Looking to enhance the student experience and remediate the nearby riverfront, Beloit College partnered with Studio Gang to reimagine a former coal-burning power plant as a student union centered on recreation and wellness.
Nestled between the College's campus and the Rock River, the Powerhouse features a 10,000-sf fitness center and 17,000-sf recreational gym, including a 3-lane track and 8-lane competition pool, as well as spaces for conversation, collaboration, and study . Additional amenities include a coffee shop, student lounges, club rooms, conference center, and a lecture hall / theater.
Reimagining a hundred-year-old structure and former coal-burning plant presents significant challenges, especially to efficient energy use. Heating and cooling the spaces of the Powerhouse, for example, requires addressing heat flow through the building skin—inward in the summer and outward in the winter—as well as the removal of heat generated by people, lights, and equipment.
Buildings usually use air for heating and cooling; however, water, which is much denser, is actually more efficient. Radiant panels integrated into the building’s surfaces are able to use energy from the river water for most of the Powerhouse’s heating and cooling needs, improving comfort within the building and maintaining the highest quality of air, while also significantly minimizing total energy use.
Studio Gang Envisions Power Plant as a Dynamic Center for Learning and Wellness at Beloit College
Beloit College, seeking to enhance student experience and the downtown Beloit riverfront, is partnering with Studio Gang Architects to reimagine a decommissioned coal-burning power plant as a sustainable, lively space for student interaction, health, and well-being. Nestled between the College’s campus and the Rock River, the Powerhouse, scheduled for completion in 2018, will include student engagement spaces such as a coffee shop, lounges and student club rooms, a conference center, and a lecture hall and theater. The building will also house a 3-lane track, an 8-lane competition pool with space for 250 spectators, a 10,000-sf fitness center, and a 17,000-sf recreational gym. The design retains architectural features of the original industrial structure while incorporating new sustainable practices.
The building’s substantial brick walls and tile wainscoting will be preserved by utilizing an “isothermal envelope.” This system reduces energy use by transferring energy from the adjacent river into a network of tubes under the exterior skin, transforming the building walls into a radiant surface that will maintain a constant temperature within the Powerhouse throughout the year. Coal bunkers and steel tubing will be kept in place, preserving elements of the historic Blackhawk Generating Station, with the suspended running track weaving together the different structures of the existing plant.
The Powerhouse will connect to academic and residential buildings by bridge, enhancing the campus’s engagement with the river and further catalyzing the redevelopment of Beloit’s riverfront. “We’re excited to work with Beloit College to transform an outmoded source of electricity into a wellspring of human energy,” stated Jeanne Gang. “Our hope is that by reclaiming the Beloit waterfront for people, our project will inspire other communities around the globe to see human well-being as vitally interconnected with a healthy and clean environment.”