CASE STUDY: COTE TOP TEN WINNERS
Yale Sculpture Gallery
Some observers describe Yale University’s new sculpture building as a contemporary take on Yale’s gothic-style older buildings. But Stephen Kieran says the design team let the building’s environmental performance drive its aesthetic. “We believe that environmental design should have an impact on what things look like,” says Kieran, founding partner at KieranTimberlake Associates. The four-story studio-art building is the central piece of a project that also includes a single-story gallery and a four-story parking garage with retail space on the street.
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The design team started by siting the sculpture building at the middle of the block. “Had we put it on the street, where it was expected to go, daylighting would have been difficult,” says Paul Stoller, of Atelier Ten, the project’s environmental building consultant. The building’s curtain wall is almost entirely transparent or transluscent, allowing daylight to wash through the interior. Horizontal shading along the building’s long southern façade allows solar heat gain in the winter but blocks heat gain and glare in the summer.
The project’s location at the edge of campus is beyond the reach of Yale’s central heating and cooling plant. Giving up the efficiency inherent in that system sharpened the design team’s focus on reducing the project’s energy demand, starting with the wall system. “We wanted to make the envelope do as much as possible so that the mechanical systems could do as little as possible,” says Stoller. Rows of triple-glazed, argon-filled, low-emissivity vision panels are separated by rows of spandrel panels consisting of low-emissivity insulated-glass units at the exterior, a 3-inch airspace, and a 2.5-inch space filled with translucent aerogel insulation. These spandrel panels transmit 20 percent of visible light, while offering an insulation value at their center of more than R-20. The curtain wall’s average insulation value is R-8, about four times better than that of a conventional curtain wall. “It’s the highest-performance curtain wall we’ve ever seen on a building,” says Stoller.
The project team installed an efficient displacement ventilation system with heat exchange. Sculpture work can compromise indoor-air quality, so the team also installed sensors that monitor levels of carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds, and other pollutants to trigger increased ventilation when needed. Other energy-efficient strategies include evaporative cooling, operable windows, and exposed concrete slabs that buffer temperature swings, reducing the demand for heating and cooling.
A modern version of the traditional loft, the sculpture building was designed for flexibility. The building’s intended tenant was Yale’s Sculpture Department, yet during its first year of occupancy, the building has housed the much larger School of Architecture while that program’s building has been under renovation. “We were trying to right-size the building for sculpture but still accommodate architecture,” says Kieran. While the School of Architecture wanted open studio space, the Sculpture Department wanted partitions. “So we laid out the mechanical system for the sculpture program, including the boxes for displacement ventilation,” explains Kieran. “Then we just didn’t put in the partitions.”
Although Yale had originally envisioned the gallery as part of the main building, the design team separated it to help bridge the divide between the school and the community. In good weather, the gallery’s glass front wall, which faces the street, folds away to fully open the space. The gallery’s smaller size, along with its cedar cladding and slatted porch screen, which is reclaimed from 100-year-old wine barrels, help it blend with the street’s historic houses. Native plants, shade trees, and walking paths have transformed the former brownfield site, previously a derelict parking lot, into a parklike landscape. To reduce stormwater runoff, the project team designed a rain garden and installed porous asphalt for all of the site walkways. A green roof atop the gallery further reduces runoff while decreasing the building’s cooling load, limiting the project’s contribution to the urban heat-island effect and providing a pleasant view for those in the sculpture building. Rainwater collected from the roof of the sculpture building and portions of the site is used to flush the building’s dual-flush toilets, eliminating their use of potable water. Waterless urinals and low-flow faucets minimize the project’s use of potable water.
While Yale was hoping for a LEED Silver rating from the U.S. Green Building Council, the project earned Platinum, an especially impressive accomplishment given the fact that design and construction were packed into 21 months. Both Stoller and Kieran credit this achievement to the integration of the design process, which allowed the team to weave green strategies through the project in an efficient and elegant manner. “It doesn’t look like one of those ‘LEED bling’ buildings where you can go around and count the points,” says Kieran. “We think it’s beautiful because it’s really integrative, not additive.”
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