Wheeler Kearns Architects (WKA) participated in the C40 Reinventing Cities Competition for the Chicago Downtown Loop site at 331-335 South Plymouth Court, 21-26 West Van Buren Street, next to Pritzker Park.
Our design sought to construct Chicago’s first passive house certified high rise structure, achieve net zero carbon emissions, including embodied carbon of building materials, and partner with Teach for America to provide affordable units and flexible space to support their mission. The proposed building consisted of 27-stories, 300 rental residential units, 60 of which affordable, and two floors of flexible program space. WKA worked in partnership with a developer to design the project as a prototype that was economically sustainable without the need for large government subsidies and could be replicated through the city/country. To meet passive house standards, we proposed the use of high performance, three-story tall, prefabricated façade panels to minimize air infiltration points and reduce construction time, thin-triple pane windows, and extensive blower door testing. To achieve net zero embodied carbon of the construction materials, we proposed a mass timber-steel hybrid structural system, prefabricated façade system to reduce on-site waste, and carbon credits. To achieve net zero operating emissions, we proposed geothermal wells within caissons, solar thermal rooftop panels, ERV systems, and a dedicated off-site solar farm.