The main entrance to the EcoHawks facility is marked by a glass canopy with integrated photovoltaics from Suniva.

The main entrance to the EcoHawks facility is marked by a glass canopy with integrated photovoltaics from Suniva.

Credit: James Ewing


Studio 804 takes on a new project every school year. How did this particular commission come about?
Dan Rockhill: This is a small part of a larger expansion by the School of Engineering—they’re going to start construction on a giant engineering testing facility and the EcoHawks were initially going to be part of that development. Studio 804 did the Center for Design Research two years ago on campus, and I convinced everybody that we might be a student-based organization but we’ll design and build faster than professionals and deliver without a lot of whining—I know the rules of the game. So they sliced off this little EcoHawks space and said: “This might be something you’d be interested in.”

The facility is one continuous structure split into three pods: two enclosed spaces for working on electric vehicles, and an open-air volume.

The facility is one continuous structure split into three pods: two enclosed spaces for working on electric vehicles, and an open-air volume.

Credit: James Ewing


Who are the EcoHawks?
The EcoHawks are part of the mechanical engineering program in the School of Engineering, and their research focuses on finding alternative methods of charging electric vehicles. The vehicles you see have been converted from gasoline to battery power, and the EcoHawks research charging systems. For instance, they’ll mix propane and glycerin to run a synthetic gas engine and use that to charge the vehicle. It’s all high-tech stuff.

The aluminum strips of the buildings upper skin were woven between horizontal aluminum tubes that had to be hand-welded at the corners to maintain a continuous surface. The Studio 804 students researched the alloys of the metal to make sure that the surface will weather evenly.

The aluminum strips of the building’s upper skin were woven between horizontal aluminum tubes that had to be hand-welded at the corners to maintain a continuous surface. The Studio 804 students researched the alloys of the metal to make sure that the surface will weather evenly.

Credit: James Ewing


Who were the Studio 804 students who designed the EcoHawks facility?
We had 20 this year, and I’m very proud of the gender mix—nine women and 11 guys. Maybe half came to KU to get a masters degree after spending six years in the program. The rest chose to come to KU, I like to think, because of the Studio 804 program, so I have graduates from all over.

How does the design process for a Studio 804 project begin?
I start design the first day of class in late August. The goal is to lock down the design as soon as possible, begin construction documents, and get consultants involved. We’re required to have consultants—we’re not treated differently than any other professional firm working on a project on campus. I start by asking every student to declare an area of interest. So somebody will rather meekly say “I’ll sign up for structure” or “I’ll sign up for siding”—basically you take Master Format and dice that up. But it’s not as though if you signed up for structure you sit back in your lounge chair after we get the frame up. Everyone is a part of everything.

  • The strips of aluminum on the skin were hand-woven by Studio 804 students; the opaque base is clad in Hardie board from James Hardie. Many materials were donated by the manufacturers.

    Credit: James Ewing

    The strips of aluminum on the skin were hand-woven by Studio 804 students; the opaque base is clad in Hardie board from James Hardie. Many materials were donated by the manufacturers.
  • A second level in the open-air volume allows access to the rooftop photovoltaic array, which contributes to the building being 12 percent net positive.

    Credit: James Ewing

    A second level in the open-air volume allows access to the rooftop photovoltaic array, which contributes to the building being 12 percent net positive.

And how did the design for the EcoHawks facility develop?
I joke that I can teach anybody how to weld, but dealing with these fragile young egos is the art of doing this. It is their baby, and the genesis is obviously from them. But I will let them swim around in the design sea for a while and then I’ll bring something in and show it to them—the form of it will come through [my firm] Rockhill & Associates. The design studio experience drives me mad, because the whole idea of doing something simple is not in their DNA. We get these complex, convoluted, ridiculous designs that they cling to—but we’ve got to build this! And so I’ll show them something simple and say: “I guarantee you if we start with something simple like this, when we’re done, it’s going to be your building completely. You’ll never think that there was some intrusion on my part.” Again, I’ve got to be very delicate in the way I handle this. So I turn them loose. These are smart kids. They start doing research and somebody finds an image of a woven screen. It went through easily a half dozen iterations and soon we’re building a full-scale mock-up and then there’s another half-dozen iterations and we’re finding sources for the material. It evolves.

How do you build a project like this in the second semester of the Studio 804 program with only 20 students?
They all know that they signed up for a gauntlet. As you understand, it’s not easy, and I’m a monster. You’ve got to meet me at 7:00 every morning, six days a week, and you’ve got to be ready to work. It takes them three or four weeks to figure out, first of all, that their mother’s not going to do it for them. In this case, I broke ground on a Monday after Thanksgiving, and we had all the foundation walls in before they left for Christmas. On the third of January we started doing all the concrete flat work. I don’t sub any of that. I do the excavation. I’m on a lot of equipment—I have to do something while I’m there. They joke about it being Dan’s toys, and they’re absolutely right. It’s in concrete work where I can just see the wheels turning in their minds, like “Oh my God, this is real.” Right after that, we started framing—everybody is part of that. There’s always something to do and it’s large scale, and so that helps bring the group together. Working together and collaboration are very unique aspects of this.

Researchers test alternative car-charging methods in the main bay, which is shielded from the sun by Aerogel panels that raise and lower over the windows.

Researchers test alternative car-charging methods in the main bay, which is shielded from the sun by Aerogel panels that raise and lower over the windows.

Credit: James Ewing


This is expected to be Studio 804’s sixth LEED Platinum project in a row, with the certification process already underway. How do you engage the students in the process?
I introduce LEED the first week of studio and encourage them to see the importance of it. I think the seeds of change that need to be planted in this profession are going to start with these young people. The students I did this with at Greensburg, Kan., six years ago, now they run the sustainability aspect of the offices where they’re working. That’s how we’re going to bring about change. So I am very adamant about the need for everybody to try to participate. I send them all to Greenbuild, which just blows their minds. You walk out on that exhibit floor and you realize the scale of this effort. I think it’s really important. So like everything else, I casually harass them, making sure they understand the value of it. Fortunately, they follow through.

  • Stairs lead to a second level with workstations and storage space.

    Credit: James Ewing

    Stairs lead to a second level with workstations and storage space.
  • Second-floor workstations overlook the main research bay.

    Credit: James Ewing

    Second-floor workstations overlook the main research bay.

Studio 804 began with houses and has recently started designing more public projects. Is that a conscious progression?
I would prefer to keep in the public arena. When I did the Center for Design Research, we purposely made that a building that would be available to everybody in the community, and it has become that. We have to keep a schedule for that building. It has a living wall with 10,000 plants that’s the talk of the town. And that rubs off on people. And so in some way we take a leadership role in the conversation about sustainability. Little by little you start to convince the public of how important it is. And it’s through these public buildings that we’re able to do this.


UPDATE: A previous version of this article incorrectly cited the Hill Engineering Research & Development Center’s LEED status. While the Center anticipates LEED Platinum certification, it has not yet received the official designation. 

Credit: Courtesy Studio 804


Credit: Courtesy Studio 804

 

Construction Photos

  • Students began pouring concrete for the main slab just after Thanksgiving in 2012.

    Credit: Courtesy Studio 804

    Students pouring concrete for the main slab.
  • Students putting a steel column in place.

    Credit: Courtesy Studio 804

    Students putting a steel column in place.
  • The same material was applied around the base of the structure, which was later covered with Hardie Board panels.

    Credit: Courtesy Studio 804

    The same material was applied around the base of the structure, which was later covered with Hardie Board panels.
  • Each aluminum strip in the rainscreen was hand-woven through aluminum rods to form the overall basketweave effect.

    Credit: Courtesy Studio 804

    Each aluminum strip in the rainscreen was hand-woven through aluminum rods to form the overall basketweave effect.



Project Credits
Project  Hill Engineering Research & Development Center (EcoHawks), University of Kansas, Studio 804
Client  KU Endowment, School of Engineering
Architect  Studio 804, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kan.—Hayder Alsaad, Max Anderson, Melanie Arthur, Liz Avenius, Ryan Barry, Matthew Bethel, Ashlee Burleson, Mark Hageman, Hunter Hanahan, Kelli Hawkins, Hannah Hindman, Owen Huisenga, Mike Kelly, Rachel Mattes, Kate Medin, Mandy Moore, Matt Patterson, Ryan Shults, Bryan Stockton, Assoc. AIA, and Mark Zeitler (project team)
Architect of Record  Rockhill and Associates, Lecompton,  Kan.—Dan Rockhill and David Sain
Mechanical Engineer  Bartlett and West, Hughes Consulting, Studio 804
Structural and Electrical Engineer  Bartlett and West, Studio 804
General Contractor  Studio 804, Rockhill and Associates (contractor of record)

Material and Sources 
Adhesives, Coatings, and Sealants  MPP Group mppgroup.com; Shurtech shurtech.com; Steel-It steel-it.com 
Concrete Underslab Vapor Barrier  Stego Industries stegoindustries.com 
Exterior Wall Systems  DCI Products dciproducts.com; JamesHardie jameshardiecommercial.com; Jamsill jamsill.com 
Flooring  Insulite Glass Co. insuliteglass.com; Tennant (epoxy) tennantco.com; USG usg.com 
Furniture  Haworth haworth.com 
Garage Door Assembly  Aerolenz (consulting) aerolenz.com; Amarr (hardware) amarr.com; Amerilux (polycarbonate) ameriluxinternational.com; Cabot (aerogel granules) cabot-corp.com; Duo-Gard (aluminum frame) duo-gard.com; GDI (operators) gatesanddoorsinc.com 
Glass  PlanetReuse planetreuse.com 
Gypsum  CertainTeed certainteed.com 
HVAC  Daikin www.daikinac.com; Ductmate ductmate.com; Loren Cook lorencook.com; Nystrom nystrom.com; Ruskin ruskin.com; Titus titus-hvac.com; United Refrigeration (copper pipe) uri.com 
Insulation  Central Fiber centralfiber.com; Hunter Panels hpanels.com 
Lighting  Cooper Lighting cooperlighting.com; Philips colorkinetics.com; Sunlite Science & Technology powerledlighting.com 
Lighting Control Systems  PlanetReuse planetreuse.com 
Metal  Mandel Metals mandelmetals.com 
Paints and Finishes  Glidden Professional gliddenprofessional.com; JamesHardie Building Products jameshardie.com; Mosa Tiles mosa.nl/us; RBC Tile & Stone rbctile.com 
Photovoltaics and Other Renewables  AET aetenergy.com; Cromwell cromwellenv.com; Enphase enphase.com; Lumos lumossolar.com; Suniva suniva.com 
Plumbing and Water System  Bobrick bobrick.com; Kohler (faucets and bathroom accessories) us.kohler.com; Caroma (toilets) caromausa.com; Filtrine (drinking fountains) filtrine.com; Graf (cistern) graf-water.com; Hansgrohe (showers) hansgrohe-usa.com; Haws (eye wash) hawsco.com; Lacava (sinks) lacava.com; RainHarvest Systems (cistern pumps, filters, and accessories) rainharvest.com; Seisco International (electric tankless water heater) seisco.com 
Roofing  GAF gaf.com 
Site and Landscape Products  Landscape Forms landscapeforms.com 
Special Construction  Rotary (car lift) rotarylift.com 
Structural Silicone  MGS Distributing mgsdist.com 
Structural System  Cleveland City Forge clevelandcityforge.com; Doherty Steel dohertysteel.com; EXLtube exltube.com; Great Northern Lumber greatnorthernlumber.com; Pacific Wood Tech pacificwoodtech.com; Simpson Strong Tie strongtie.com 
Walls  Audubon Sales meshbelt.com; Vaproshield vaproshield.com 
Wayfinding  Seton seton.com 
Windows, Curtainwalls, and Doors  Assa Abloy assaabloydss.com; Draper draperinc.com; Kawneer kawneer.com; Krown Lab krownlab.com