at Ove Arup and Partners, a modified variable-air-volume system was used to meet temperature and humidity requirements in the building — temperature needs to be between 72°F and 74°F, and relative humidity needs to be 50% ± 5.

“We also wanted to make sure there is good air movement and mixing within the spaces,” said Holden.

Two custom variable-air-volume handling systems are located in the lower level of the building and total 230,000 CFM, serving the new addition to the museum, and serving the gallery spaces is a variable-air-distribution system. Variable-air-volume boxes include hot water reheat coil and steam humidification. There is also a partial air economizer that recirculates air when not so much outside air is needed inside the building, which happens when it's either hot or cold outside. When the air outside is a moderate temperature, an outside air controller can be used to let in air.

Carbon dioxide monitors were also used with the modified VAV system. The amount of outside air that is introduced into the building is adjusted by the system, depending on how many people are in the building, thus, saving energy.

With the new building addition, a 3,500 ton chilled central water plant, which is made up by six cooling towers, two 1,000 ton centrifugal chillers and existing chillers, was created. The museum's existing chillers were connected to new water piping circuits, and the new cooling towers were installed in a concrete areaway and connected to the plant by 24-in. direct buried piping. A water side economizer system is also in use at the museum to take advantage of outside temperature conditions when the outside air is less than 50°F to provide cooling through the chilled water system.

Besides creating ventilation and cooling systems that would meet the building's temperature and humidity requirements, Ove Arup and Partners designed a double curtain wall on the building's north side made of glass. The double curtain wall has a cavity space that captures summer heat, so it does not go into the gallery. Blinds in the cavity capture the heat, and then the air in the cavity is ventilated.

“The Modern Wing in particular was designed with an innovative daylight harvesting system that uses as much available natural light to illuminate the galleries,” said Hogan. “Additionally, the double curtain wall designed for the building saves energy in heating and cooling it. In all, the Modern Wing uses approximately half of the energy as the existing buildings.”

For almost 10 years, the Art Institute has been committed to sustainable practices. Installing a solar array on the roof of the Rice Building was one of its first sustainable projects.