Lakefront Station

The purpose of this “Zero Energy Concept Building,” or ZECB, is to contribute to the public discourse in developing a definition for the design of facilities that are self-sufficient. This ZECB includes systems for onsite green energy production and purification of facility wastewater by harnessing wetland technologies, which improves indoor air quality, as a byproduct of oxygen regeneration through photosynthesis. Lakefront Station is a ZECB architectural design study based on a competition brief for a multi-modal transportation center that aimed to re-establish Cleveland as an important rail hub in Ohio for travel throughout the Midwest and to cities on the East Coast.

Conceptual Design Photomontage

Publicly funded infrastructural projects like Lakefront Station must lead the way to establishing a sustainable future by producing as much energy as the facility needs to use through on-site renewable resources and efficient use of “green” building technologies. Lakefront Station is a model of ZECB. It pinpoints systems and combinations of components for constructing sustainable, interior environmental habitat. A model illustrating how ZECB elements can be integrated into a self-sufficient facility design is shown below. A study with supplemental links that explores systems, concepts, and applications for ZECB architectural design is presented here in depth.

Site Panorama

Project Brief

This study explores a sustainable design approach for realizing the missing pieces of Daniel Burnham, John Carrère, and Arnold Brunner's "The Group Plan” of 1903 for "The Mall" or civic center of Cleveland.

Lakefront Station challenges entrants to propose designs for a Multi-Modal Transportation Center in Downtown Cleveland at the north end of the historic Mall. This new transportation center will provide the city with a state-of-the-art rail station ready to support high speed passenger rail service, a facility capable of integrating and balancing the needs of various transportation modes, and a pedestrian connector from the Mall to Cleveland's lakefront. The current site configuration creates a confusing juxtaposition of infrastructure, smaller transit facilities, rail lines, and largely un-useable residual land. Solutions for a new multi-modal transit facility must evaluate the relationships between infrastructure, facility, adjacent development opportunity, and pedestrian way finding to develop uniquely integrated design and planning strategies.

The site provides a number of sectional issues and opportunities in exploring how this new Multi-Modal Transportation Center will redefine and enhance the connection from Downtown to North Coast Harbor and Lake Erie. Successful solutions must provide the city with a connection to Cleveland’s history as an important rail hub and prepare the city for the next evolution of transportation. Linked into a High Speed Passenger Rail network, Downtown Cleveland would be an important national rail center among a network of connected American cities, a fitting gateway to the City of Cleveland.  (quote from Competition Brief, which can be accessed by clicking on link at the bottom of this page)

The missing piece or facility is a train station along with a path down to the lakefront from the civic center, which is separated from the waterfront by roadways, railroads, and a cliff over fifty feet high.


50' foot cliff is defined by the railway bed which is at 590' feet and the edge of Mall 'C' which is set at 640' feet above sea level.

Site and "Waterfront District" Topographical Survey

The "Waterfront District" is isolated from 'Downtown' Cleveland.


SITE PLAN: level - 0  

Cleveland Memorial Shoreway and railway bed, Cleveland Browns Stadium - Great Lakes Science Center - Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
PLAN:  level - 0 

Train platforms and motor-coach concourse gateways
SITE PLAN: level - 1

Access road from West 3rd Street - delivery truckway - back-of-house receiving 

Existing terrace/access road from West 3rd 
Truckway at edge of Mall 'C'
PLAN: level - 1

Main waiting lobby - ticket booths - access to train platforms and motor coach concourse - seating and eating court - shopping mall - receiving

SITE PLAN: level - 2

Promenade bridge connecting The Mall to the lake front, from Lakeside Avenue, Cleveland City Hall, and Cuyahoga County Courthouse, to Cleveland Browns StadiumGreat Lakes Science Center, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and to future mixed-use development in the Waterfront District

PLAN: level - 2

Promenade through building -entrances to Greyhound, Amtrak, and RTA commuter rail service - bicycle parking - community bicycle facility - bike repair and bicycle shop - and bridge to the lake front

SITE PLAN: level - 3

Civic center station entrance loop - The main entrance pick up and drop off loop includes a metropolitan bus service lane and a taxicab stand. 

Continuation of Mall promenade, lawn and gardens which begin at Fountain of Eternal Life (not shown and located further South) sets the stage for this design. The eighty foot wide promenade walk from Mall 'B' crosses Lakeside Avenue is extended into Mall 'C' and continues onto the site, then through the building, and on down to the lakefront. 

PLAN: level - 3

Station civic center entrance - visitor center

Adjacent the gem-like building when viewed from The Mall, and disguised as a Roof Meadow over the main waiting lobby, is a public garden designed for harvesting rainwater. Roofs are the forgotten fifth facade of any building and are beginning to be thought of as the last urban frontier. The roof meadow enhances the formality of monumental building sited on the edge of an Acropolis like setting, in context with the original intent of The Group Plan of 1903, and in the tradition of the City Beautiful Movement.

PLAN: level - 4

Skywalk through wetlands water feature "Living Machine" ecological water purification system

PLAN: levels below grade B1 thru B5

Public car parking - rental car parking

PLAN: levels 5, 6 and 7

Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing system rooms enclosing geothermal pumps, solar water pumps, solar booster water tanks, heat exchangers, transformers, batteries, sub-stations, switchgear, and appurtenances. Cooling towers, roof top units, and standby generator are mounted under or surrounded by the roof rack (see model describing opening of rack allowing adequate ventilation). Note curved wall of upper envelope at back of rack is a system of louvers to be sized to provide adequate free area for the ventilation of roof mounted equipment.


The climate of North Eastern Ohio is subject to the “Lake Effect.” Lake Effect season begins in mid-August, as cooler air from Canada starts to get more vigorous. The air is modified, warmed, and the precipitation type would be rain instead of snow. Located on the south shore of Lake Erie, the city of Cleveland as rated in the 50-city-average has relatively mild summers but its winters require endurance. Cleveland gets hit by lake-effect snow, averaging almost 60 inches every winter and its frigid winters help produce an average annual temperature of only 50° F, 10° F below the 50-city-average. Because of its proximity to Lake Erie, Cleveland is the windiest city, with winds that average 11 mph. Temperature variations between night and day tend to be fairly limited during summer with a difference that can reach 17° F, and fairly limited during winter with an average difference of 14° F. Snowfall during the winter months is heavy when life in the city becomes unpleasant on account of lake-effect snow, winds, overcast skies, and subzero temperatures. Climate improves during summer months with warmer temperatures averaging daylight highs in the 70’s and nighttime lows in the 60s. Cleveland's annual rainfall is around 36 inches.


Group Plan Commission Rendering

In 1834, Cleveland’s first urban railway provided rail service from the east side of Cleveland to Downtown’s Public Square. By the mid-1800's, interurban commuter rail service and intercity industrial and passenger rail increased in the City establishing rail shipping and travel as the primary mode of transportation within and throughout Northeast Ohio. 

Group Plan Commission Rendering: 'aerial looking South'

Cleveland remained an important rail hub until after  World War II when transportation for most industrial shipping and personal travel shifted from the nation's rail lines to the growing interstate highway system. Today, many of the same industrial rail lines still carry goods through the City, Amtrak operates two intercity passenger lines, and the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority provides an extensive network of buses and limited commuter rail service throughout Cuyahoga County. (quote from Competition Brief)

Theme and Design Concept

The theme of this study is ‘Gem of the Emerald Necklace’ of Cleveland, sited on a high bluff, overlooking Lake Erie. ‘Gem’ describes a building of some significance, within the most meaningful park in the metropolitan system, which demands monumentality. The most appropriate approach to this design is to follow the mandate heralded by Daniel Burnham;''make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood.''


Trapiche is from the Spanish language meaning a type of gear wheel. What could be more appropriate than the image of a precious stone, which resembles the hub of a wheel, for this transportation center?

Edge of Mall 'C' fifty foot cliff viewed from the railway bed

The Design Concept is transparent, green glass building resembling the Trapiche Emerald (when viewed from "The Mall") sited formally in the City Beautiful Movement tradition, perched on a cliff. As "The Group Plan" of Cleveland is one of the few examples of the Movement to be fully realized, the appropriate approach for this building design, should be to follow Movement principles.

View across Lakeside Ave. of Mall 'C' promenade

When standing in the civic center, one would view the Lake while looking through the green glass of this study, a proposal for a see-through building. A building glazed in smart glass curtain wall with an emerald like blue-green tint.

Sections and Interior Projections

Longitudinal Section/Elevation

When entering Lakefront Station, you hear the sound of water falling. Sunlight is filtered while shining through hanging plant material flowing over the edge of a series of large tanks suspended above, overhead.

NOTE: All images are active, click on them and most will enlarge to full size – then – click in an area where you want to see more detail and images should blow up one more time.

Model: satellite view of solar control glazed roof 

Below the glass roof are 2, separate layouts of cascading wetland tanks which represent a natural, ecologically generated, water purification system. The stream of 11 tanks to the left produce clear, non-potable water and the stream of 15 tanks to the right produce drinking water (see PLAN: LEVEL - 4).

The glass roof structure is a hybrid of the design developed by Foster+Partners for the courtyard of the Center for American Art and Portraiture, Washington DC.

Model: escalator opening below skywalk 
echelon of "living machine" wetland tanks

Tanks containing miniature wetlands, components configured into an ingenious natural water purification system developed by Woods Hole biologist and University of Vermont Fellow John Todd.

Note the frosted glass cylinder to the left in the photo which is the “clarifier” tank of the Living Machine. At the top of the cylinder is a sand and chlorination filtration system, illustrated as a series of rings in the 'Longitudinal Section/Elevation' drawing (above), and are described in more detail in the LIVING MACHINE FLOW DIAGRAM listed in the right-hand column under the heading of 'Sustainable Design Strategy'. This tank is an architectural feature, displaying the water purification process to the public, for inspection of the clarity of the drinking water produced.

Model: forest of columns under wetland tanks
and over escalator openings

Model: skywalk through tanks of wetlands

Todd’s Living Machine or "Eco Machine" water purification system is a central feature of the building, where travelers with time to kill, can wander along a sky walk, through John Todd’s wetlands under glass, in a greenhouse like environment.
Model: skywalk through wetland tanks above food court

Lateral Section/Elevation

Solar Collectors are mounted to the Roof Rack

·         The roof rack is pitched 49° per solar tilt formula for Cleveland (Latitude: 41°28′56″N) to minimize the angle of incidence between the incoming light, and photovoltaic panels, which absorb and convert power from the sun into electrical energy. 49° rack tilt is the average between the winter setting of 67° and the summer setting of 30°. These photo electric cells are mounted to solar trackers, which pivot the panels to increase the amount of energy produced, by automatically correcting orientation toward the sun, as the sun moves across the sky.

·         Hydronic heating water supply temperature is increased by the application of three technologies; first by water pumped up/down from the aquifer through a vertically closed loop for thermal transfer, by Aquifer Thermal Energy Storage (ATES) system geothermal technologies; and by solar evacuated tubes mounted on the roof rack (adjacent panels of photo electric solar cells) and on a vertical window wall assembly (Main Waiting Lobby) with fluid conducted by a heat pump booster.

·         The amount of daylight is further increased by solartracking heliostats or mirror platforms reflecting sunlight, controlled by automatic sensors, which turn the device into the most optimum position, to reflect sunlight down light wells, illuminating space deep within the building.

Model: escalator to Greyhound ticketing 
located between circling wetland tanks

Model: food court 
below skywalk and water purification wetland tanks

Lateral Section/Elevation

Section through Roof Meadow shows depth of drainage layer for plant growing media for flowering sedums, pitch of roof indicating low, collection point for water runoff piped to storage for distribution to living machine and for redistribution to irrigate Mall 'C' lawn and garden, within civic center entrance loop.

Vaulted ceilings over train platforms, motor coach gateways, and Mall entrance arched canopies would be fabricated out of the Saebi Alternative Building System by Strata International, which is easily shaped into forms like these flat arches, sealing and protecting steel columns, frame, and deck.

Model Interior: main waiting lobby 

Straight-on view of Amtrak ticket booth. Please note: Window openings, which are cut into curving clerestory to illuminate the space with northern light, are not shown.

Model Interior: main waiting lobby 
at right are escalators down to train platforms 

Model Interior: main waiting lobby

Side view of Amtrak ticket booth and to the right is a straight-on view of escalator down to motor coach concourse


Click on this link to review an outline draft of the definition of Zero Energy Concept Building.

Daniel Burnham had grand ideas for Ohio's largest city - an elegant public square surrounded by monumental buildings, a mall leading to Lake Erie and a lakefront train station.  

Burnham’s belief was that city planners should ''make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood.'' It was no little plan, but except for the public square and the mall, what Burnham envisioned for Cleveland was never built. The railroad station ended up buried deep within the bowels of the Terminal Tower on Public Square, not overlooking the lake as a terminus to the mall, on the edge of the Waterfront District, where it belongs.

Aerial partial view of the Waterfront District
Sustainable Design Strategy

This study is a compilation of green design research into how to develop a net zero energy building (NZEB). The goal of Zero Energy Buildings (ZEB) or NZEB to generate at least the same amount of energy as buildings consume doesn’t solve the problem of how to construct buildings which are completely self sufficient. NZEB or ZEB does not solve the issue of how to improve indoor air quality and on-site water purification. A more holistic approach is to surge ahead of NZEB or ZEB to Zero Energy Concept Building (ZECB). ZECB includes technology to purify waste water and improve indoor air quality by harnessing the power of Mother Nature to replenish these resources. ZECB addresses poor indoor air quality which has been linked to health problems, while at the same time applying natural processes defined as Fixed-Film Ecology (FFE) for waste water purification. With FFE water is used and reused in diverse ways; continuously cycling through nature’s cleansing process through a series of wetland tanks which do double duty by scrubbing the indoor air through the process of photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is a natural charge particle technology that makes pollutants heavy causing them to drop out of the air which is the natural method of cleansing indoor air.

John Todd with his FFE water filtration tanked wetlands

A summary of sustainable design integrated into this study is presented as a list below.

Brownfield Redevelopment

        Site to be assessed and clean-up program to be                    developed for the rehabilitation of damaged areas.

Alternative Transportation

Central to the program of this study is public access to local and regional bus lines, light rail, commuter rail, and regional high speed rail within the building.

Bicycle Storage, bicycle repair, and changing rooms

Preferred parking for 5% of total capacity and refuel stations for a minimum of 3% of total parking capacity

Site Development

Open space area is maximized by public access to a sedum vegetated Roof Meadow or roof garden with a pedestrian oriented paver type 'hardscape'.

Stormwater Design

Stormwater management plan promoting infiltration, capture, and treatment of runoff

Heat Island Effect

Effect neutralized by a combination of 50% vegetated flat roof and 50% steep roof of spectrally selective solar control glazing.

Water-efficient Landscape

This Roof Meadow is designed to retain water; with a drainage layer of significant depth (six to eight inches) for plant growing media, with water filtering plant types which catch nutrients such as nitrogen, and filter out acid particles from rainwater (sedums which flower in the summertime) with adequate slope for storm water capture.

Captured rainwater is utilized for irrigation, recycling waste water, and distribution of "make up" water for the Eco-Living Machine.

Innovative Water Technologies

Living Machine or Eco Machine water purification system (see wetlands tank layout on PLAN: LEVEL - 4 in the left hand column near the bottom, below)

Eco-Living Machine: by (JTED) John Todd Ecological Design

Eco-Living Machine layout for Lakefront Station includes two, separate streams of fixed-film ecology tanked wetlands; 

·         one stream producing non-potable water in 3 to 4 days is a hybrid of the Eco-Living Machine diagram by JTED below;

·         the other stream producing potable drinking water within 4 to 5 days is a hybrid of the LIVING MACHINE FLOW DIAGRAM by JTED below; 

·         Reduce potable usage for sewage by %100 by low flow WC, urinals, and by on-site Eco-Living Machine water purification system. 

·         Rainwater harvesting in maintenance / fall protection trench / gutter along perimeter of greenhouse glass canopy / roof over civic center entrance hall (see trench defined on Model: satellite view of solar control glazed roof).

·         Treat %100 waste water for use on site

·         Capacity of living machine (fixed-film ecology tanked wetlands water purification system) is enough to purify water for this facility, and adjacent County Courthouse and City Hall.

Optimized Energy Performance and On-site Renewable Energy

·         Applied geothermal heating and cooling technologies enhanced by close proximity to Lake Erie,

·         8,500 SF of water heating technologies in the form of a solar evacuated tube roof rack assembly combined with a 'facade' solar evacuated tube assembly installed on the South wall of the Main Waiting Lobby,

·         24,000 square feet of solar cell photovoltaic (PV) panels will generate electricity to power MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing) systems throughout the building. Conservative calculations based on 10 percent system efficiency of PV solar array (allowing for overcast days over the period of a year) generate from a surface area of 24,000 SF of ‘high efficiency’ solar cells between 20,000 to 30,000 KWH of electrical energy output per day. PV array per the NREL PVWatts Calculator will produce 9,313,117 kWh per year with an estimated energy value of $1,059,833. Battery storage units will supply power at night and when extra power is needed. Surplus power will be rerouted out and sold to the local power company generating payback revenue.

·         Outdoor air delivery monitoring; the steep pitch of the civic center entrance hall greenhouse roof, and the saw-tooth skylight over the Main Waiting Lobby aids natural ventilation of heat in summer, though sensor controlled vents at the clerestory. Other sensors activate filtered glass to control light and radiation or open glazed vents of the electrochromic glass curtain wall system to allow fresh air infiltration for cooling. 

·         Increased ventilation flows through exterior envelope into perimeter of raised floor plenum, and is pumped to distribution points, where fresh air is mixed into climate control system, increasing breathing zone, and thermal comfort rates. 

·          Indoor Air Quality technology has been researched by NASA to find methods of cleansing the atmosphere in future space stations to keep them fit for human habitation over extended periods of time. Fixed-film ecology or artificial marsh systems, akin to Eco-Living Machines are gaining recognition for scrubbing the air of many potentially toxic compounds, producing fresh indoor air by releasing oxygen, and removing carbon dioxide through the process of photosynthesis. Artificial marsh ecological garden systems neutralize many everyday items which off-gas or release volatile organic compounds ( VOCs ) into the air. Plant roots are also involved in this detoxification process making hydroponics particularly effective in eliminating the ‘sick building syndrome.'

·         Greenhouse heat is captured, recycled, and pumped throughout building per sensor management of load demand, during winter. Reverse heat pump cools air for recirculation during summer months.

·         Daylight increased in areas deep within building by light wells, where sun rays are redirected down, deep into the building by sensor operated heliostats, or mirror platforms. 90% views allow for reduced light power density combined with high efficiency light fixtures.

Elevations and Exterior Projections

South Elevation

Civic Center entrance viewed from "The Mall"

Model: adjacency scale and proportion
View from Lakeside Ave. opposite Courthouse entrance

Model: birds-eye view from the South

Model: birds-eye view from the West

Model: birds-eye view from the East

North-West Elevation

Model: North Elevation

Model: aerial view from above Lake Erie

Model: aerial view from the West

Model: aerial view from the East

Model: aerial view on-axis of the promenade
note the partial footprint of Brown's Stadium at right