William McDonough + Partners announces the opening of “Project Legacy,” an innovative Cradle to Cradle building designed for Universidad EAN (UEAN) in Bogotá, Colombia. The university’s new center for technology and entrepreneurship was designed and built with the circular economy in mind — minimizing waste, contouring sustainable material selections and capitalizing on energy-efficient systems.

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A cityscape showing two square buildings, one large and one small, with a green facades. A covered bridge connects the buildings.

Both the school and the architectural design set out to focus on the principles of circular economy. “The design elements that make up the building mirror the ambitions of the small and medium-sized entrepreneurs learning how to design and execute business plans guided by Cradle to Cradle and the Circular Economy. What an astonishing privilege to have a building that embodies the principles of the actual pedagogy that is taught in the university’s curriculum,” said architect William McDonough.

Related: A LEED Gold-targeted health education hub joins University of Washington campus

The back of the building, showing the green and yellow facade broken up in the middle with steel.

The most prominent feature is both striking and functional. It’s called the WonderFrame™ shade structure and clads the building with multi-colored and multifunctional panels. Designed by McDonough and constructed in a local Hunter Douglas factory, the WonderFrame™ was built for quick assembly and little waste. The panels provide shade while simultaneously allowing natural light into the space. The system also provides ventilation, and the glazed windows offer energy efficiency as well as soundproofing. Excess heat is released through a chimney exhaust. These combined systems earned Project Legacy a label as the world’s first building to qualify for a new LEED Alternative Compliance Path (ACP) for naturally ventilated projects.  

A view looking up at the towering building.

From the beginning, the project was set up to stand as an example of green design and sustainable construction. The circular economy thinking came into play starting with the demolition, where 99% of the construction debris was given new life and diverted from landfills. Not only is this a win for the environment, but the budget too. “Instead of spending $80,000 in disposal fees, we received $55,000 for our residue,” said Miguel Orejuela Duarte, the project leader for Universidad EAN. 

A lobby with a natural orange-toned material palette. Glass walls frame the room, which features a staircase to upper levels.

Building from the ground up, the UEAN project required suppliers to meet certain standards. The policy is called RISE EAN, or “Route for Innovation and Sustainable Entrepreneurship.” One example of a company embraced through the program is Acemar, which provided FSC Certified wood veneer panels for the building. Rising to meet the standards set forth by RISE EAN, Acemar ultimately achieved Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Bronze for its product, which is a first in Latin America. 

An auditorium with medium-toned wood accents. On stage, two black chairs surround a small circular beige coffee table.

In addition to innovative design, the space offers functional space for classrooms, administration offices, seminar rooms, a cafeteria, indoor basketball court, exercise gymnasium and a 500-seat auditorium. There’s also a massive outdoor space to gather, relax or study. The building achieved LEED Gold certification and is among the first academic buildings in Colombia to be LEED-certified. 

+ William McDonough + Partners

Photography by Jairo Llano