City of Evanston, Morton Civic Center

Evanston, IL

Old boiler in a mechanical room.


The Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center, primary administrative facility for the City of Evanston, IL, a Chicago suburb. The 105,600-square-foot facility was built in 1901 as a boarding school and expanded in 1924.

GBA was retained to assess the building’s MEP/FP and controls systems and prepare a feasibility analysis of possible scopes of work to address immediate issues and long-term modernization goals. Design services are anticipated as funds become available to execute recommended projects.

Equipment and Systems Assessment

Like most historic buildings, the Morton Civic Center represents a complex mix of systems. Heating is provided by a low-pressure steam system fueled by natural gas, with a boiler in an adjacent Powerhouse. The cooling system, constructed in 1977, uses a fluid cooler with a water loop feeding 104 heat pumps in the ceiling plenums. In the recent past, most ventilation has been accomplished with operable windows; a prior mechanical ventilation system serving the heat pumps was deactivated due to excessive noise.

The client was concerned about ever-increasing heating system maintenance costs; steam pipes in probable need of replacement; boiler burners close to the end of useful life; and aging heat pumps. GBA analyzed the building’s systems, including MEP and fire alarm/protection. The team created an energy model using eQUEST software and reviewed utility bill history. Ultrasonic and radiographic studies helped clarify pipe conditions. Water sampling revealed sediment that was fouling the heat pump water loop piping.

As the investigation unfolded, multiple options were discussed and refined, with four eventually selected for in-depth evaluation:

  • Replacing the heat pumps in kind and refurbishing the boiler and existing piping and equipment; replacing the deactivated attic ventilation units.
  • Replacing the heat pumps with fan coil units, requiring a new hot water plant, chilled water plant, and replacement of the neutral water piping system with an insulated dual-temperature system; replacing the ventilation units.
  • Replacing the heat pumps in kind and replacing the entire steam heating system with a new hot water system, including boilers, pumps, piping, and convectors; replacing the ventilation units.
  • Replacing existing systems entirely with a new VAV air-handling unit design (two per floor), requiring a new hot water plant, chilled water plant, and replacement of heat pumps with VAV terminal units with reheat coils.

GBA provided a first cost, 25-year life cycle cost, and maintenance cost analysis for all options, and offered estimates of remaining service life for existing equipment and systems. The city is now weighing its choice and expects to move forward with improvements in the near future.

View More Projects

Interested in learning more about how GBA can assist with your facility objectives? Our portfolio is a great place to start. 

Skyscraper board room

430 N. Michigan (Realtor Building)

A large-scale vertical expansion called on GBA's analytical, design, and commissioning skills.

Hallway with rehab equipment

Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, Pediatric & DayRehab Center

This outpatient center serves children and adults; GBA provided engineering design services for the adaptive reuse project.

Exterior of Todd Building, University of Kentucky

University of Kentucky, Lee T. Todd, Jr. Building

An ASHRAE Level 1 audit,  retro-commissioning, and a lab ventilation assessment improved sustainability.