AskNBN #7: what's with the stairs of Kresge?

    Kresge's stairs are "lit," and we don't even mean that in a millennial, quirky way. Those things are just really bright. For a building that purports to be environmentally friendly, isn't that counterintuitive? We investigate. Transcript below.


    Hi everyone, and welcome back to AskNBN, the podcast that answers the questions you never knew you had about Northwestern, I’m Travis Wolf. In this episode we’ll be discussing the newly renovated Kresge Hall, specifically the outside stairs and other unique features of the building.

    If you have ever walked around south campus at night, you have most likely seen the outside stairs of Kresge Hall. They’re pretty hard to miss.

    SESP senior Melissa Bustamante agrees.

    “It really is blinding.”

    If you don’t know where Kresge Hall is, it’s the building behind The Rock, connected to Crowe Hall. The entrance staircase is very well lit, so well lit, that the staircase alone seems to light up the entire plaza.

    SESP Junior Casey Teoh has a question:

    “It looks cool but like why are the lights on?”

    Assistant Project Manager, Jacob Hodge, has the simple answer.

    “It’s actually needed for safety.”

    Stair lighting is required for each building in order to ensure that no one trips going up or down the stairs.

    Ironically, Medill junior Hyunjee Lee feels like the staircase is actually harder to walk up. “Okay, well, I thought they were cool during the day, but in the night, in the nighttime it’s hard to like walk up because it’s so bright, but you need to look down at the steps.”

    But how can lights this bright follow the guidelines of the campus wide sustainability campaign, sustainNU?

    “Those lights are LED so they don’t, they’re not like conventional bulb lights you would have in a factory or a home, you know. It’s not a tube light, it’s a low LED light fixture that uses a quarter or even an eighth of what a normal light fixture would use.”

    Not only are LED lights brighter, but they are also more energy efficient in the long run.

    The building, which was renovated from fall of 2014 until the end of summer 2016, reduced its annual lighting energy by 11 percent. According to Scott Foster, one of the engineers, Kresge also now uses an average lighting power density that’s .03 watts per square foot less than the baseline. The building consumes 272,971 kilowatt hours a year less than the baseline.

    What exactly does this mean?

    Well, enough energy is being saved by Kresge to power an iphone for almost 136,485 years, the average laptop for 3,791 years or a modern energy efficient refrigerator for 779 years. When put into numbers it’s easy to see the bright lights of the staircase really aren’t in opposition to sustainNU.

    Actually, the entire renovation was done with sustainability as a main priority.

    “ guys campus wide are doing a green initiative, to start making more of your buildings more user friendly to your environment. It's part of programs at most universities. Most universities, are actually doing it. So they’ll do, if you’re doing renovation, most projects will try and do some type of LEED initiative. It helps not only with your utilities, but your savings overall on the money spent. You end up saving more money making a building green than just making it conventional energy.”

    The LEED initiative, as Hodge mentioned, was especially important. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a U.S.Green Building Council program that green certifies buildings through awarding points across several areas that address sustainability issues.

    “The credits we get for building, we are shooting for a minimum of 80, the max would give us the platinum rating which is the highest certification you can get in the entire program.”

    “It’ll be the first platinum LEED certified building on campus.”

    In order to receive these points, the Kresge design team added some features that may be even more interesting than the bright stairs.

    The next time you are in Kresge, take a look up at the ceilings. Across the ceilings there are grated metal plates. So what do these plates do?

    “Each and every room in the building has these mechanical ceilings called chilled sails and that’s what provides your cooling to the building, you have no air conditioning in the building. That is your air conditioning. So all it does is it channel chilled water through the system and then these getting cold and the linear diffusers supply air then push a very small amount of air up over all the sails which pushes the cold air down.”

    Melissa Bustamante thinks this system works well.

    “it’s pretty cold, colder than most buildings.”

    “I think it would be interesting to be in the summer when it’s really hot”

    Have you ever noticed that there are showers in every Kresge bathroom?

    One of the Project Field Engineers Joe Murray explains why.

    “it encourages people to ride their bikes or take alternative means of transportation to work. And then, if you ride your bike and get sweaty you can take a shower, so...It’s one of the credits you can get”

    But would students really use these showers? Casey Teoh thinks so.

    “I could definitely see during like reading week or finals week, people pulling all nighters over here, just walking over here for showering. Yeah that would definitely come in handy.”

    Others, like Melissa Bustamante, disagree.

    “I don’t know who can come in and out. Uh, or cause anyone can go in and out, like it’s not like a private shower. But also, I don’t think they ever advertise it like ‘come and shower in Kresge.’”

    Even with all of its odd features, Medill freshman Amrita Krishnan describes Kresge Hall best: “Good selfie lighting, uh, has a really nice aesthetic, um, it provides also like good lighting, especially when I’m pulling an all nighter or something and I have to walk home.”

    Thanks for listening. For Ask NBN, I’m Travis Wolf.


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