University of Chicago, Woodlawn Commons

Chicago, IL

Aerial view of the Woodlawn Residential Commons, University of Chicagom tall and mid-rise buildings ina complex


Woodlawn Residential and Dining Commons provides 1,177 beds in 410,000 square feet, comprising three towers of eight, eight, and 17 stories. The first floor includes a 30,000-square-foot dining facility, plus multipurpose rooms, lounges, a fitness center, and laundry facilities. The facility is divided into 11 houses” or residential communities, intended to foster close academic and social networks.

GBA provided LEED fundamental and enhanced commissioning services during the design, construction, and post-construction phases, achieving a Silver-equivalent facility. For various reasons, notably a change in LEED prerequisites announced part-way through the construction process, the client did not go forward with LEED certification.


GBA worked with private developer Capstone Development Partners on this large new project on the south side of the university campus. Mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire alarm (as related to HVAC and elevator equipment), and controls systems were commissioned, with building envelope commissioning by a subconsultant.

Major issues identified and addressed through commissioning included:

  • Fan coil unit problems. Thermostats were not set up correctly, and the FCU control valve actuator was not installed properly on some floors. This prevented flow through the coil when valves should have been open. A program error also prevented risers from properly switching from heating to cooling mode.
  • Boiler hot water pump starters. These units lacked starters, so they operated at full speed at all times. Pumps should only operate when the associated boiler is enabled.
  • Lack of panel board testing. The general contractor had to arrange to have this important work completed because it was not originally included in the electrical contractor’s scope.
  • Kitchen pressurization sequence. The commissioning team identified that the pressurization sequence was not going to be programmed according to a revised design sequence. This error was corrected.
  • RTU-2 condensation carry over. Condensation from a rooftop unit cooling coil was being pulled past the drain pan, getting the fan and motor wet and eventually reducing the life of the equipment. The mechanical contractor was asked to install additional sheet metal to extend the drain pan and catch the condensation. Seasonal testing was conducted to confirm operations.

The project was turned over to the client on time.

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