Click here to watch a video about the IES.

The University’s latest eco-friendly building, the Institute of Environmental Sustainability (IES), will hold its official grand opening on Friday, September 6 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, open house, and informational tours of the new facility.

The opening will begin at noon with a ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony hosted by Father Garanzini and other University leaders. As many members of the Loyola community will be in class during the dedication ceremony, an open house will run from 4–7 p.m. and feature tours of the complex, demonstrations, and free food and drink of the local, sustainable variety. The event is open to the public.

On September 7, the day following the opening, the IES will also host the second day of the Urban Food Symposium where speakers and panels will discuss issues concerning food. Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and Solomn Cordwell Buenz architects have partnered with the IES to present the symposium.

Nancy Tuchman, the founding director of the IES, believes Loyola is making a statement about the importance of environmental sustainability with its new facility.

“I think it’s a demonstration of how we are thinking about the future,” says Tuchman. “That issue is so critical and it’s so urgent. We really feel a sense of responsibility to respond to that and higher education is a great way to do it.”

Tuchman’s goal is to have the program enrollment double over the next few years so that it can grow into a school on its own. She hopes the IES will make Loyola a destination school for students that aspire to work with the environment in mind.

The complex is comprised of three buildings: Blessed Virgin Mary Hall (BVM), which was converted from a residence hall into faculty offices; San Francisco Hall, a 410-bed residence hall; and the institute itself, which harbors the Ecodome, academic rooms, and labs, including the lauded biodiesel program’s Clean Energy Lab.

But the IES offers more for students than just housing and academic spaces. The new complex also houses community areas, like Engrained, an Aramark-run green café that sells sustainable, locally sourced food complete with reclaimed-wood table tops and chairs made of recycled soda bottles. Students can also congregate in lounge spaces and multipurpose rooms equipped with many outlets and Wi-Fi ports for studying and socializing.

More than its massive size, the IES is decked out with incredibly sustainable features. Most notable is the geothermal heating and cooling system that regulates the complex’s temperature. It is the largest geothermal system in the city of Chicago and this is the first time in Illinois that a system this large has been installed directly below the building it controls. What the system does, according to Director of Sustainability Aaron Durnbaugh, is capture the temperature 10 feet underground, which hovers around 58 degrees. A boiler, which runs on student-produced biodiesel, then heats the air to the desired temperature. Through clear glass tiles on the floor in the lounge area, students can see the geothermal system in action.

But the sustainability efforts do not stop there. Rainwater harvested in cisterns is used to flush toilets in the building and to water the plant beds in the greenhouse, and areas of the building are unconditioned, that is, do not have any temperature regulation at all. Durnbaugh explains that it will save energy not to control areas where people are simply passing through. Student rooms, faculty offices, and gathering spaces will all be conditioned.

Similar to the Klarchek Information Commons, the glass exterior of the Ecodome is lined with adjustable blinds across the top that serve not only to keep the sun at bay, but as visual warning for migrating birds. After the SOAR project found that glass buildings like the Information Commons pose a deadly danger to migrating birds, Loyola decided to make the necessary changes to protect the local and migrating avian population.

Residents of San Francisco Hall can also monitor their energy usage and are encouraged to live as sustainably as possible. The environmental learning community has also moved to the new hall, and its resident assistant lives in a model green room that is filled with top-notch, eco-friendly features and products. Rambler Rundown, the new student produced video series on Rambler Buzz, will give a tour of this uber-green room next week.

To RSVP to the ribbon-cutting ceremony, click here. For more information on the IES, check out