'Green' Loyola building among most hi-tech in US

CHICAGO Sitting on the shores of Lake Michigan, the Klarchek Information Commons combines beauty and brains.

It's not just because it houses Loyola University's computer library. This architectural stunner actually thinks for itself.

"The building responds to exterior atmosphere and adjusts the building to reduce energy," said Devon Patterson, building designer.

Industry experts are calling the recently-opened facility one of the most ambitious green buildings in the US. It utilizes computers to control virtually everything, inside and out.

"That's known as 'smart technology,'" said Patterson.

"In Chicago the temperature fluctuations are extreme throughout the year, from cold to hot and humid. So the building uses the smart technology to adapt the building so that it can use the outside environment to heat and cool the building," said Patterson.

For example, the building's computers decide when the windows should open and close automatically to take advantage of natural ventilation, without any human input. It also controls the heating units and decides when to turn on the air conditioning. It has a green roof and uses recycled water from areas of campus. The blinds are automatically raised and lowered and even twisted to each side to regulate the amount of light coming in.

The building itself runs the lighting system, turning all the lights on and off and brighter or dimmer.

"There's a weather station on the roof, which is actually monitoring the outside environment, and it decides whether or not to take advantage of that to help reduce energy consumption," said Patterson.

The building also has a green roof and uses recycled water from areas on campus.

All that technology has apparently paid off. The building's energy use is 52 percent below industry standards.

"Buildings in the US consume about 40 percent of our natural resources. So this is a building that's going to transform and elevate our thinking towards a cleaner environment," said Patterson.

The architectural world is taking notice. The Information Commons only opened in January and has already won several international awards. It has attracted experts from all over the world who come to Chicago to study this technology.

Architectural pioneer Ted Strand says the timing is perfect.

"When you're paying four dollars for a gallon of gasoline people are sorely aware that this is a changing world, and this is a building that is mindful of that, and it sets the stage for people to be aware of the importance of reducing energy," said Strand, Principal of Solomon Cordwell Buenz.

Plus, the building is a digital library; it's all computers-- no books on the shelves. This futuristic information center has quickly become a gathering place for tech-savvy Loyola students.

"Smart building, smart students," said Leslie Haas, Director at Klarchek Information Commons.

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