Near West Theatre
's new home will be nothing if not active when it opens next year. It will be filled with youth and adults rehearsing for its signature brand of community theatre -- large ensemble productions that bring the arts to Cleveland residents of all ages.
And when its shows are running, it will draw up to 275 patrons per show into a new, state-of-the-art theatre that caps off a string of investments in the Gordon Square Arts District
on the city's near-west side.
The building not only will be active -- it will be "passive" when it comes to energy consumption. It will boast a super-insulated, passive design common in Europe but still relatively new in the U.S. The 24,000-square-foot ultra-energy-efficient theatre will be the first of its kind in the U.S., featuring super-thick walls, an energy-efficient heat recovery ventilation system, and a 75,000-watt array of solar panels.
"It will be unlike other buildings in the neighborhood," says Hans Holznagel of the new Near West Theatre. "We hope people will see the sign and say, 'Wow, that metal building looks pretty cool. What's going on in there?'"
Local philanthropists Chuck and Char Fowler earmarked a special gift for the building's passive design, which is expected to save more than 35 percent in energy costs, or about $1.2 million over 50 years. That kind of savings appeals to long-term users.
"In a typical commercial building, 30 to 35 percent of the heat going into the building is just to offset air leakage," says Adam Cohen, a Virginia-based architect and passive house consultant who worked on the project. "There's more interest in passive design now, especially from end users who are going to own the buildings."
The project was far from simple. Most passive commercial buildings have fairly static loads, unlike a theatre whose use varies widely. On any given day there could be people working in offices or large casts rehearsing. Cohen helped NWT to develop a high-efficiency mechanical system that can handle such fluctuation.
Holznagel says the theatre will finally realize its dream of moving into a new home (with air conditioning, he says with glee) that offers the right amount of rehearsal, dressing room and backstage space, not to mention modern administrative offices.
"We'll feel very much at home in this energy-efficient building," he says.
Source: Hans Holznagel, Adam Cohen
Writer: Lee Chilcote