Seminary becomes economic powerhouse

Wednesday 01 Oct 2014

Traditional seat of learning given new life as University of Chicago's Department of Economics

The former Chicago Theological Seminary has been transformed into a different style of educational establishment - a contemporary setting for the University of Chicago’s Department of Economics and Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics.

Undertaken by Anna Beha Architects on behalf of the University of Chicago, Saeih Hall for Economics now offers new opportunities for collaboration, teaching, and research whilst preserving and re-purposing the original historic spaces as unique academic resources.

Opened in June 2014, the project was designed to achieve LEED Gold and is a winner of the 2014 Honor Award for Excellence in Planning from the Society for College and University Planning.

The site design has transformed a city street and extends the University’s campus Quad. An alley, which once divided the building, was re-routed, offering space for a connecting vertical core and entrance. Internally, dorm rooms have become offices, cloisters have become student commons, chapels transformed into spaces for meeting and collaboration.

Saieh Hall for Economics establishes an innovative model for stewardship, exploring the intersection of historic and contemporary design.

Preservation components include the restoration of original steel and stained glass windows, historic masonry, interior finishes, and specialty elements: tile, carvings, and unique decorative lighting fixtures.

The building's contemporary design vocabulary includes metals, glass, wood, and artisan stained concrete floors. The challenge to introduce more light and views into what was a solid and private building has been met through added loggias and tall glass expanses, as well as clerestories illuminating the new below-grade level.

Steve Wiesenthal FAIA, University Architect, University of Chicago: “This adaptive re-use not only allowed us to breathe new life into a former seminary replete with architectural character and deferred maintenance. It also filled a gap in our core campus footprint, extending the function and feel of our main quadrangles. Ann and her team elevated the practice of re-purposing an historic building, highlighting the best of the old while creatively inserting modern interventions.”

June 2014

100,000 sq ft (77,000 sq ft existing; 23,000 sq ft new)

University of Chicago: Department of Economics
Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics
Faculty Offices
Undergraduate Suites
Graduate Center

The adaptive reuse offers growth in a constrained setting, preserving valuable campus green space. The limitation of newfootprint, addition of below-grade construction that optimizes thermal mass, and the pedestrianization of the adjacent 58thStreet are key features. Other sustainable project features include:
• 36,000 SF of open space, including 14,000 SF of planted landscape, is added to the campus.
• Over 95% of the construction waste on project was diverted/recycled.
• Stormwater management systems and landscaping strategies reduce the quantity of runoff by 30%.
• Energy performance is optimized by 24% above the baseline measurement, including new MEP/FP systems, lighting and systems controls, and a green roof.
• Historic lighting is restored and re-lamped with contemporary technologies.
• Natural light is maximized in historic, new, and below grade spaces.
• Building water usage is reduced by 39%; landscaping water usage is reduced by 57%.
• The building is operated under a Green Housekeeping building maintenance plan.

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