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Case Studies  > Masonry Helps Elgin Academy’s New Rider Center Earn LEED Gold
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Photos courtesy of A. Romanovsky/DLA Architects Ltd.
Street view of Elgin Academy
Elgin Academy's new Rider Center, street view. 
Elgin Academy daylight detail
Elgin Academy from the quad
View from the Campus Quad
Looking out from student lounge
Looking out from student lounge
Elgin Academy theatre
Elgin Academy launched the Harold D Rider Family Media, Science, and Fine Arts Center with an explicit goal of creating a high performance building to serve their students and the larger community. Research demonstrating the value of daylight and fresh air to support student learning, coupled with a desire to have a building that would serve the school well into the future led Headmaster John Cooper to the US Green Building Council’s LEED® rating system. Dr. Cooper recognized that the benchmark that LEED provides would help ensure a building that met the school’s goal for a facility that was energy and resource efficient in addition to blending well with the existing campus architecture and the surrounding community. The community connection was important because the campus is in an urban location and the new building would re-establish the public face of the school, and more so because of a desire to share the facility’s black box performance space with local performing arts groups.

Several benefits recommended masonry as the structural material. It allowed the project to design a very efficient exterior wall with an R-value of 21.53, which coupled with a high efficiency HVAC system, would earn 40 LEED points in energy performance and put a Gold rating in reach. Masonry worked well with the tight, sloped site, facilitating terracing and modular construction to minimize site disturbance and build into the slope, using the earth to insulate a large portion of the lower floors. It was well suited to the building program that required a high level of sound attenuation to prevent acoustic qualities that prevented sound transmission between classrooms, music practice rooms, media production facilities, public areas, and the theatre in the center of the building. A landmark school building, built tight to achieve energy performance, and containing science labs, fine arts, and lots of students, needs to worry about indoor air quality and moisture management. Masonry offers an inert surface that is resistant to mold and mildew growth, and doesn’t off-gas any volatile chemicals that can cause irritation to many people.

One of the environmental strengths of most concrete-based products, including masonry, is its local availability and waste reduction capabilities. Many on the building team had ties to Elgin Academy which further amplified the use of local materials. Alumni and parents of students and alumni populated the project from the design and construction team to the suppliers of the concrete, gypsum board and ceiling tiles, construction accessories, mortar, and core fill.

The core fill is a product offered by the mortar supplier contains recycled content, and offers higher noise attenuation and insulating value than alternative core fill materials. PCI/Spec Mix was able to offer this alternative to help meet both the building and environmental performance goals.

An exciting element of a school and community performance building striving for this level of environmental leadership is the educational opportunity. Student science classes will have a living laboratory to understand material science, the physics of thermal mass and related energy dynamics, and the many ways that sustainable building represents a better understanding of the ecology and context of the site. Solar panels, wind turbines and a vegetated roof will allow students to investigate these newer technologies. An informational kiosk and signage will expose community members attending performances in the building to the new ideas about our built environment that the building demonstrates.

Project Team

Architect: DLA Architects Ltd, Elgin, IL

Construction Manager: Pepper Construction, Chicago, IL

Structural Engineer: Pease/Borst& Associates, Elgin, IL

Mason Contractor: G. Porter & Co, St. Charles, IL

Masonry Materials: Dow, Illinois Products/ThermaDrain, Lance Construction Supplies, Northfield Block, PCI/SpecMix