Ohio State University South Campus Chiller Plant - Ross Barney Architects
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Ohio State University South Campus Chiller Plant

Ross Barney Architects

22 October 2015

The Ohio State University (OSU) South Campus Central Chiller - Plant is an iconic marker at a major entry and pathway into campus, providing the OSU Medical District with a long term, efficient and sustainable solution for chilled water production and distribution. Conceived of as a “House for Energy,” the LEED Silver Certified building has an envelope that showcases the equipment inside and records the sun’s energy on its exterior. Glazed openings are located to frame views of the chiller equipment, and dichroic glass fins and boxes cast color- changing shadows with the movement of the sun. The result is a dynamic façade that changes with the time of day, season and the location of the observer. Functionally, the facility minimizes the noise and vibration impact of large equipment: chillers, cooling towers, transformers and generators. The plant will ultimately provide 30,000 tons of chilled water for the adjacent medical center facilities and will accommodate future campus cooling demands.
Over 200 precast panels were created using 11 different panel types. The number of panel types significantly reduced costs. To create variation, panels were flipped or rotated, multiplying the visual variety without adding to production costs. Final transportation sizes of 9’ -0” x 30’-0” dictated feasibility of final panel dimensions, allowing accelerated installation with fewer parts and pieces. To enhance casted color from the dichroic fins, the precast concrete panels received a high-gloss polish. The polishing process is the same used for concrete floor slabs, in which diamond pads are used to grind and smooth. Upon completion, the project became the first in the United States to deploy a polished finish on an exposed exterior surface of a precast panel. Additionally, polishing alleviated the owner’s concerns with maintenance and durability. The process provides resilience against staining and streaking typically seen on unfinished precast panels. The slope of the panel was designed to assist in preventing stains from developing on the surface, ultimately proving to be a successful approach that has allowed the building to age well.
The dichroic fins activate the exterior using sunlight as a means of recording the time of day and season. The dynamic expression changes as the observer’s perspective shifts.
The desired affect created a technical challenge. The design team worked closely with Goldray Industries of Canada to perfect and experiment with what had been a first time application of dichroic film laminations at this scale. Dichroic film is created by adding micro thin layers of metal to a translucent material. The metallic layer alters the wave length and therefore the color of light passing through. The finished product can have as many as 30 to 50 layers of material, yet the thickness of the total coating is 30 to 35 millionths of an inch (about .000760 to .000890 mm). Since the metal is reflective, the film transmits a variety of colors. There are a total of 177 fins and 8 glass boxes. The majority of the fins measure
3’-0” wide x 5’-0” high, easing the fabrication and installation process. A bracket system holds the glass in place and prevents rotation. This project is unusual in that it is not designed for human occupants, but houses inanimate equipment. Because of this, conventional sustainable strategies needed to be rethought. Opportunities for environmentally conscious design were in the siting, water efficiency, and use of sustainable materials rather than the typical emphasis on the energy efficiency of the envelope, lighting, or HVAC systems. Based on the project’s location on the campus of a major university within a medium sized city, the project received five LEED points for Development Density and Community Connectivity and six points for access to Public Transportation, due to its adjacency to
multiple campus and Medical Center bus routes. Additionally, the project is sited on a former surface parking lot and no new parking spaces were added. The Walk Score rating for the site is 83. Without a conventional HVAC system, the building is very energy efficient. The design team’s energy reduction strategies focused on the use of locally sourced materials with low embodied energy. Regional materials consisted.

Ross Barney Architects is an architecture and urban design studio with offices in Chicago. Founded in 1981 by Carol Ross Barney, FAIA, Ross Barney Architects has been dedicated to designing public places and spaces. From community buildings to campus buildings for premier academic and research institutions, to groundbreaking transit stations that connect vibrant neighborhoods; the studio has produced distinctive structures that have become cultural icons. The studio strongly believes that architecture should capture a contemporary vision of today’s society, emphasizing that design excellence is a right, not a privilege. Ross Barney Architect’s work has been exhibited in Chicago, New York, Washington D.C. and San Francisco, and has received more than 60 major awards, including 30 AIA Chicago Awards, 4 National AIA awards, 2 AIA COTE Top Ten awards and the 1995 AIA Illinois Firm of the Year. Additionally, in 2005, founder Carol Ross Barney received the AIA’s Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture.

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