Fantastic lakeshore views and an abundance of natural light are just two of the inviting features that draw students to the Richard J Klarchek Information Commons situated on the Loyola University campus in Chicago. This unconventional library is completely free of books — instead, its digital reading rooms connect students with information while they relax in arm chairs facing the waterfront tides. Resembling a glass box posed between limestone bookends, the design was able to triumph over glare and ventilation issues. Using an innovative three-tiered method for heating and cooling, the finished building consumes half the energy of those that meet standard building codes.

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The key to the building’s energy savings is its east-facing single pane glass curtain and dual glass walls on the west side that feature a 3 foot cavity in between their layers. Integrated radiant slabs and an under-floor air system allow the natural lake breeze to move through automated openings in the glass wall windows, venting up and out through the west side cavity. To regulate the system’s temperature and humidity, a more conventional method of HVAC can kick in when needed. During the winter months, tubes beneath a raised floor combine with a radiant ceiling system to heat the building.

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In order to achieve LEED Silver certification, the designers employed many additional sustainable strategies. A high percentage of recycled content was used in the project’s construction, Low-VOC materials and finishes were specified, and water saving plumbing fixtures were installed. Surrounding the building is an integrated high-efficiency irrigation system, and a green roof helps to manage stormwater while creating a beautiful view from the fourth floor.

The Information Commons has gained recognition for its unusual energy-efficient systems, and it was recently added to the list of finalists for Chicago’s annual Greenworks Awards. The building is the first in a series of sustainable projects envisioned by Loyola. They also plan on updating and repurposing space in two other libraries on campus which currently cater to graduate students and faculty.

+ Loyola Information Commons