architecture - engineering - construction
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Lit from within: UNO Galewood Charter School


Imagine a typical city school. Can you see it? Four walls, a little dark, squat building with bored students gazing longingly at the clouds outside, with one eye on a clock.

Not so at UNO Galewood Charter School in Chicago. A new, bright, dramatic building, where the letters UNO (United Neighborhood Organization), stands tall for all to see.

Oh, and at the front edge of the school, from the tip of the building to the base of the lawn? …An eighty-eight foot tall sloped, shingled, wood-faced facade, embedded with twenty-four EXTECH-designed skylights. The skylights are partially hidden under the shingled panels exposed just enough to provide points of light.

To bring this dramatic façade to life, EXTECH was enlisted. The architect specified a unique, monumental sloped wall, 80’ x 88’, with wood-faced, Spanish-made Prodema brand panels. EXTECH designed four new shapes of aluminum extrusions to securely hold the 2 ft. x 8 ft. Prodema panels in shingled fashion, while 24 skylights would lie beneath. Where each skylight was embedded in the wall insulation, the Prodema panel overtop had a triangular hole cut in it. These openings let natural light pour into the school. At night, when viewed from the outside, they show up as points of light. It almost feels as if the school is lit from within.

UNO is a novel school for a growing community. Said a nine-year-old after his first day, "I didn't even want to leave!" Children are happy to go to a school they are proud of. Parent and teachers want to know that they are part of something special too. This beautiful building houses a welcoming atmosphere for all.

Everyone at EXTECH, designers, engineers, and shop workers are proud of their contribution to this project. One engineer said, “It is our style to put extra effort and caring into all of our projects, and we certainly did so in this case. We did research and testing beyond the scope of the specifications, we built mockups for the purpose of educating the installers, and we made several field trips… all in the interest of seeing ‘our’ project blossom. We did this job for UNO, but we did it for us too. We treated it like it was our own…and, to that extent, it was… and always will be.”

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