The addition, named The Forum, was designed by the graduate-level architecture studio set up by Dan Rockhill, a professor at the university.
The structure provides a 121-seat auditorium, a crit room and a common space for the architecture department, based at the University of Kansas' main campus in the town of Lawrence.
The extension on the south side of the historic building replaces an outdoor workshop, which was demolished.
However, a shed housing electric services had to remain in place, so the new volume was elevated on concrete pillars so the mechanical room was undisturbed.
The building boasts a variety of features that helped it achieve an LEED platinum rating – the highest sustainability score given by the United States Green Building Council.
The outer skin is made up of two separate layers of insulated glass, spaced 3.5 feet (one metre) apart, creating space for a series of vertical cedar louvres.
These are mounted on motors and controlled by a rooftop weather station – programmed to track the sun throughout the day.
A green wall installed at the back of the lecture theatre improves acoustics and air quality, while a displacement ventilation system – which supplies conditioned air at a higher level – offers a comfortable level of fresh air.
"On mild days during the year, the natural ventilation mode shuts down both the primary and outdoor air system, and cross ventilation is used to draw in fresh air through the space," said the team.
Other elements that bump up the green credentials include LED lights, photovoltaic panels, water reclamation and the use of recycled materials.
The Forum was one of the winners in the Higher Education and Research Facilities category at the 2016 A+Awards.
Organised by Architizer, the awards promote and celebrate the year's best projects and products.
Their stated mission is to nurture the appreciation of meaningful architecture in the world and champion its potential for a positive impact on everyday life. Find out more about the A+Awards ›
Photography is by James Ewing.