Makers’ KUbe: Leading Sustainable Construction Innovation with Mass Timber

The Makers’ KUbe by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and BNIM is a groundbreaking example of innovative construction and sustainable design, set to inspire the next generation of architects and designers at the University of Kansas.

Situated at the University of Kansas School of Architecture and Design, the Makers’ KUbe is a striking 4,645m² mass timber structure that marries cutting-edge construction techniques with sustainable design. The distinct timber frame, engineered by StructureCraft, is a masterclass in material efficiency and sustainability. Drawing inspiration from traditional Japanese joinery techniques, the frame employs tight-fit dowels and notched glue-laminated timber (glulam) to create an all-wood structure. This minimalist approach further reduces the use of carbon-intensive concrete.

The KUbe’s façade—a stripped-back timber structure encased in glass—forgoes traditional cladding and finishing to reveal the building’s mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. The mix of transparent and opaque insulated glass on the exterior not only showcases the school’s creativity but also balances privacy and glare reduction. Natural fibre insulation, such as biodegradable hempwool, is used within the facade’s shadow boxes to enhance thermal performance.

The building’s orientation is carefully positioned to allow more natural light and airflow into adjacent buildings. Winter garden bridges on the second floor connect the KUbe to Marvin Hall and Chalmers Hall, facilitating easy circulation and fostering interaction among students and faculty, especially during colder months. The inward-angled ground-level corners create inviting, canopied entrances, while the upper-level corners are set back to form accessible terraces, offering stunning views of the campus and city.

See More

1 Timber in Architecture: Where Tradition Meets Innovation

² Five Australian Timbers And Their Characteristics

³ Building The Future Of Education: Six Advantages Of Modular Construction

Inside, the Makers’ KUbe is a hub of innovation for students. Its light-filled, six-storey open plan fosters collaboration and flexibility, featuring open studio spaces, 3D-printing and robotic labs, and a ground-level cafe. The floorplates are designed with cutouts to create a continuous sequence of single and double-height spaces, which can be partitioned to form traditional classrooms. A spiral fire-resistant egress staircase enhances creative interactions and maximises floor space. All interior materials are chosen for their recyclability, further emphasising the building’s sustainable ethos.

Reflecting the university’s commitment to sustainability, the Makers’ KUbe and Chalmers Hall are equipped with photovoltaic panels on their rooftops to generate energy. Rainwater collected from the KUbe’s roof is stored and used for irrigating the landscaping, which features native plant species to reduce water consumption. This holistic approach to sustainability ensures that the building not only minimises its carbon footprint but also serves as a model for future projects.

The Makers’ KUbe is a marvel of architectural innovation1. By embracing advanced construction techniques and sustainable materials², it sets a new standard for what educational³, buildings can achieve.

Credits

Makers’ KUbe by Bjarke Ingels Group: BIG, 2024, University of Kansas.

Photography © Graham Handford / StructureCraft