Chicago Building Congress names College of DuPage’s Institutional Resource Center finalist in 2021 Merit Awards for outstanding design and construction
Several of Wendy E. Parks’ colleagues were somewhat skeptical when College of DuPage (COD) planned to convert an early childhood center into office suites. They questioned whether a facility designed for three- to five-year-olds could become an effective professional work environment.
After an intense retrofit, the facility resurfaced as COD’s Institutional Resource Center (IRC), an open, mature, and light-filled environment that displays the building’s natural surroundings. The 22,000-square-foot space brought together 60+ employees in three divisions: Campus Services, Marketing & Communications, and Research & Analytics. The retrofit connects the entry to office suites, as well as breakout spaces, a kitchen/lounge, and a multipurpose meeting space.
According to Parks, COD’s vice president of public relations, communications and marketing, coworkers “often share that they wished they could have had the opportunity to move to the IRC. It is a truly coveted space on campus with an artistic and smart design.”
The retrofit, designed by Legat Architects and built by FH Paschen, was named a finalist in Chicago Building Congress’s 2021 Merit Awards (Renovation & Adaptive Reuse Under $15M category). This annual competition recognizes outstanding design/construction projects built in greater Chicagoland during the past three years.
A Flexible Meeting Place
The Institutional Resource Center has served a variety of purposes ranging from an early voting site for the 2020 US Presidential election to a meeting point for various community groups to discuss key issues at COD. A conference room within the Business Services suite creates easy access for meetings with clients and vendors. A larger multipurpose room supports construction-related bid openings.
In its old location, COD’s Marketing & Communications Division only had one conference room that fit 12 people. In the tiny kitchen area, one person had to squeeze near the sink for a colleague to access a small refrigerator. The IRC’s large multipurpose space enables much larger groups to have interactive meetings and training sessions, while the spacious breakroom eliminates crowding.
“The thoughtful design of the IRC considers both the work and personal needs of employees,” said Parks. “It has significantly improved departmental efficiencies.”
Light and Colors
In the building’s original state, partitions and walls restricted the reach of natural light coming from large skylights in the middle of the building. The revised design removes many of those barriers and introduces a wider corridor beneath the skylights. The layout, along with more internal glass, distributes daylight throughout the facility. Additionally, new LED lights replace inefficient lighting.
It has significantly improved departmental efficiencies. It is a truly coveted space on campus with an artistic and smart design.Wendy E. Parks,
Vice President of Public Relations, Communications and Marketing,
College of DuPage
According to Sylvia Kowalk, Legat’s director of interior design, “a new color palette of grays and subdued blues creates an industrial look that tones down the previously playful colors intended for youngsters, while bold modern signage introduces the departments.”
Additionally, the placement of piping, ducts, and lighting provides better service access and avoids obstructing views to skylights, graphics, and entrances.
Comfort and Efficiency: Fixing a Flawed Geothermal System
The early childhood facility had a geothermal system, which uses underground pipes to help heat and cool the building. However, the system did not work properly. Air handling units built above conference rooms distributed heated and cooled air inefficiently through ducts. Moreover, multiple mechanical rooms were difficult to access and service.
The retrofit reuses the geothermal wells, but heating/cooling equipment gets replaced with higher efficiency units located in the main ground-floor mechanical room with much easier access. Heat is now distributed with controlled perimeter hot water finned tubes to offset heat loss at the floor and windows, making the occupants more comfortable and using far less energy.
Chicago Building Congress Merit Awards also applaud projects for safety- and quality-oriented construction. The COD IRC retrofit created 70 construction jobs and there were zero lost time incidents throughout the six-month schedule.
FH Paschen used a three-phase quality control program modeled after the US Army Corps of Engineers’ program. Quality control was addressed in detail at weekly project meetings to review the previous week and prepare for the week ahead. All supervisors were 30-hour OSHA certified, first aid certified, and AED trained.
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