Northwestern University
Ford Motor Co. Engineering Design Center
Evanston, IL

80,000 SF • LEED Silver

Bridging traditional departmental boundaries, the Ford Design Center promotes collaboration among Northwestern’s Mechanical, Civil, Biomedical, and EECS Engineering Departments. The flexible, clearly arranged building brings students and faculty together, energizing the academic environment. Generous interior transparency encourages cross-disciplinary awareness and exchange. Teaching and studio activities occur in open loft areas, while meeting and study rooms support focused group projects. Specialized spaces house a machine shop, rapid prototyping facilities, engineering research labs, and a fabrication hall.

The Ford Center occupies a tight and very visible site fronting the historic campus core. To minimize the impact of this 60,000sf facility, we put two floors below grade and gave them sunken courtyards to bring in generous daylight. The four above-grade floors are clad in an immaculately detailed limestone panel system and expanses of gray-blue glass- a precise, no-nonsense expression inspired by discussions with the Engineering Departments.

The building was Northwestern’s first LEED certified project. We provided guidance on the LEED process and incorporated sustainable measures to achieve Silver certification. High-performance glazing and automatic sunshades allow 75% of interior spaces to receive filtered daylight without excessive heat gain. Air distribution is raised floor displacement, which is especially efficient for the Center’s high-bay spaces. The building envelope is highly insulated and we have used high recycled content and/or recyclable materials throughout. Rainwater is collected from the roof for landscape irrigation.

The concrete structure and the HVAC systems were chosen through study of client needs and the regional construction market. We effectively managed our Chicago-based consultant team with regular communication and bi-weekly visits, stepped up to weekly during construction. Most importantly, we focused on Northwestern’s goal to provide superlative undergraduate engineering education, from first year integrated design curriculum to specialized senior projects.