About the ProjecT

Building description

Located at a key intersection in downtown Iowa City, this project took place in the new building for Iowa School of Music to replace the one severely damaged by flooding in 2008. The heart of the building is a majestic and complex six story atrium that winds through its core. The design is strongly driven by acoustic requirements and high energy goals and features multiple types of air distribution systems, each uniquely suited to the spaces they serve.

Unique Design Challenges

Implementing a displacement ventilation system in the music rehearsal rooms was a challenge due to the diffuser location and occupant density in the space. The tall winding atrium was architecturally complex and had a large east-facing glass façade, complicating the design of the air distribution.

Our Solution

CFD models were created for a music rehearsal space as well as the complex atrium to verify the performance of the proposed designs for each space. The model of the rehearsal room was used to verify that the air supplied at the sides of the room would spread to the center of the space for optimal temperature control and air distribution.

The atrium was modelled in its entirety and included the effect of interior shading on the solar load and was used to ensure that the air distribution system was right sized to meet the cooling demand of the space while providing excellent thermal comfort and indoor air quality to the zones where occupants would congregate.


The CFD model showed that only minor adjustments to the rehearsal room HVAC were needed while significant reductions in airflow were possible in the atrium. This resulted in a healthy and comfortable space despite with a large glass façade that is ready to brave the extreme winters and summers of the Iowa climate while using 69% less energy than a minimally code compliant building.

Iowa City, IA | 2016

Engineer: Design Engineers

Architect: LMN Architects , Neumann-Monson 

Price Rep: Rist & Associates

Scope of work: music rehearsal room, atrium

HVAC system: Displacement (rehearsal room), overhead mixing (atrium)

Awards: LEED Gold, 2017 AIA Washington Council – Civic Design Honor Award, 2013 Architizer