IIT Goes High Tech With The Latest In Sun Shading For New Innovation Center

IIT Innovation Center-Entrance

IIT Innovation Center-Entrance

When Illinois Institute of Technology began planning its new innovation center, John Ronan, the project’s architect, came to one early conclusion.

“It’s a building for innovation, so the building itself should be innovative,” Ronan told me.

He certainly made good on that promise. IIT’s new Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship will fit nicely in the Mies Campus with its sleek, modern exterior. And, if you’re looking for an innovative building design, Ronan pulled out all the stops.

Innovation Center At Night

Innovation Center At Night

IIT and Ronan unveiled the design for the project last week. It features a dynamic façade with ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) foil cushions for sun shading on the second floor. These reflect the first use of the technology in Chicago, and perhaps in the world.

The ETFE cushions can actually vary the amount of solar energy entering the building. The material is much lighter than glass, and definitely more sophisticated, with three layers of film.

“You can move the middle layer to press against the inner layer or outer layer,” Ronan explained. This allows the ETFE cushions to either block the sun’s rays or allow them in, depending on the time of day. That means a more efficient use of heating and cooling for the building, and a more comfortable environment for students and faculty inside.

Heating and cooling in the building will be delivered by a radiant system. Like the ETFE cushions, this radiant system will be innovative. It will use water-filled tubing embedded in a concrete-filled metal deck under the floor.

Ronan’s design will also meet LEED Silver certification for the 92,000 square foot facility.

IIT will use the new tech center as a flexible adaptable teaching space for undergraduate interdisciplinary courses. It will also be home to the university’s Institute of Design, Idea Shop, the IPRO Program, and the Knapp Entrepreneurship Academy.

Groundbreaking is planned for spring 2016, and the new tech center should be open 18 months later. John Ronan, FAIA, is founding principal and lead designer of John Ronan Architects.

Author: Bill Motchan

Bill Motchan is a writer and photographer, and a former resident of the West Loop. He can be reached at bill@ChicagoArchitecture.org.

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