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Kalwall Daylighting Key To Prototype Middle School


Skinner Lamm & Highsmith's goal: "To make a building that is sustainable, functions well, and brings joy to its inhabitants." At the same time, Holly Grove Middle School, designed for more than 1,300 students, had to be "compact and well organized" and "make students feel like they're part of a smaller community". The architects knew this wasn't going to be easy, but they also knew that adding controlled daylighting by Kalwall to the design mix would help create the atmosphere and function the team was looking for.

The brick masonry and metal-paneled Holly Grove Middle School, in Holly Springs, North Carolina, was the prototype for the Wake County Public Schools. A second project, Mills Park Middle School in Cary, is nearly identical but faces south rather than north. Like Holly Grove, it features Kalwall translucent clerestory in the gymnasium. Students can see better, as a Kalwall Wall Daylighting System reduces glare from the shiny floor and shadowless daylighting makes ball handling easier. And should balls get away from their young handlers, Kalwall can stand up to years of impact. In the media center, translucent Kalwall keeps computer screens free of glare and filters out UV rays that might otherwise damage books and other materials. And given North Carolina's southern climate, says Brad Farlow, Director of Design for Skinner Lamm & Highsmith Architects, "Kalwall's low solar heat gain coefficient and light-diffusing properties made it ideal for the gymnasium and media center as well as east- and west-facing clerestory windows in corridors and some classroom areas."

Beyond heat gain, there are situations where using traditional, clear-glass windows could generate privacy and security issues, forcing designers to opt instead for an opaque wall. But because Kalwall is both translucent and highly insulating, it can often take the place of a wall. "Kalwall allows daylighting in a very functional way," Farlow explains. "It allows the [placement of] windows where [designers] typically wouldn't when only using clear glass." Daylight comes in, lessening the need for artificial lighting, and heat and cold stay out, lowering HVAC costs.

Kalwall admits so much daylight, in fact, that it scores well in terms of "daylight autonomy"; that is, the percentage of time that a given space, during operating hours over the course of a year, achieves a set light level using only daylight. "During the design of the gymnasium, we asked Kalwall to do a daylighting analysis for the space as designed. Daylight autonomy for 50 foot candles came to an average value of 49 percent. A value of from 40 percent to 60 percent is considered excellent, so the gymnasium is a great example of a space that can be lit by the sun alone for a significant part of the year."

Of course, in addition to conserving energy and precious education dollars, Kalwall goes to the head of the class in terms of its effect upon students as well as teachers and school staff. Daylighting studies reveal that daylighting creates a calming and healthy environment for all. Test scores are higher in daylighted schools; there is even anecdotal evidence that students take pride in and better care of schools outfitted with daylighting. Kalwall saves on maintenance costs, too, as it is vandal-resistant as well as self-cleaning with every rainfall.

Holly Grove and Mills Park middle schools have opened to students and a third project is currently under construction in Rolesville. And when it comes to Kalwall, Farlow is a believer. "This middle school prototype for the Wake County schools would certainly work well in other areas, too. Kalwall can be an important part of many daylighting strategies. We have used it over a number of years, especially in educational facilities. Kalwall is a product we return to again and again when we need beautiful, diffuse, natural light."

Kalwall is recognized as the industry leader in high-tech, translucent building systems. Company founder Robert Keller, Sr., invented the translucent sandwich panel in 1955 and Kalwall has continually evolved state-of-the-art daylighting technology. Kalwall’s eight systems include: Translucent Wall Systems, Unitized Curtainwall Systems, Window Replacement Systems, Standard Unit Skylights, Pre-Engineered Self-Supporting Skylights, Custom Skyroofs®, Walkways and Canopies, Custom ClearspanTM Skyroofs and Structures.

Holly Grove Middle School
Holly Springs, NC
Mills Park Middle School
Cary, NC

Architect: Skinner Lamm & Highsmith PA
Photos: Brad Farlow, AIA, LEED AP
Daylight autonomy graphic courtesy of Kalwall Corporation

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