EcoHawks is a student research program run by the University of Kansas School of engineering that focuses on sustainable energy research. They started by converting a 1974 Volkswagen into a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle and have branched out to other technologies. They are working on the next generation of vehicles and sustainable energy research aiming toward a future of integrated energy systems where buildings, vehicles and inhabitants all efficiently interact with the energy grid to help conserve these resources. They asked Studio 804 to design a building to house their work but also promote the program. They wanted the equivalent of a car showroom that would educate visitors.

The building is divided into three bays. The first two bays support high-bay fabrication work areas held to the south side of the building.  The work areas are fully daylighted and the concrete slab acts as thermal mass to absorb the sun’s heat. The north side of these bays is stacked with support spaces and the computer research labs.

The third pod is a detached, open-air mechanical research space. The stair and the outdoor work decks are made with 12,000 lbs. Of steel grating found in a local salvage yard.  From the upper deck there is access to the roof of the first two bays which is covered with a photovoltaic array that powers the building.

Fixed louvers have limitation and would give the EcoHawks little flexibility to manage the daylight levels and heat gain in their work space. Instead studio 804 worked with a number of manufactures to fabricate remote operable translucent walls that are raised and lowered at the push of the button.  They are filled with aerogel beads to create an r-11 insulated barrier while still offering the daylighting benefits of 38% light transmittance.

The large uninterrupted exterior walls are clad with a woven rainscreen of salvaged aluminum. The weave is composed of horizontal ½” tubing that runs horizontally and gathers the vertical 1 ½”, 3”, 6” and 9” strips. It creates the effect of a lenticular printed surface as it seems to subtlety change as a person moves. It also changes dramatically with the lighting.  You can visit during different times of the years or during different weather conditions and see a distinctly different building.

Images and Plans

Technical Description

With a very few exceptions all of this work is built by the students. From the moment a Studio 804 class gathers in August the work is hands-on.  Even the design phase includes working on mock ups.  We do everything ourselves; the students are on site every day working on the excavation, pouring concrete, framing walls, welding steel, laying masonry, installing roofing, folding flashings, and setting windows and doors. We run plumbing lines and set fixtures, and we even do work on the mechanical systems and as electricians.   In short, there is little about building the students won’t have a chance to experience during a Studio 804 project.




  • LEED Platinum Certified
  • The building uses high efficiency LED light fixtures, mechanical systems and plumbing fixtures to minimize the use of resources.
  • The floors are a concrete solar mass to store the heat that passes through the glazing of the long south elevation.
  • The building’s orientation and the locations of the openings promote cross ventilation for cooling.
  • The roofing is a highly reflective white single-ply membrane to reduce the heat island effect.
  • All the rainwater from the roof is harvested and stored in an underground cistern and used to flush the toilets.
  • The PV's on the roof and integrated into the glass of the entry generate 12% more energy that modeling shows will be necessary to power the building.
  • Net metering is used to credit the university when the building is generating more energy than it is consuming.
  • All of the materials, paints, flooring, sealants and adhesives used inside the addition emit low or no volatile organic compounds.
  • The framing is done with engineered lumber which is manufactured from fast growing underutilized lumber.
  • The aluminum used for the weave rainscreen is salvaged from the collapsing airplane industry in Kansas.
  • The insulated glass units salvaged from a large nearby development that was not finished.
  • The landscaping is a combination of native plants and pervious paving.
  • The parking area has a public charging station for electric vehicles.
  • A bike rack and a shower encourage the use of alternative transportation.
  • The roofing is a highly reflective white single-ply membrane to reduce the heat island effect.
  • The automated sun control system assures the users of the highest efficiency in daylighting and solar heat gain.


University of Kansas School of Engineering
University of Kansas School of Engineering

Academic Discipline(s)
21 Students
Academic Facts
Project Context
Care / Education | Production | Environmental Protection