Schools today play host to a wide variety of student activities, clubs, and athletics. Creating inviting and comfortably daylit spaces to accommodate these changing needs throughout the day can be a real design challenge, but Newton Middle School provides a beautiful example of how the use of Kalwall translucent panels and Solatube tubular skylights can help create these dynamic spaces. Designed by RTA Architects with GH Phipps as the General Contractor, the new school replaces the original deficient structure, resolves ADA issues, and provides the appropriate spaces to accommodate the schools prevalent themes of health and wellness, creativity, and productivity.
“Newton Middle School was a unique project that integrated natural light into the design concept. The design concept aimed to maximize natural daylight in student spaces and provide a strong connection to the outdoors.”
– Ericka Everett, RTA Architects
Featured Above: Kalwall Translucent Facades
Kalwall Translucent Facades provide a bold design statement on the building envelope, which is even more pronounced with backlighting during evening hours. This design feature promotes school visibility and creates a unique ambiance for evening games and performances in the building. The functional benefits of Kalwall start with the perfectly diffused daylighting transmitted through the system, resulting in a remarkably comfortable, glare-free environment. These translucent, insulated panels help reduce heating and cooling loads and provide line of sight protection to areas where privacy and security are important. The impact resistance of Kalwall panels also makes the system a perfect fit for multi-purpose recreational spaces and helps to withstand Colorado’s hailstorms.
Not only is the productivity of the students essential at Newton Middle School but so is physical activity. The design of the gymnasium incorporated bands of translucent panels beyond what was required by code to maximize natural light as well as bring down the visual scale of the large volume from the exterior. Kalwall was an ideal product for the gym because it brings in filtered natural light that eliminates unwanted glare on the play courts. There is an upper band of Kalwall wrapping multiple elevations of the facade alongside an upper level running track. Solatube tubular daylighting devices were also supplemented throughout the gym to balance the inbound natural light and increase daylight uniformity. Together, these two systems work in concert to meet IECC Energy Code requirements, and most importantly, to create a beautifully daylit environment for the students and teachers. Studies have shown that students with sufficient access to natural daylight progress faster than their peers with less daylight. The delivery of quality daylighting has proven to increase productivity, enhance moods, decrease absenteeism, and even promote higher employee/teacher retention.
Featured Above: Solatube Skyvault M74-29″
An important design goal for Newton Middle School was to provide natural light to all classrooms and key student spaces. The building was shaped around the principles of 21st century education, with core classrooms clustered around a large student common area. The way these spaces function and connect to one another, creates several internal spaces which posed challenges in terms of providing access to natural light. When working through the design solution, we knew that these spaces could benefit from tubular daylighting devices to deliver natural light.
For years, Powers has been working with leading design firms to help create impactful K-12 spaces where students and faculty can excel. As Gary Dvorak notes, “We realize that we’re a small part in the overall design, but we are proud that that our expertly crafted, innovative daylighting solutions play a part in this success. By tailoring spaces specific to the needs of the day, students can better focus and strive to become tomorrow’s leaders.”