Northwestern University

Ryan Fieldhouse and Walter Athletics Center, Commissioning

Ryan Fieldhouse and Walter Athletics Center, Commissioning - Evanston, IL


The $270 million Athletics Center features a full-sized indoor athletic field for football and Olympic sports teams; adjacent training facility with locker rooms, weight rooms, academic and medical services, video rooms and additional facilities supporting student athletes. The commissioning scope included mechanical, electrical, and plumbing trades from design through construction and occupancy.


Source Award
Building Commissioning Association 2019 Building Award, New Construction


Ryan Walter Athletics Center is a large complex with widely varied internal conditions, incorporating study spaces, showers, conference rooms, hydrotherapy pools, and a full-sized indoor football practice field. This wide variety of space conditions provided a backdrop for the project team to work through several issues and system improvements identified during commissioning. 

  • The Cx team observed inconsistent fire damper installation on the AHUs in the field. Many AHUs were found to have fire dampers isolating some portion of the supply and return airflows, but not the entire airflow, as required by code. This situation had arisen through a combination of miscommunication and inconsistent trade coordination. The Cx team quickly alerted the full project team and helped identify the affected units. This allowed the owner to direct changes and to maintain occupant safety. 
  • The office, meeting, and study spaces are conditioned by chilled beam units, with exterior spaces receiving additional warmth from radiant heating. The provided chilled beam units lacked the inlet requirements that the project team had been expecting but hadn’t specified. The units had a narrower band of acceptable inlet air pressure than intended. This diminished the stability and fine control of the chilled beam system as a whole. The commissioning team worked to test, modify, and retest the chilled beam sequences of operation with the installed condition. Ideas from the owner, commissioning provider, and controls contractor all contributed to improved system stability and increased occupant comfort during a historically cold winter. 
  • The fieldhouse is supplied primarily with air from overhead fabric ducts, but also receives supplemental conditioning along a wall of windows from terminal units on the floor below. During testing, the Cx team found that these units were each controlled with an individual thermostat at the field level, regardless of what neighboring units were doing. Adjacent units were found to be in full heating and full cooling mode in an effort to provide a balanced space temperature. The Cx team worked to control these units in concert, to prevent energy loss through simultaneous heating and cooling.