Competition Brief

Competition Summary

From the City Hall’s Green Roof and the Green Building Permit Program to the Chicago Climate Action Plan, the City of Chicago can claim many accomplishments in the field of sustainability. Recently, the Midwest Offices of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) achieved Living Building Challenge Petal Certification, making it the first project in Chicago to attain the certification. Moving forward, the Living Building Challenge Collaborative Chicago (LBCCC) hopes that the 2014 School Annex Design Competition will encourage the development and construction of a Living Building in Chicago.

Building on the success of the LBCCC 2013 Near West Side competition, the format of the competition will include Collaborative meetings every 4 weeks during the design competition. These meetings will serve as an opportunity for the competition project teams to present their ideas to the Collaborative members and gain valuable feedback. As a way to facilitate discussion and collaboration, each team will be required to have at least one team member present for all of these meetings.

About the Site



Under the Green Schoolyards for Healthy Students program, a master plan is being completed for the Eli Whitney Elementary School campus by +Space. The focus of the master plan is on all of the outdoor space within the schools campus boundary and the integration of green infrastructure into the design. The master planning process includes a school campus assessment, visioning, planning charrettes, and an implementation plan. The assessment led to a recommendation for the school to consolidate an excess of modular (temporary) classrooms into an annex to provide more opportunity for programming on the site.

Eli Whitney Elementary School is part of the Technology Magnet Cluster Program and partners with ENLACE to provide additional community and student activities after school. The school is representative of many Chicago Public Schools undergoing re-assessments of space requirements, built assets and opportunities for site improvement.

The specific site for the LBCC Chicago design competition is the construction of an annex at the Eli Whitney Elementary School. (Google Map of School Annex Competition Site)


Urban Context

Little Village (South Lawndale) is a thriving urban community, situated between the Stevenson Expressway to the south, Cermak Road to the north, Western Avenue to the east and Cicero Avenue to the west. The neighborhood plays a vibrant role for the Mexican community in Chicago and is often a point of entry for Latino immigrants to Chicago. It is one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in Chicago and a large percentage (>25%) of the population is under 18 years of age, resulting in overcrowding at the public schools. Little Village, primarily along 26th Street between California Avenue and Kostner Avenue, is recognized as a vital commercial district that serves not only the neighborhood, but also Chicago and the region. Industrial activity plays an important role in the economics of the area. Community-based organizations are active in the neighborhood and this is the first year that Ward 22 will engage in participatory budgeting.

The City of Chicago’s Department of Housing and Economic Development (HED) is leading an effort, in collaboration with Chicago Metropolitan Planning Council and ENLACE to draft a Green Healthy Neighborhoods Land Use Plan for Pilsen and Little Village.

ENLACE coordinated a comprehensive community planning process to guide neighborhood improvement in Little Village resulting in the Little Village Quality of Life Plan which addresses Arts & Culture, Economic Development, Education, Green Space & Recreation, Health, Housing, Immigration and Safety. More than 650 people and over 80 agencies and institutions were involved in the process.

School Context

Demographics (CPS)

Demographic1  Demographic2
Of the 1105 students currently enrolled at Eli Whitney, 98.5% are low income students, 7.9% are special education students, and 49% are limited English learners. The largest demographic at Eli Whtiney is Hispanic which makes up 98.8% of the student population, the second greatest demographic is White at 0.7%.

Details (CPS)

Campus Size 101,653 SF
Year Constructed 1905
Main Building 73,614 SF
Temporary Annex 28,039 SF
# of Students Enrolled 1,105
# of Students Capacity 840
Space Use Status Overcrowded (130%)
School Grades Pre-K – 8

People & Culture

Careful consideration should be given to integrate program, function, scale and design aesthetic into the existing urban fabric.

Community Organizations & Information

Chicago Public Schools Environmental Action Plan

Chicago Public Schools Educational Facilities Master Plan

Eli Whitney Elementary School

ENLACE Chicago is dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of the residents of the Little Village Community by fostering a physically safe and healthy environment in which to live and by championing opportunities for educational advancement and economic development.

Little Village Quality of Life Plan

Green Teacher Network

Healthy Schools Campaign and Openlands partnered to pilot a program to create mixed-use, environmentally responsible schoolyards that use green infrastructure to improve storm water management and basement flooding, provide relief for urban heat islands, and leverage existing goals and resources to create a green schoolyard and community space that could be implemented at every CPS school.

Little Village Chamber of Commerce Special Service Area #25

Little Village Land Organization

+Space investigates methods of vacant space activation through a series of experiments, events, and education in Chicago. These happenings are meant to attract attention to underutilized public and private spaces and create momentum that will empower individuals and the community as a whole.

The Kitchen Community

The Public Building Commission of Chicago is currently undertaking a number of CPS school additions/annex projects that are pursuing sustainability strategies.


A climate and place analysis developed by HOK Chicago is now available here.


Availability of a soils and/or geotechnical report is not anticipated and project teams are advised to adhere to best practices for structural and civil design strategies common in the region.

Building Codes

Current Chicago Building Codes should be adhered to for all aspects of the design. Known challenges exist with the construction of a Living Building in Chicago, especially with respect to the Net Zero Water requirements. Teams that intend to seek variances for deviating from the code must provide a narrative with their submission describing what elements of the Chicago Building Code must be altered.


The Living Building Challenge is equal parts a building certification program, a design philosophy, and an advocacy platform.  A primary area of focus on the advocacy side is to help create more transparency within the building materials industry.  Designers often struggle to determine what materials or chemicals are contained in a given building product, and once discovered, trying to understand if the product is healthy for the users is extremely difficult.  The good news is that we have a couple of tools to help with this:  The first is the LBC ‘Red List’, a list of materials and chemical deemed too harmful to be included in the design of a LBC building.  The second is the Health Product Declaration (HPD) standard.  The HPD is a standard format that helps manufacturers report the content and associated health information for  building products and materials.

HPD standard website:

HPD standard manual:

Because the HPD standard is new and still voluntary, the quantity of products that have an associated HPD is relatively small.  To help advocate for additional participation by manufacturers, competition entrants are required to contact any one product manufacturer to request the creation of an HPD for a single product.  It is not required that your chosen manufacturer agree to participate, only that you advocate for the HPD standard.  You are required to document the feedback that you receive and provide this for discussion at Charrette #3 on 03/27/2014.   Please plan to reach out early to your chosen manufacturer… This often takes several persistent and diligent attempts to receive a response!

Scale Jumping Potential

With the direct adjacency to the Eli Whitney Elementary School main building, teams are encouraged to utilize scale jumping if they so choose, especially to satisfy Water and Energy requirements.  Scale jumping solutions should be sized for the project, and teams should also consider how future projects might also take advantage of scale jumping.

Program Requirements

The program for the new Eli Whitney Elementary Annex is to be defined by the competition entrants.  Your chosen program should include components that address the following:

  • Meet the current and future teaching needs of the Eli Whitney Elementary School.
  • Benefit the Little Village Community.
  • Fulfill the 20 Imperatives of the Living Building Challenge.
  • Create a place that will educate the students and community about the environmental philosophies that are promoted by the Living Building Challenge.
  • Maximize usable outdoor space.

The project may take the form of:

  • An retrofit/addition to the existing annex on south side of the building
  • An retrofit/addition to the main building
  • A building to replace the existing annex

Below are the minimum programmatic metrics that each competition entrant must fulfill:

Total Annex Gross SF 25,000 GSF max
Additional Student Capacity: 250 Students
# of Classroom Spaces 6 min
Art Classroom Space 500 SF min
Special Education Room 1,000 SF min
Multipurpose Room 1,000 SF min
Usable Outdoor Space 2,000 SF
(1,500 SF min continuous open play/green space)

Project teams should consider how your building will help to educate students, the community and visitors about the environmental philosophies that are promoted by the Living Building Challenge.

Reference Case Study: Bertschi School Living Science Building

Construction Budget

Economic viability will be a determining factor in the judging process.  Project teams should make every effort to make sustainable design elements of the proposed design as cost effective as possible.

Comparable annex projects in Chicago are typically budgeted at $12 million, project teams are asked to propose designs that fall within a reasonable range of that figure. Project teams are also asked to propose a phased development of the annex, such that a school might be able to implement the pursuit of a Living Building over multiple funding cycles. Efforts to identify innovative funding sources are encouraged.

Entry Requirements


  • LBC Strategy Narrative (1,000 words max) – Describe region-specific challenges & solutions to fulfilling the Living Building Challenge Imperatives.
  • Economic Feasibility (1,000 words max)
  • Materials list (specification and/or drawings)
  • Health Product Declaration (HPD) response from product manufacturer
  • Systems diagrams for Energy & Water design
  • Site Plan / Roof Plan
  • Floor Plan(s): Typical & Unique Floors
  • Exterior Elevations and/or Exterior Renderings (4)
  • Building / Site Sections (2)
  • Wall Section showing a fully detailed wall assembly
  • Interior Renderings (2)

Presentation Format

  • (2) 24 x 36 boards, vertical format
  • 8.5 x 11 narrative

Entry Fee

  • $100 for professional firm teams
  • $50 for individual teams outside of firms
  • $25 for students


Teams are limited to a maximum of five people. The Competition will include (4) Collaborative Charrette Meetings (see Timeline section below) where competition team members are encouraged to present their in-progress designs and get direct feedback from the Chicago Collaborative.

At least one team member must attend each Collaborative Charrette Meeting in person according to the Timeline.  Therefore, teams should have at least one representative in the Chicago area.

Those not wanting to submit a design but still wanting to participate are encouraged to participate in the Collaborative Charrette Meetings scheduled.


  • Registration Opens: 1/1/2014
  • Registration Closes:2/15/2014
  • Charrette #1: 1/30/2014
  • Charrette #2: 2/27/2013
  • Charrette #3: 3/27/2013
  • Final Review: 4/17/2013

Judging Process

Design submissions will be focused on meeting all 20 Imperatives of the LBC standard and program requirements.

A panel of judges independent of the LBC Chicago Collaborative will be assembled to maintain anonymity and impartiality in the judging process.


First Place

(2) tickets to the 2015 Living Future unConference (Thank you ILFI!)

Cash Prize of $1,000

Second Place

Cash Prize of $250

Thanks to our sponsor DIRTT!!

Thanks to our sponsor!!

Thanks to our sponsor!!


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