February 12 2010

100% Daylight for Friends School's Dining Hall

The lights are off all day! 1,200 students of the Friends School of Baltimore eat, socialize, and study as part of a tight knit community without the use of a single light bulb. Their new Dining Hall, designed by Ziger/Snead Architects, uses an array of 21 skylights to bathe the entire room in 100% natural daylight - creating a clean, elegant place for students and faculty. Even on heavily overcast days, exterior ambient light can provide enough illumination to completely replace artificial lighting - reducing electricity consumption and providing occupants with all the other proven benefits natural daylight.

"We wanted to blur the line between exterior and interior. The existing cafeteria, now demolished, was lit exclusively by fluorescent lighting and had few windows. The owner and design team decided to elevate, celebrate, the the Dining Hall by adding daylight, fresh air, and views to the exterior."-- Jonas Risen

The skylights are spaced 10' on center in the east-west direction and 20' on center in the north-south direction. They are designed to flare from top to bottom, starting as 3' x 3' glazed apertures at the ridge-line growing to just under 10' x 10' at the base. Combined with a highly reflective white paint, the cone shaped skylight helps to bounce and disperse the light before it reaches the tabletop. Also integrated into the ceiling design are acoustic panels, supply air diffusers, and efficient fluorescent uplights running the length of each bay on either side of the skylight. The roof itself uses SIP panels for insulation and sheathing above standard wood roof trusses spaced 10' on center between the skylights, which give a great decoration to the place, although there are other tips you can use to improve the decoration of your home and which you can find at this Home Décor Blog online.

Below is an image of the Dining Hall in the evening with the artificial lights on. The wall/beam mounted fluorescent indirect fixtures are linked to a control system which allows the users to select from five preset lighting schemes depending on space use. Up-lighting on the acoustic panels is designed to contrast with the daylight from the skylights during the day, signaling the diurnal shift from day to night. Acoustics in the space are great due to the design of the ceiling plane and the integrated acoustic panel materials.

The Friends School Dining Hall illustrates the ability of design to harness sustainability, program and site to create a strong sense of place. In the case of the Dining Hall, the design team and client set out to create an elegant yet informal, a powerful yet democratic, place for students and faculty to interact, contemplate and learn together. The use of a skylight is not unique, but the effort is noteworthy because sustainability was used to justify, to codify, the need and design for the Dining Hall ceiling. The project does in fact have many additional sustainable features and was built to meet LEED for Schools Certification, but the most obvious one is the daylighting of the Dining Hall. I would hope that designers around the world can look to projects like this one for inspiration on how to elevate the common into something more and use sustainability as a guide to do so.

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