Good neighbor: Wentz Science Center at North Central College

Bronze Award: A conscientious Building Team takes steps to minimize the impact of this large-scale science center project in a historic neighborhood.

May 24, 2018 |
The science center is situated along a pedestrian walkway

The science center is situated along a pedestrian walkway that connects the north and south ends of campus. Steve Woltmann Photography.

Located in the heart of the third-largest suburb of Chicago—and one of its most prominent cities—North Central College has been an anchor and dedicated community member in Naperville for more than 155 years. The 3,000-student, 65-acre campus is surrounded by historic residential neighborhoods, just blocks from the quaint downtown.     

The school’s newest addition, the 124,000-sf Wentz Science Center, sits on the edge of campus and was designed to engage the surrounding neighborhoods, as well as students and faculty. Public areas and flexible spaces—including a sandwich shop and events space—were incorporated into the facility to draw in the general public.

To address concerns over the size and scale of the science building, the project team worked closely with community leaders to optimize the design and programming for minimal disruption to the neighborhood. On the building’s east façade, which faces the residential neighborhood, the windows were downsized and the overall architectural expression was restrained to reflect the scale of the historic homes across the street. To minimize noise and movement, the building’s quiet functions—namely academic offices—were located along this perimeter.

By contrast, the west façade, which faces the center of campus, is designed to showcase the action within the facility. Public areas, labs, classrooms, and other lively spaces were placed along this perimeter. Large windows and three-story glass curtain wall elements maximize transparency, daylighting, and views of the campus. Electrochromic glass was installed along this façade to control solar heat gain, glare, and daylighting. The construction team built full-scale mockups to determine the best approach and to work through design and installation issues related to the dynamic glazing.

After construction commenced, the client requested that the project schedule be compressed by six weeks so that the building could be occupied by the spring semester. To meet the condensed schedule, the team employed a variety of Lean tactics, including pull-planning and streamlined overtime budgets. Rather than tracking overtime by trade, each company condensed all overtime in one collective budget. Each week during pull-planning, the team assessed what critical path trades made the most sense to work weekends based on how that work would advance the overall schedule and where the team could deliver the maximum value.

As a result, the project opened ahead of the revised schedule, and under budget.


Students gather in front of the Golden Ratio Wall art installationStudents gather in front of the Golden Ratio Wall art installation, which symbolizes the building’s goal: to connect the arts and history with math and science. Steve Woltmann Photography.


Building Team — Submitting firm, general contractor Pepper Construction Owner North Central College Architect, structural engineer Holabird & Root Civil engineer Cemcon MEP engineer Ketchmark & Associates Owner’s rep. CBRE

General Information — Size 139,000 sf Construction cost $60 million Construction time July 2015 to March 2017 Delivery method CM at risk



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