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Lafargeville Gym Courts Energy-Saving Daylight

  Subscribe to FREE newsletter  Sep 25, 2011

Northwest of Watertown, New York, near the St. Lawrence River, it can get cold. Very cold. Energy efficiency was, naturally, a significant consideration in the design of the Mickey Wills Memorial Gymnasium addition to the LaFargeville Central School. An 8,400-square-foot Kalwall translucent Curtainwall System forms a sizable component of the building.

Kalwall transmits controlled natural daylight into the gym, saving on lighting costs, while the highly insulating properties of Kalwall technology cut heating costs. “Daylighting and aesthetics were key to the selection of Kalwall,” says Michael J. Harris, AIA, Vice President of Architecture and LEED Accredited Professional with Bernier, Carr and Associates, P.C. “But energy conservation factored heavily. Our modeling indicated significant savings from daylighting with Kalwall.”

The choice of Kalwall was one of several green building decisions. To begin with, 75 percent of the old gym was recycled or reused: the bleachers were refinished and portions of the wood strip floor were kept intact when the gym was converted to an auditorium. Overall, the new gym features 45 percent recycled materials. And the sustainability index got a boost from the use of 25 percent regional resources. LEED Silver certification is anticipated. The 20,000-square-foot LaFargeville Central School gym and locker room complex is wrapped completely by an elevated running track, which is enclosed with a 20-foot-high Kalwall translucent curtainwall system. In yet another demonstration of Kalwall’s panel-unit-wall versatility, the design includes both fixed and operable windows that provide views to the countryside and creek outside. And the south-facing side of the building features a unique photovoltaic (PV) solar array that generates nearly 3% of the gym's electric energy needs while also serving as an awning to reduce solar heat gain.

The integrated PV system is one of the most intriguing aspects of the Bernier, Carr and Associates’ design. “The mounting system was custom-designed by our structural engineer,” Harris notes. “A steel T-clip was welded to the interior tube column and fitted through a slit in the Kalwall framing. Then the opening around the clip was sealed and an exterior galvanized tube bolted to the clip. The PV supports were attached to the vertical steel tubes on the exterior of the Kalwall system.” Clearly, it was Kalwall’s flexibility that made this creative solution possible.

Kalwall has been used extensively in athletic facilities of all types, in part because of the shadowless, glare-free daylight that pours through the translucent panels. Ball handling is easier and there is less reflection off of shiny wood gym floors. “But Kalwall also allows truer color rendering,” explains Harris, “because of the amount of daylight the system admits. We were able to select bright and contrasting colors without overpowering the space. The final design is dynamic and exciting.” Pointing a thumb at some runners above his head, Harris adds, “the linear patterns in the Kalwall help lead the eye down the track around the exterior of the gym.”

And on the outside of the building, Kalwall’s aesthetics were just as apparent. “We coordinated our metal panel, aluminum lettering, and brick and porcelain tile colors and proportions with the Kalwall because it is such a dominant part of the exterior.”

And besides using Kalwall, LaFargeville contains many more green building elements. Covering the east-side roof, above the locker rooms, is a garden designed to filter storm water runoff and further insulate the building by reflecting sunlight. “Connecting the elevated track to the ground below and the garden above is, as the school calls it, a ‘silo’. It’s really a stair tower that provides an emergency exit as well as access to the roof. The silo is topped by an eight-foot Kalwall Pyramid skylight that reduces the need for electric lighting in the stairwell during the day.”

Because of its ability to combine superior insulation values with daylighting, Kalwall is well known for slashing HVAC and artificial lighting costs for all construction projects. But the lower installation costs of these pre-assembled, precision-made, modular wall systems began saving the LaFargeville School District money long before the gymnasium was finished.

Kalwall employs a system of interconnected, structural components that form rigid, modular units and replace the heavy mullions and floating panels of other curtainwalls. Normal loads are dispersed throughout the panels, rather than converging on the mullions. Clamp-tite closures at head, sill, jamb, and unit-to-unit serve only a sealing function.

The unique construction and extreme structural strength of the components permit even the largest Kalwall panel-unit-wall sections to be installed quickly and efficiently with ordinary hand tools. The simple two-piece, Clamp-tite installation system allows a small crew to enclose large areas with ease at low and predictable installation costs.

In addition to the balanced, museum-quality daylight coming through the highly insulating Kalwall, the panels are also vandal-resistant and, with every rainfall, self-cleaning. They also prove extremely sturdy in an athletic environment, standing up to the punishment of errant game balls slamming into them year after year. Both Harris and the tiny hamlet of LaFargeville are very proud of the new central school gymnasium. “The most important thing is to build a quality building that is efficient to run for 30, 40, or 50 years. We have used Kalwall before on window infills and some new construction, but never to the extent that you see at LaFargeville. We are pleased with the final appearance and installation of the system.”

LaFargeville Central School/Mickey Wills Memorial Gymnasium LaFargeville, NY
Architect: Michael J. Harris, Vice President of Architecture, Partner in Charge,
Bernier, Carr and Associates, P.C.
Photos: Christopher Bova, Graphics Designer – Bernier, Carr and Associates, P.C.

Kalwall Specifications:
Kalwall Curtainwall System: 8,400 square feet (780 square meters)
Kalwall Pyramid Skylight: 44 square feet (4 square meters)
U-factor: .14 (0.78 Wm2k) thermally broken
Light Transmission: 15%
Interior face: Crystal
Exterior face: Crystal Super-Weathering

For more information, contact:
Bruce Keller
Kalwall Corporation +1 603-627-3861 (800-258-9777 N. America)

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