115 W. Chicago Map
Access Living has moved into their new 4-story, 50,000 sf headquarters housing open plan and private offices and meeting rooms. As a non-profit providing support and services to the disabled, it's to be expected that their headquarters is a model of universal design. That the project is seeking LEED Silver certification is icing on the cake, and leads to some interesting parallels between these rapidly growing movements.
Perhaps the most interesting intersection between green and universal design is in the lighting systems. Indirect lighting with high-efficiency lamps is popular in green projects, but here it is also favored because the more even light distribution aids those with visual impairments, and electronic ballasts reduce the risk of seizures induced by fluorescent lighting. Daylight sensors automatically control both lighting levels and motorized shades to save energy, but motorized shades also allow someone who cannot reach or manipulate standard controls to use a simple electronic switch.
The project includes a green roof which can be used for education and recreation. Unfortunately, many green roofs in Chicago (including City Hall) are not accessible to those in a wheelchair, but of course this one is, filling a much-needed gap. Parking is provided in a basement garage, which is environmentally preferable to surface parking. However, to increase visibility of wheelchair users and assist those with low vision, the lighting levels in the garage are higher than typical - a rare example of green and universal design not complementing one another.
A few other examples of universal design at Access Living include two elevators, each large enough for four wheelchairs, and each with doors on both sides, to reduce loading and unloading times (and sacrificing a lot of floor space for elevators). The main reception desk is at an accessible height with only a small portion at a typical counter height. Impact-resistant drywall is used on the lower portion of most walls to reduce damage from accidental wheelchair impact.
This listing is just the tip of an iceberg of design details - hopefully once Access Living settles into theirs space (having moved in in March), a publication will be available summarizing others. Other project team members included nonprofit financial consultant Illinois Facilities Fund, project manager Cotter Consulting, general contractor Michuda Construction, MEP engineer 20/10 Engineering, civil engineer Eriksson, Wolff Landscape Architecture, structural engineer Thornton Tomasetti, and LEED Consultant Sieben Energy Associates.