Architects work with building owners to design great buildings for building occupants and communities in which they are built. The design process can be a complicated one, especially trying to find the right materials and products to make the design a reality.
While the owners play a critical role in the process, it's the building occupants who get to experience the building and environment. Due to proximity of the design, architects and the owners, it's rare for the architect or in a lot of cases, the owners, to get feedback on the impact their design decisions have on the building occupants.
Back in 2018, Laurentian University opened its new 55, 000 sq. ft. building, McEwen School of Architecture located in Northeastern Ontario, in the charming city of Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.
LGA architectural partners worked with the university on the design, wanting to create an industrial feel of Canadian elements including, cross-laminated timber, steel, concrete and daylight. Integrating the new building seamlessly into the existing campus also included the significant renovation of two heritage buildings.
Equally important was getting the daylighting right. The architecture team wanted to create an optimum natural daylighted space free of hot spots and glare. LGA architectural partners selected Solera as their daylighting choice for its innovative and unique light diffusion properties, thermal performance goals and easy integration into the building's curtain wall system. Advanced Glazings Ltd. worked with the design team providing daylight modeling and consultation to help LGA select Solera as the right daylighting solution for the space. McEwen School of Architecture has made its mark as Canada's first new school of architecture in over 40 years and is a resounding success.
Daylighting studies in education facilities show natural daylight creates successful learning environments contributing to increased academic performance by up to 20%. Laurentian University and LGA recognized the importance of including natural daylight in the building and students are reaping the rewards of their decisions ever since.
We don't often get to hear the impact design decisions make in a space from an occupant's perspective. We were fortunate to catch-up with McEwen Achitecture graduate, Alexander Mayhew, who gave us some feedback about the learning space and the impact of one element of the design, natural daylight.
Alexander Mayhew, a graduate from McEwen School of Architecture's Bachelor of Architecture Studies in 2018, was there during construction and transition into the new space when the building opened. The studio and library expansion of McEwen School of Architecture opened in Alexander's 3rd year of studied in Fall of 2016. The studio building is home to 400 students enrolled in the bachelor and master of architecture programs. Learning and studying in a variety of classroom types and moving from an older space to a brand-new learning space, Alexander noted something unique about the new school expansion. "No matter where you decided to work, the curtain wall system seemed to provide an optimal condition for reading, drawing and 3D modeling, offering an abundance of well-distributed natural daylight. While studying in the workshop space, before the new building was completed, there always seemed to be harsh western sunset glare across drawing stations, something that you didn't notice as much within the new environment" says Alexander.
The biggest change he noticed in the several-story curtain wall design was consistent daylight. "The interconnected floor space allowed more daylight to enter into our learning environments and provides more continuous daylighting throughout the day" says Alexander.
The expansion features a student lounge at the bottom level, administration offices, a large gathering space with a hearth and heart of the school common to indigenous teaching. The critique space on the northwestern corner of the campus is a sunken-in-environment with step-seating surrounded by a mix of diffuse natural daylight from Solera and view from vision glass. Creating an inviting and comfortable "space for students, staff and the community to hold academic presentations, lectures, conferences, and social gatherings including: maker-markets, a range of performances, and events including a school dinner-dance" continues Alexander.
Often the public walking along Elm street will stop and watch activities going on within the school, and at night the Solera creates a glowing lantern effect, showing the liveliness of the studio building as the Solera glass units become a translucent glowing beacon.
Laurentian University's School of Architecture and LGA recognized the importance of including natural daylight in the building and occupants are experiencing the positive impacts of their decision with students finally graduating from their six-year study just last year. Considering the occupants, and the impact your designs have on their day-to-day activities in your project is important, because they do care.
Photography/ Cinematography by: Alexander Mayhew, Eagle Ray Perspectives
[video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDwlCi_l3A8&list=PL-Fl5PcDl2lftHeBkhJwivB1ZFz_bWlu_&index=2&t=0s]