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The University of Chicago Harris School at the Keller Center

Project team goes all out for LEED Platinum and the Living Building Challenge.

November 25, 2019 |
North elevation of the University of Chicago Harris School at the Keller Center

Photos: Tom Rossiter

Extreme sustainability was the chief goal for the reconstruction of Edward Durrell Stone’s Kellogg Center for Continuing Education at the University of Chicago.

Mortenson (CM) and Farr Associates (architect) put Stone’s New Formalism structure, built in 1963, on track to be the healthiest building in the Chicago area—the first LEED Platinum on the Maroons’ campus, and only the third project in the city to seek Petal certification (materials, equity, beauty) from the Living Building Challenge.

To meet the LBC’s “red list” requirements, all materials used by trade partners had to be vetted for banned chemicals. The carbon footprint of laborers and trade partners was tracked to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

En route to achieving those standards, Mortenson and its CM partner, minority-owned contractor Ardmore Roderick, exceeded the university’s social hiring goals: 59% MWBE participation (vs. a goal of 30%) and an amazing 81% minority labor participation (vs. a 40% goal).


Inside the University of Chicago Harris School at the Keller CenterThe wood for the Harris Family Forum was recycled from trees felled by the emerald ash borer. The Keller Center was originally built in 1963.


The CM team used Lean strategies (Last Planner, 5S) to streamline workflow and improve safety. The project had a total recordable incident rate of 0.71, compared to the industry standard of 3.20. MEP subcontractors were brought on early to provide design-assist expertise.

Farr Associates designed the 150,000 kWh/year rooftop PV system, which supplies 11% of the building’s energy, so that the 354 panels could be relocated in the event of future expansion of the Harris School of Public Policy.

The project team won a variance from the city to reduce the required size of the building’s green roof by installing a 15,000-gallon cistern, which stores rainwater for reuse in landscaping and toilet flushing, diverting 525,000 gallons of fresh water from the sewer system.

Three light courts were carved into the concrete structure to provide a balance of daylight between the borrowed light of perimeter windows across the deep floor plates.



BUILDING TEAM Mortenson (submitting firm, CM) The University of Chicago (owner) Farr Associates (architect) Woodhouse Tinucci Architects (collaborating architect, interior designer) Stearn Joglekar, Ltd. (SE) dbHMS (MEP/FP) WJE (building forensics) Shen Milsom Wilke (acoustics/AV) WSP (LBC Red List consultant) site design group (landscape) Ardmore Roderick (CM partner) DETAILS 125,000 sf Total cost $60 million Construction time April 2017 to December 2018 Delivery method CM at risk

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