Harris Hall at Northwestern University

Project Profile: Harris Hall at Northwestern University

Photo Courtesy: John Brzezinski, Senior Project Manager at Northwestern

Firm name: Primera Engineers, Ltd. 

Project building name and location: Harris Hall at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois

Type of building and type of project: Higher Education Facility Retrofit

Project completion date and project duration: March 2011

Engineering challenges and solutions:


Engineering a 21st century building to fit into a nearly century-old shell was accompanied with many challenges. Primera Engineers, architecture firm Weese Langely Weese and other project partners used innovative technologies that would save energy and serve several space constraints to adapt necessary building services.

Solutions to the Above Problems:
Cooling is provided by the campus chilled water that directly feeds the energy recovery unit, air handling unit and chilled beams in classroom and office areas. The chilled beam system allows for significantly smaller ductwork since a majority of the conditioning is accomplished using heat transfer instead of using predominately air distribution used in traditional buildings. The chilled beam design also affords a remarkable degree of temperature control for occupants. It is highly energy-efficient and naturally opens interior spaces by maintaining ceiling height.

A new mechanical room was also “hidden” in a satellite basement to support the new building program. The existing underground chilled water supply and return, high pressure steam, and condensate pipes were relocated to this area. After entering the building, the campus steam is reduced to low pressure steam which then serves the energy recovery unit, air handling unit, and heat exchanger which converts the steam to heating hot water for reheat coils and perimeter heat. The project team also completely replaced the electrical, plumbing, telecommunications, and life safety systems.

Careful coordination ensured that all systems tie into the main campus. Smart technology classrooms included coordinated lighting and lighting controls, information technology, and audio-visual systems for multimedia instructional presentations.

Rewriting History at Harris Hall

Rewriting History: The New + Improved Harris Hall from Northwestern News on Vimeo.

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