Week 7 – Site Programming

After a very deserved break, the students and mentors were ready to work hard and push forward with the project! The focus of last meeting was to come up with general concepts of how the space was to utilized. Now, the focus was to divide the project into 3 smaller groups corresponding to each building element in the Damen Silos site. To understand the size of the site, mentors prepared an activity that gave a sense of scale. Familiar elements like a store front or a football field were scaled to an aerial map of the site and students had the opportunity to see how these elements could fit into the site area. Students were surprised to see just how much land was available for use and how tall the grain silos are! The building and site breakout are as follows:

·       Building #1 (Silo structures with tall, thin structure attached) – Restaurant and vertical/urban farming

·       Building #2 (Wide building made up of many silo structures) – Art Gallery and School, possible sports complex

·       Building #3 & Site Development (Open canopy structure and design of the open space on the site) – Community Area for Farmer’s Markets, Craft Shows, Picnics, or Concerts. This group will also work on turning the rest of the site into usable space for other activities (pathways, grassy areas, courts for sports, patio, etc.)

Moving forward, groups will be made corresponding to each individual building element. Each team will be responsible for the coordination of the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction aspects of their piece of the project. This enables each team to go through and learn all the different aspects that go into the design of a building project. It is going to be a very busy schedule as the project develops but students and mentors are ready to work hard and push forward!

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Week 6 – Site Analysis + Bubble Diagram

This week’s meeting was focused on creating a new site analysis for the Damen Silos project. Students had to become familiar with the site and the surrounding area before moving forward with the project. Site logistics such as traffic routes, areas of interest, and surrounding neighborhoods were considered during this site analysis. Since it was their second time completing a site analysis, students were able to complete the assignment with ease! The next task was to create bubble diagrams for the concepts that students had for the project. The goal was to create a general concept to work with. Project elements such as vertical farming, a community art space, and an inviting landscape were discussed and programmed into the bubble diagrams. Students had the opportunity to share and discuss which ideas they liked best and wanted to incorporate into their design.


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Week 4 – Lesson in MEP!

This week’s meeting was held at Primera’s offices. Students were given a presentation by Halvorson and Partners and Primera Engineers on the MEP & Fire Protection disciplines. It is important for students to understand how each discipline plays a role in the overall functioning of a building. In order to give an idea of the amount of MEP coordination that goes into a project, students participated in a fun activity. The “MEP Box” was given to each group of students. The challenge was to fit all of the ceiling elements such as conduit and ductwork into a small wooden box. Different colored pipe cleaners represented different ceiling elements. No two elements could intersect within the box and  students could not bend or change the elements in any way. What first seemed like a simple task, turned into a head scratcher for many groups! At the end of the activity, students had a firsthand look of how complicated MEP systems can get within a tight ceiling space.

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Week 5 – Design Change!

To kick off this meeting, students had a lesson in drawing views of objects. The students worked individually to draw out different 3D shapes in sectional and elevation views. This exercise gave students the basic principles that go behind Architectural and Engineering drawings.




Objects such as Oranges, Soda Cans, and Cheeseburgers were drawn out to show their different views. While the objects were simple, the concept behind drawing a section and elevation is the same for a building. Students also had some fun drawing the person across from them without looking at the paper!
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This week’s meeting changed the project entirely in order to compete in the National Design Competition. In order to compete in the design challenge, the selected project had to fit in one of the following categories:

  • Presidential Library/Museum Challenge
  • Upgrade a Structure Challenge
  • Open Spaces Design Challenge

After some discussion and a team vote, the students elected to move forward with the “Upgrade a Structure Challenge”. Once the Challenge was decided, the next step was to pick a structure to work with. Students and Mentors presented ideas of existing and outdated structures in their neighborhoods. The Damen Silos site, located on the Southwest side of Chicago, was the winning structure. Students were encouraged to come up with ideas of how to revitalize this space while upgrading the structure. The focus of next week’s meeting will be to pick a use for the space in order to move forward with the design. With a March 4th deadline, the Team’s schedule will be tight and will involve a lot of careful planning in order to successfully submit all required materials.  However, with the momentum of the students and mentors in high gear, anything will be possible!  Please keep updated to see how the project comes along.



Week 3 – Site Visit!

This week’s meeting was dedicated to taking the students on a site visit to a Turner project currently under construction. The project is an interior build out of an existing high rise building. Project Manager, Bill Marsh, gave a presentation on the overview of the project.img_5638

Students had the opportunity to ask Bill all of their questions about day to day site operations and challenges.  After the Q&A time, students walked the job site with mentors and were able to see the construction process first hand.img_5646img_5648

The project is currently under multiple phases of construction and students had the opportunity to see how the space is transformed over time. After walking the site, students had even more questions about the design and construction process! Overall, the site visit was a fantastic learning experience for the ACE students and they all walked away with new knowledge of what it takes to build a project.  img_5656

Week 2 –

The focus of this meeting was creating a site analysis for the proposed bridge idea at Wolf Point. A short presentation was held to discuss the kinds of things that Architects and Engineers look for when creating a site analysis. Students were then given aerial maps of the site and worked in teams to create their own site analyses.


The teams worked hard and took into consideration foot traffic, design elements of surrounding buildings, and who will be ultimately be using the bridge. Students were encouraged to “think outside the box” in their site analyses. Examples of some the site analyses are included below.




Mentors were impressed by the ideas that were proposed by the students. Overall, students walked away with a stronger vision of their bridge concept. Also, the students and mentors played a fun game of “What am I?” with different building related objects and places!




Week 1 –

During this week’s ACE meeting at HDR, students were introduced to their design challenge. Students explored two project ideas: a redesign of the Chase Plaza and a bridge concept at Wolf Point. The students voted for the bridge idea at Wolf Point. The activity for this meeting was a structure building activity with spaghetti and gum drops, the challenge was to build the tallest structure possible with the materials given. Students worked in teams while mentors stood by and gave design assistance. Congratulations to teams 1, 3, and 5 for their winning structures! Everyone worked together and came up with some impressive structures!
Team 1:


Team 3:


Team 5:



Over the past few weeks, the design teams have been finalizing the details of the building and communication between each group has been crucial. Each group has a delegate assigned to work out design/execution issues during the coordination meetings.  The students are learning that sketches and diagrams are helpful when relaying information between the groups.


The structural group has completed a framing system and has moved on to design of floor slabs. As shown in the picture below, the structural group used straws to model how the framing system goes together.



The MEP group has designed the building to be energy efficient and has developed a schedule of items on the project such as solar panels, tank-less water heaters, and kinetic tiling.

The architecture group has developed a Building Information Model (BIM) as a way to relay the concept to the rest of the groups. As requests for information (RFIs) are asked by other groups, the architects have been providing information and clarification relating to the design choices.
Over the past two weeks, the construction group has worked on putting together a schedule and logistics plan for each phase of construction. Pull planning was introduced to the students as a way of listing activities on sticky notes and seeing how each activity goes together. The logistics plan was developed on a software called BlueBeam which allowed for the students to mark-up a site plan and show where important construction material and equipment will be placed.


Team 2 hit the ground running in week 11 in preparation for next week’s client meeting. The design is underway and collaboration between the groups is coming along to solidify the final building plan.

Structural Group:

This week, the structural group focused on the basics of framing a building. Based off of the architects’ drawings, the team created a structurally feasible design that simultaneously preserves the aesthetic decisions while conforming to the laws of physics. The students learned the difference between beams and girders, and each student created their own truss design to support a glass wall. In the coming weeks, the structural team will need to calculate beam and column sizes of the design.


Construction Group:

The construction group discussed cost estimation and the development of a budget. The students were introduced to the comparable project method to determine the approximate cost of a project on a square foot basis. The R.S. Means estimating book was also discussed as a tool to find the square foot costs of material and labor rates for various trades. The mentees ended the session by working on the presentation for next week and delegating unfinished portions of their PowerPoint presentation.


Architectural Group:

In preparation for the upcoming client meeting, the architecture students discussed and solidified the concept behind our market hall project within the Focal Point development. Each student chose a topic of the design process thus far to present next week. These topics included site analysis, programming, precedents, floor plans, elevations, and materiality. The discussions and brain storming levels were high and excited – look forward to next week’s first client meeting!


MEP Group:

The MEP group picked up where it left off with the initial design.  The mentees learned more about plumbing sizing, and then covered electrical layouts and power distribution requirements for lighting and other end uses.  The interim presentation was broken down to include six sections, each lead by the six students: Mechanical, Plumbing, Electrical, LEED, Deliverables, and Challenges. The mechanical, electrical/lighting, and plumbing students then worked with a mentor specializing in that area to further develop presentation content and design concepts. Our LEED student reached an agreement with the Architecture team to pursue LEED Gold certification, and worked with the other disciplines to develop an attainable LEED credit checklist.  The students addressing deliverables and challenges collaborated with the entire team to ensure that all MEP engineering concerns and milestones were addressed.


Structural Group:

The structural group studied the preliminary floor plans from the architecture group and discussed whether the column locations were sufficient to support the building. We discussed different structural framing schemes that might work for what the architecture group had envisioned. In the end, we concluded that more columns would have to be added to support the structure and met with the architecture group to discuss our concerns and brainstorm solutions. A few structural schemes were discussed and next week we will find out which scheme the architects prefer.


Construction Group:

The construction group reviewed site logistics plans from the week before and worked towards finalizing the haul roads and site boundaries. We then explored scheduling and discussed the creation of Gantt charts using P6 software and Microsoft Excel. The mentees were introduced to critical path analysis to find the schedule duration and activities that are on the longest path of a construction project. Now that we have an understanding of the way a schedule is developed and analyzed, we will have to determine the activities and durations required for our project .


Architectural Group:

This week the architecture group explored the form of the building through section, elevation, and plan. The students established programmatic details and rough materiality for the exterior of the building. The MEP and Structural groups had many space and use related questions which spurred discussion and collaboration in the design process. Next week we plan to finalize our concepts and prepare for an upcoming client meeting.


MEP Group:

The MEP group started off with plumbing, figuring out the pipe sizing requirements. We will continue with these calculations next week. Next, we moved on to HVAC and mechanical room sizing. We covered some calculations used to determine energy use for space conditioning and ventilation. We used rules of thumb to estimate the equipment and room sizes. We shared this information with the Architectural group and explained the minimum area required to house the mechanical equipment, and approximately how many toilet fixtures would be required for this occupancy. Together we reviewed options of how to incorporate the mechanical requirements into the design. Luckily we all agreed that exposed ductwork will be a suitable design solution for this space!