Ford Calumet Environmental Center

  • Prize
    Winner in Architectural Design - Sustainable and Energy Saving
  • Company/Firm
    Valerio Dewalt Train
  • Lead Designer
    Joe Valerio
  • Design Team
    Tom Daly, Lauren Shelton, Matt Gamache, Joe Lawton, Jacob Goble, Allison Rokusek, Alex Raynor
  • Architect
    Valerio Dewalt Train
  • Interior Designer
    Valerio Dewalt Train
  • Photographer Credit
    Tom Harris
  • Location
    11555 South Stony Island Ave
  • Client
    Chicago Park District
  • Project Date
    June 2021
  • Project Link

The Ford Calumet Environmental Center at Big Marsh Park is part of a reclamation project to restore landscape damaged by slag. The LEED Silver accredited center aims to set a sustainable precedent where industry, nature and culture can safely coexist on the southwest side of Chicago.

With an exposed nail-laminated timber (NLT) structure, the building materials reinforce a focus on an environmentally responsive future. NLT is a renewable resource, wood can be grown locally, it’s effective at carbon sequestration, and requires less energy to produce than steel/concrete.

The Center is surrounded by wetlands that inspired the most sustainable feature. A constructed wastewater wetlands system—the first in Chicago—processes black water from the building and allows clean water to infiltrate back into the ecosystem.

Our team consulted with conservation organizations to employ a bird safe design. The hangar doors form a canopy, ensuring that birds flying overhead don’t see landscape reflected in the window.

The use of LED lighting, a highly efficient VRF system used for heating and cooling, and water efficient plumbing fixtures help the center significantly reduce energy consumption.

Valerio Dewalt Train (VDT) is a 60+ person national architecture and design firm with offices in Chicago, California, and Denver. Since 1994, the firm has based its practice on the simple idea that whatever the question, design is the answer. Combining inhouse expertise in architecture, interiors and experiential design; the firm focuses on highly cohesive work from conception to completion—a dedication expressed through its catch-phrase, ‘Build or Die.’
Using comprehensive research to inform the process behind every project, VDT strives for solutions across a wide range of typologies.