Oberlin College’s Kohl Building is First LEED Certified Music Conservatory in the US
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The Bertram and Judith Kohl Building, the home of the Jazz studies program at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, has become the first music conservatory in the U.S. to be certified by LEED for meeting the LEED Gold standards.
The Bertram and Judith Kohl Building, the home of the Jazz studies program at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, has become the first music conservatory in the U.S. to be certified by LEED for meeting the LEED Gold standards. The construction began in 2005 when the Conservatory realized that it needed a larger building to accommodate the growing Jazz studies program.
Designed by the architectural firm of Westlake Reed Leskosky of Cleveland, the Kohl building cost $24 million to construct, is three stories tall, 37,000 square feet, and opened in May of 2010.
According to Jonathan Kurtz of Westlake Reed Lekosky in a press release, meeting LEED certification was interesting because of the unique requirements of a music building. The Kohl building houses a large collection of Steinway pianos and other instruments, all of which need to be maintained at the right humidity levels. Sustainable features include geothermal heating and cooling with radiant panels, energy-efficient systems and lighting, a green roof system and storm water run-off collection and filtration. Sustainably harvested materials were used throughout the construction. The project was designed to achieve energy performance greater than 40 percent higher than the ASHRAE 90.1 baseline. Another important feature that was unique to the Kohl building was the tight integration of acoustic, energy, comfort and air quality considerations, and a geothermal radiant system, which reduces the need for duct work in the walls, floors and ceilings that compromise acoustics.
Not only is the building environmentally friendly, it also has a unique visual appeal. The entire exterior of the building is covered in aluminum, as Jonathan Kurtz, of Westlake Reed Leskosky explained in a press release.
“From the beginning, we planned to clad the exterior in aluminum,” said Kurtz. “It was a natural choice as the city of Oberlin sits above one of the largest deposits of bauxite ore in the country. And it was here, in 1886, that Charles Martin Hall, an Oberlin alumni and one of the founders of Alcoa, developed the cost-efficient process for obtaining aluminum from aluminum oxide that brought aluminum into widespread use.”
Working with the design firm Riverside Group of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, the architects employed a finish developed by Alcoa that causes the buildings surface to appear to change colors as the light changes. This is further accentuated by the use of Brazilian Ipé hardwood, harvested from a sustainable forest, that will naturally weather to a silver color that creates a unique visual harmony with the aluminum.
The design of the building took into account and reflects the function of the building as a music conservatory, with windows of different sizes that align with the windows of the Yamaski Conservatory Buildings, located across from the Kohl Building, that create a rhythm of different views. The location of the rooms, with practice and rehearsal rooms on the lower levels and faculty offices on the upper level, were also designed with the idea of corresponding to a piece of music.
According to the Westlake Reed Leskosky design brief, “The vertical progression of spaces to the third story lounge and offices correlates to the movement from acoustic sensitivity to the visual openness of the landscape, culminating in the roof garden.”