Yale's Green Ark
The 110-year-old F&ES school has for many years been a leader in professional education in environmental studies. One of the early proponents of Kroon's sustainable design approach was Professor Stephen Kellert, internationally recognized for his work on biophilia, or human affinity for the natural environment. Kellert and Gus Speth, the dean of F&ES at the time, envisioned the new building, which consolidates most of the school's programs and faculty under one roof, as a demonstration of the school's values.
Yale chose Michael Hopkins's London-based firm as design architect, with Centerbrook Architects and Planners of Connecticut as executive architect. Sustainability consultants Atelier Ten provided critical guidance in marrying the architecture with sustainable building systems.
An Inauspicious Site
The site is on Yale's Science Hill, northeast of the central campus, in New Haven, Connecticut. Located across the street from Eero Saarinen's Ingalls Rink, Kroon is as different from its neighbors as is Saarinen's building. To the north of Kroon is Sage-Bowers Hall (1924) and to the south is the Osborn Memorial Laboratory (1914), two relics of Yale's collegiate gothic style, rendered in brownstone and brick.
The 30,000-square-foot (2,800-square-meter) slot between them had been occupied by back driveways, a power plant, and ramshackle storage buildings. The site has a steep slope from the street up the hill, and across the site from Osborn to Sage-Bowers.
This eyesore was hardly the auspicious spot one might have expected for Yale's newest green building. But the opportunity to bury part of the new building worked in the design's favor: the site's up-sloping north side, closest to Sage-Bowers, allowed the ground floor of Kroon to be insulated with earth.
The variation in grade also permitted a plinth to be created on the south side, upon which a generous courtyard, in the tradition of many Yale buildings, could be built. Beneath the courtyard, hidden from view, is a complex of loading docks, mechanical spaces, and building services that allow Kroon to be freestanding, without the usual disfiguring appendages that architects strive to hide behind bushes and fences.
The courtyard includes a stormwater filtration pond and also reduces the building's heat-island effect through the use of light-colored materials, grass, and water.
Critical Design Moves for Sustainability
The program for the four-story, 58,200-square-foot (5,410-square-meter) building includes faculty offices, conference rooms, lounges, a library, classrooms, seminar rooms, a cafe, and a large auditorium.
The design approach was two-pronged: first, minimize the building's energy needs through environmentally sensitive design, then design for renewable and alternative energy sources. It is important to stress that many buildings do not perform well environmentally because the basic design is flawed: the building isn't oriented correctly, or the form doesn't promote energy conservation, or the fenestration isn't appropriate.
In the case of Kroon, the architects followed the tenets of sustainable design. They created a long, thin building, 57 wide by 218 feet long (17.4 by 66.4 meters), oriented with its narrow ends west and east. To the north, the building is partially buried behind a wall that includes stair towers, which do not need windows. To the south, the building opens to the sun, with deep-set windows that also provide passive shading to mitigate heat gain in summer.
On the east and west elevations, glazing maximizes the amount of interior daylight, especially in the common public spaces, with exquisitely detailed fixed-louver wood screens that block glare when the sun is low in the sky.
If most buildings incorporated passive strategies such as these, energy consumption could be drastically reduced and comfort increased.
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