The Keller Center is setting the standard for sustainable design on UChicago campus and among policy schools around the globe, reflecting Harris’ commitment to policy impact and civic engagement while accommodating the School's substantial growth. 

The building achieved LEED-NC Platinum and Living Building Challenge™ Petal certification for Materials, Beauty, and Equity, making the Keller Center one of the most sustainable buildings in higher education and the city of Chicago.

Sustainable Design Elements 

Restoring and reimagining the four-story, 20th-century masterpiece designed by Edward Durell Stone, the Keller Center incorporates several world-class sustainable design practices: 

Ethical Redevelopment & Reclaimed Materials

The Keller Center Forum, a beautiful four-level atrium, photographed from the northern entrance.
Harris Family Foundation King Harris Forum - Photo by Tom Rossiter

The focal point of the Keller Center is the Harris Family Foundation King Harris Forum, a sun-soaked, four-level atrium that reaches the full height of the building.

Clad in beautiful, locally-sourced ash wood, the Forum represents a key policy story of Harris Public Policy at the Keller Center.

The ash trees in the Forum come from trees in Chicago’s south and west side parks. The trees, infested by the emerald ash borer beetle, were a hazard and as a result had to be felled. Artist and leader in ethical redevelopment Theaster Gates, Senior Adviser for Cultural Innovation and Adviser to the Dean of Harris, reclaimed the wood for use in art and building fabrication projects. Through his Dorchester Industries Mill on the South Side of Chicago, local residents milled the wood, which appears in the Forum and throughout the Keller Center.

The Keller Center uses other reclaimed materials throughout the building, including toilet stall doors and light fixtures from the original structure.

Rainwater Capture

The Keller Center's design incorporates rainwater capture, which reuses available resources to work key infrastructure in the building, and also mitigates impact on Chicago's stormwater systems.

The rainwater cistern captures rainwater and uses it to flush the building’s toilets, diverting rainwater from Chicago’s overburdened sewer system. It also provides more usable space for the rooftop solar panels.

The rainwater cistern tank holds 15,000 gallons of water and diverts 525,208 gallons annually from the Chicago's sewer system. That's enough water to completely fill the four-story volume of the Keller Center’s atrium.

Solar Energy Capture

The Keller Center’s solar energy system produces up to 152,055 kWh of carbon-free electricity each year. This is enough energy to power 11% of the building’s annual energy use, or about 15 average homes annually.

Active Design & Universal Design

The Keller Center’s monumental stair connects all levels of the building. This strategy is essential to Active Design Guidelines, which create opportunities for daily physical activity. 

In addition, the Keller Center incorporates Universal Design principles throughout, which work to enable and empower diverse populations by creating access for people with diverse abilities.

Bird-friendly Glass

All new windows on the perimeter of the Keller Center incorporate a special UV reflective coating that makes the building more bird-friendly. The coating incorporates a spiderweb design that birds innately avoid, reducing collisions with the windows. This is an example of biomimicry—the emulation of nature’s patterns and systems—in green building design.


Harris Public Policy assembled a team of world-class designers to oversee the transformation of the Stone building. Chicago-based Farr Associates, the architect of record, worked with a team of consultants to devise architectural and interior design plans for the Keller Center. Farr Associates is recognized nationally for their emphasis on sustainability and collaborative approach to design.

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