Volume 26, Issue 5 - September/October 2012

Taming of the Sun

Achieving LEED certification in an all-glass building can be a challenge, but Denver-based architectural firm Studiotrope was up for the task. Colorado State University (CSU) asked the firm to design a sleek, modern, glass cube to serve as a new student study space for its Morgan Library expansion—which it also required to achieve a minimum of LEED Silver accreditation.

“The Morgan Library is centrally located on the CSU campus and therefore has the opportunity to be a study beacon, attracting and expanding both individual scholarly pursuit and shared knowledge via group study activities,” says Matthew Edmonds, technical director with Studiotrope. “The new addition was envisioned as an ‘energy chamber,’ a transparent box to showcase these various scholarly pursuits.”

The architectural team employed a variety of glazing technologies to achieve that goal, including dynamic glass, which can darken or clear on-demand or automatically using light sensors.

But prior to making its selection, the firm evaluated a number of alternative sun shading options including shades, louvers and thermochromic glazing products that change tint based on temperature.

“Daylighting analysis showed that an extremely dense vertical shade solution would be needed to control the western sun, which would have negated the openness and transparency objectives of the design,” says Edmonds. “We considered other technologies, but were not satisfied with their aesthetic characteristics.”

He says they ultimately selected SageGlass as it could provide the varying shading coefficients the energy chamber would require throughout the day and year, as well as help tame the western exposure of the library.

“It is sort of a magic trick to require a building to be at once transparent and sustainable, particularly in the high plains climate of northern Colorado,” says Edmonds. “It required innovative thinking on the part of all architectural and engineering disciplines to design a system that works in concert with Mother Nature and the demands of the building users.”

The glass was installed in the entire two-story, 24-foot by 45-foot western curtainwall of the 45,000 square-foot building, including several operable windows and an egress door. The glass on the upper and lower floors is zoned and can be controlled separately and activated by exterior light sensors. The glass can also be manually controlled for events, movies and other activities that require additional room darkening or lightening. Horizon Glass was the contract glazier. In addition to the dynamic glazing attributes, Edmonds says the project features other significant glazing details.

“The skin of the box includes a steel fin structure projecting from the glazing that will allow the addition of future sun screens should they be necessary,” he explains. “In the meantime they establish a rhythm that gives the glass box a sense of scale and presence on the quad.” AGG

Architects' Guide to Glass & Metal
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