Near North Apartments

Chicago, USA
2007

Murphy / Jahn
www. murphyjahn. com

“The Windy City” may refer to Chicago politician’s ability to boast about their city’s merits. However, it is also true that Chicago’s winters are cold, and very windy. Harnessing that wind power through roof-mounted turbines is only one of the innovative technologies being employed at Near North Apartments.

The development, by Mercy Housing Lakefront, represents the changing face of the city’s supportive housing, following policy initiatives by Mayor Richard Daley. The project was designed to achieve a LEED Silver rating. Architects, Murphy / Jahn, combined pioneering energy and water saving technologies with functional architecture to enable the goal to be reached.

In aspiring to improve the quality of affordable housing in the area, it was hoped that the lives of the residents would be improved. As a
consequence, a previously blighted area of the city would be uplifted.

The four storey building was aligned to Clybourn Avenue with the triangular remainder of the plot being utilised for parking and landscaped outdoor space for tenants (Fig. 1, Fig. 5, Fig. 6).

These external works aimed to maximise permeable surface area and minimise sub­surface drainage systems. Rainwater is collected and stored for site maintenance and irrigation. Chicago’s historical use of the freshwater resource of Lake Michigan is no longer taken for granted. The glass wall end facade (Fig. 2) provides natural daylight to the stairwell, promoting a feeling of security, and a connection to the outdoors. At night this elevation has a luminous appearance.

116 Near North Apartments | Chicago | USA | Fig. 1 above | Fig. 2 opposite

The apartment building provides 96 self contained living units, varying in size from 270 to 300 square feet. Every unit has its own kitchen and bathroom. The total floor area is 47,000 square feet, with the ground floor providing most of the utilities for the residents including a community room, bicycle store, laundry and pantry (Fig. 10).

Murphy/Jahn’s philosophy of greening through minimalism is evident in the architecture. For example, the concrete structure remains visible, eliminating the need for further finishing materials (Fig. 8, Fig. 9).

This, combined with the stainless steel facade, provides a sustainable, fit for purpose contemporary building (Fig. 3, Fig. 4).

The interior surfaces, which require secondary finishes, employ materials with low or zero content of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) (Fig. 8, Fig. 9, Fig. 13, Fig. 14).

The Near North apartments are also pioneering grey water technologies. Water used for showering and washing is captured, filtered and recycled for
the flushing of toilets.

Mechanical and electrical systems provide individual heating and cooling for the residential units and the common areas.

The roof-mounted solar energy units and wind turbines are designed to supplement these conventional energy requirements. The building’s orientation and its curved roof profile are an integral part of the strategy to enhance the efficiency of the wind turbine units (Fig. 7).

The combined technologies are being evaluated and monitored by the building’s owners and managers.

Rental incomes for the supported housing schemes are necessarily low. Therefore, the city, its developers and their residents all have a vested interest in energy efficiencies lowering running costs for the building.

New residents are inducted into the building and well informed of its positive attributes.