For Father Michael Garanzini, education is about more than information. He says for urban areas to flourish, we must work together to find sustainable solutions. Photo: Samantha Simmons

At the north end of Sheridan Road in Chicago, heading into the city’s northernmost neighborhood, past endless blocks of high-rise apartments and condos, past ground-level bodegas and early 20th century homes, and after the street takes a sharp westward bend, the sidewalk veers away from the street, opening into a garden planted with annuals and evergreens. A fountain gently bubbles at the center of the garden, which is crosshatched with gravel paths and birdsong. This is Loyola University Chicago.

To the left is the assertive, Art Deco-style Mundelein Center building, and opposite that, the white Vermont marble of Piper Hall, a 1909 mansion whose green shingles blend with the nearby trees, suggesting Loyola’s other true green roofs. Most stunning is the LEED Silver Klarchek Information Commons, a transparent, four-story glass building designed by Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB) and Transsolar in 2007. It is connected to the historic Madonna della Strada chapel, and the portico connecting the two buildings creates a visible dialogue between the historical and the modern, which is further articulated by the open green space of the East Quad—the campus center. Lake Michigan refracts through the glass of the Klarchek building. The air is abuzz as students and faculty bustle between classes. This is a space where ideas converge.

It also is where the university’s 143-year-old legacy of sustainable, academic, and community leadership continues in a dynamic conversation that extends far beyond Chicago’s north side neighborhoods. Loyola’s planning expands beyond being just a model for other educational institutions. Because the school is tied into the fabric of Chicago, it increasingly can be seen as an example for planners, developers, architects, and all city dwellers of what it means to be a good citizen—and a good steward.

This ethic has been instilled in the very DNA of the institution by university president Father Michael Garanzini. “Loyola has always been very connected with the city,” Garanzini says. “Part of our agenda of sustainability—our mission—is not to simply use material resources wisely, but educate others on how to do the same. This is how you make a difference.”

A Crumbling Institution

Garanzini, a member of the Jesuit order since 1971, assumed the office of president at Loyola University Chicago (LUC) in June 2001. After undergoing Jesuit training around the United States and Rome for several years, Garanzini enrolled at the University of California–Berkeley where he received a doctorate in psychology and religion in 1986. He worked at Fordham University, Saint Louis University, and Georgetown University before finally relocating to Chicago and Loyola, which was then facing a serious budget crisis and teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. “When I got to Loyola, the first thing to do was right the ship,” Garanzini says. “I was used to dealing with normal academic issues, but at Loyola, I had to look at the infrastructure—everything from software to plant infrastructure.”

Although Loyola is a private university, it is robust in student and staff size as it relates to academic spectrum. With around 9,000 undergraduate and 6,000 post-graduate students, Loyola offers a number of degree programs, most notably the Quinlan School of Business, which has a part-time MBA program ranked in the top 20 in the nation by Bloomberg Businessweek, and the Stritch School of Medicine, which used to be Loyola’s primary revenue source before Garanzini took office. “The university was relying on around $20 million of hospital income per year, but they decided that the hospital should separate from the university in 1996, and from 1997 to 2001, the university was showing increasing deficits,” Garanzini says. “The infrastructure was damaged, and I began working closely with the facilities director to learn about retrofitting a campus that would be capable of handling its environmental situation.”

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View of Loyola from the quad, looking toward the Klarchek Information Commons. More photos below.

Although other men of his stature often match their credentials with hubris, Garanzini is humble, curious, and kind: a Jesuit in the purest sense. He has an intelligent way of speaking that suggests an authentic passion for the work he does, which, as a Jesuit, is not just a job for him, but a vocation. The clerical collar complements, rather than detracts from, his
authority and excitement about how Loyola has changed in the past decade and what sustainability promises for the future of the institution.

“Sustainability is the future,” Garanzini says. “The theme is attractive and exciting, and if we can latch onto this theme as an institution, we can start asking ourselves new questions, like what it means to have sustainable cities, or public health, or decent services for the poor. We can go around the school and ask each department what it can do to answer these questions.”

When Garanzini first came to Loyola, sustainability wasn’t even a word connected with institutional policy, but as the campus has evolved, so too has its polity. As is usually the case, most universities are divided into disparate departments—some of which necessarily function at odds with one another. But sustainability has proven to be a healing agent for LUC’s physical infrastructure, and it has the potential to mend fissures between its conflicting institutional ideas and frameworks.

Getting the Facts

At the beginning of 2012, Loyola hired its first full-time director of sustainability, Aaron Durnbaugh. Durnbaugh came to Loyola after 10 years of working for the City of Chicago, during which time he was involved with an energy audit funded by Chicago in 2001 that enabled LUC to assess energy usage at its main ‘Lake Shore campus’ in Rogers Park, with 3.2 million built square feet, and the ‘Water Tower campus’ near the downtown Loop area, with just less than 900,000 built square feet. This was the same time Garanzini was starting at Loyola, and the numbers produced from the audit were able to set the stage for helping Garanzini’s efforts to begin establishing the university’s guidelines for its then-nascent sustainability efforts. “When I talk about sustainability,” Durnbaugh says, “I look for projects that overlap and can be in the academic curriculum, the campus infrastructure, and in the institutional community. This is always something that’s developing at Loyola.”

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The Klarchek Commons, designed by Solomon Cordwell Buenz, stands as a symbol of Loyola University’s commitment to the environment. The building is LEED Silver. Photo: James Steinkamp

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The view from inside the Klarchek building illustrates the power of the nearly transparent building and its location on Lake Michigan. Photo: James Steinkamp

With data provided by the audit and efforts prompted by the Student Environmental Alliance and the 2005 formation of the Center for Urban Environmental Research and Policy (CUERP)—which will be amalgamated by the new 250,000-square-foot Institute for Environmental Sustainability when it opens this fall—the analysts on the Lake Shore campus were able to determine that the university’s energy use intensity (EUI) in 2001 measured 120 kBtu per square foot, a high, if not also standard rate for a mid-sized academic institution. Through initiatives driven by student groups, CUERP, the Department of Environmental Sciences, and the Office of Sustainability, the university lowered its EUI to 49 kBtu per square foot in 2012. This reduction was after Loyola added a total 561,500 square feet to four buildings on the Lake Shore campus from 2004 to 2012.

However, the EUI reduction is just one byproduct of Loyola’s cohesive campus efforts toward sustainability, which also involve intense programs for water conservation, green roof installation, recycling and waste reduction, and community interactivity. “As we have gone about improving the campus through the construction of new buildings utilizing new technologies, it has also inspired students to come forward and start pushing us to think about other sustainable ideas,” Garanzini says. “Sustainability is the first thing I’ve seen that is hope-filled for young people. Faculty and students are starting to recognize that they have a necessary common project.”

Repairing a Long-Term Relationship

Water conservation at LUC—prompted in part by the university’s immediate proximity to Lake Michigan—provides metaphorical and infrastructural connections between the city, the university, and the environment itself. Put lightly, Chicago’s historical relationship with Lake Michigan is strained, and the roots of this tenuous relationship stretch all the way back to the city’s industrial years at the tail end of the 19th century. Sewage and pollutants were often shunted directly into the regional rivers and lakefront areas, prompting the infamous reversal of the Chicago River in 1900 and numerous other reactive urban engineering projects.

For Garanzini, the need for addressing the conflict between the city and its waterways literally came to his front door. “When I first started at Loyola, I was living in a ground-floor apartment of a student dorm, and it flooded twice, because the sewers habitually overloaded from the summer rains,” Garanzini says. “It became clear to me that we had to look at really basic things for the infrastructure, like how we were handling water.” After investing $8 million in the university heating systems to begin the years-long master plan for retrofitting the entire campus, Loyola began to redress how it handles storm water, incorporating cisterns on campus and on all new construction projects—an integral step in bridging the connection between the university and the surrounding urban infrastructure.

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Aaron Durnbaugh is Loyola’s Director of Sustainability

In addition to the storm-water retainers, the Lake Shore campus is lined with permeable pavers all over campus. Native and drought-tolerant landscaping adds a practical flourish to the open spaces, and just out of site, 52,795 square feet of green roofs are split between the university’s Lake Shore, Water Tower, and Maywood campuses. Since these systems were implemented in 2004, more than 70 million gallons of storm water have been diverted from the Lake Shore campus, with a goal of 13 million gallons annually by the end of 2013 and 19 million gallons annually by 2015. “The Office of Sustainability doesn’t just think of these programs,” Durnbaugh says. “It helps track them, to see if we are making progress. And we are definitely making progress.”

Eliminating bottled water and going tray-free on campus also serve to bolster the school’s waste reduction and recycling rates. Presently, Loyola recycles 60,000 pounds of waste per month—an amount that has increased more than 350 percent from 17,000 pounds per month in 2009. More than 80 percent of campus construction debris is recycled, and more than 26 percent of total campus waste was recycled at the Lake Shore and Water Tower campuses in 2012. This is more than double the amount of waste being recycled in 2008, and Durnbaugh expects this number to continue increasing as Loyola turns toward innovative programs, such as its relationship with the Monterey Bay Sustainable Seafood Program, local farmers markets, the student-run Grower’s Guild and organic farm at Loyola’s Retreat and Ecology Campus in nearby Woodstock, Illinois, and the campus-sourced biodiesel program, which ‘upcycles’ fryer oil into biofuels for campus shuttle buses. The university has produced more than 5,000 gallons of biodiesel since 2008, with production having increased nearly tenfold in the past five years.

Although these are university-centric programs, they are the threads that connect Loyola to the greater urban fabric, and what makes these myriad programs and initiatives unique is their motivation. “Loyola has always been a university that is of and about the city,” Garanzini says. “When I talk about a broader vision about sustainability, I’m talking about what it means to sustain ourselves in urban populations. That means leaving nobody behind, because that’s the only way we can advance as a society.”

The Future in a Single Building

As Loyola continues to advance its diverse sustainability efforts, the Institute for Environmental Sustainability (IES), a mixed-use project on the south end of the Lake Shore campus known informally as the ‘Institute,’ will provide expanded residence, classroom, and greenhouse programs while also centralizing and officiating an expanded sustainability-oriented academic track, which will simultaneously symbolize the integrated trajectory of the university as a whole.

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Devon Patterson, a principal at SCB.

Designed by long-time university partner firm SCB and targeting completion in fall 2013, the IES provides a focal point for the continuation of Loyola’s dynamic institutional and urban change. Targeting LEED Gold certification, the IES is part adaptive reuse, part greenhouse, part laboratory, and all green. Programmatically, it’s a three-part building spanning the entire block of Kenmore Avenue on the south side of the campus. At its north end is the Wright Hall building, previously owned by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Built in 1959, Wright Hall is an 11-story brick and concrete apartment structure that formerly had 70 apartment units, the bulk of which—beyond the third floor—are being converted to classrooms and offices. The lower three floors will be dedicated to multiuse student space adjoined to the three-story greenhouse which connects Wright Hall and the new, six-story San Francisco Residence Hall on the south side of the Institute.

SCB is the project’s architect of record, and Devon Patterson, AIA, principal at SCB and designer of the Institute, says the greenhouse is the center for the design because it gives the university an outward expression of the environmental focus inside. “It provides something for the community to gather around,” Patterson says.


The new Institute for Environmental Sustainability will be a new kind of residence hall that will allow students to monitor their electricity, heat, and water use and grow food in the greenhouse while learning informally about ecology. Renderings: SCB


The IES, currently under construction, not only is an example of the university in miniature, but it’s also a metaphor for Chicago. The north end of the building houses office spaces converted from a former apartment building, akin to a contemporary commercial district. The residence hall, on the south end, forms the residential neighborhood while the community spaces resemble cafés and the greenhouse serves as both a park and an agricultural site.


From within the atrium, a view of the greenhouse roof shows its slope, which will direct rainwater toward a capture system that will irrigate the plants inside.

Much like the Klarcheck Information Commons building, the IES features two distinct ‘ends’ connected by a central glass framework that functions practically and architecturally. Most notably, it’s a greenhouse space with interior and exterior vegetated elements to produce edible agriculture and decrease storm-water runoff. The curved shape of the greenhouse has a dual function to facilitate rainwater harvesting and promote natural ventilation using a low-velocity displacement system. Solar thermal collectors throughout the Institute recharge the on-site geothermal system, which will be the largest geothermal system in the city of Chicago.

“The greenhouse forms a bridge between the academic and residential functions of the school,” Patterson says. “This is partly inspired by the bucolic vision of Thomas Jefferson’s plans for the University of Virginia, where gardens were planted next to all of the residential living centers and allowed the students to participate in their natural environment as part of their education.”

The firm has taken a collaborative approach to the design of the Institute, working closely with Transsolar on climate engineering and Chicago-based Elara Engineering on mechanical engineering to implement and experiment with new technologies and concepts to create a unified space. As this concept trickles down to both the building users and surrounding urban fabric, it simultaneously functions as a practical realization of Garanzini’s sustainable vision for the future of the university as it relates to itself and the city.

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CSUL - adjacency diagram

“Garanzini has a vision for the campus,” Patterson says. “He wants buildings that are transparent so that people outside can see what’s going on, but also [so] that people in the buildings can see what is happening in this beautiful environment that is being made outside.” As Loyola nears its 150th anniversary, the completion of the Institute marks a new chapter in its evolution. “The Institute will help us think about different areas that are impacted by the whole sustainability movement—political science, sociology, history, philosophy, theology, and social justice, where we try to think about the common good,” Garanzini says. “That’s our theme.”

Continuing Leadership

At the beginning of 2013, LUC launched a new strategic master plan for the school, incorporating the future of sustainability at the university. The plan details continued measures—integrated urban agriculture initiatives, beekeeping programs, energy and water reduction competitions, community outreach programs—that not only give students license to continue generating their own ideas of sustainability, but also gives the entire institutional community a way to bolster its academic and professional programs with practical ways to bring high ideas into simple practice. This is what Garanzini considers to be the meaning of education: that it is not merely a system of information transmission, but that it gives people the ability to solve real problems in practical ways. “The university first ought to be an example to its own students and faculty,” Garanzini says. “Whether it’s the way we dispose of our trash, or the way we treat our storm water, we should be always be an institution that is open to incorporating these new ideas as quickly as possible.”


“Sustainability is the first thing I’ve seen that is hope-filled for young people,” says Father Michael Garanzini, Loyola’s president. “Faculty and students are starting to recognize that they have a necessary common project.” Photo: Samantha Simmons

Garanzini visualizes Loyola as setting an example for itself; he is reticent to hypothesize how the university might establish a broader influence in the Chicago community—or if it indeed has that capability. In a philosophical sense, this humility is the mark of true leadership; that it does not perceive its leadership as such. Garanzini says he is always learning from those he works with, recognizing the responsibility the school has for its students, and the role a historic university such as Loyola has in relationship to its urban context.

As the university president, Garanzini is answering to the institution, but as a Jesuit disciple, Garanzini’s has been a life of service that answers to higher principles, reflected most clearly in the direction in which he has led one of the largest Jesuit institutions in North America. As the Jesuit Saint John Berchmans once said, “Our true worth does not consist in what human beings think of us. What we really are consists in what God knows us to be.” For the Jesuit order, God is blind to pride. This makes for honest leaders, and honest institutions.

Although sustainability has proven to be a practical benefit for Loyola—bringing the institution out of debt, equipping it to weather the economic downturn, and allowing it to continue developing innovative and environmentally conscious programs and operations—it is fundamentally an ethic for Garanzini. “I’m excited to see whether other institutions will accept sustainability as their driving theme,” he says. “I’m seeing the possibility of uniting very disparate professions and schools into a common effort,
which makes Loyola a more exciting place to be. Beyond simply making a salary, everyone wants to work for something meaningful.”