University Building Used Glass to Earn a Sustainability Award

The University of Washington Life Sciences Building, recently named one of the top green building projects of 2021 by the American Institute of Architects’ Committee on the Environment (AIA-COTE), features building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) windows and a highly transparent glass façade fabricated with Solarban 72 Starphire glass.

Vitro Glass products were integral to achieving the aesthetic and performance demands of the project, which achieved a glass-walled look that belies its deceptively narrow 48.2% window-to-wall ratio, said Devin Kleiner, AIA senior project architect and associate principal for the Seattle office of Perkins+Will.

“Solarban 72 Starphire was selected because of its thermal performance, neutral glass color and clear low-iron glass, which made the interior feel even more inviting when seen from campus,” he said.

The university wanted the new 12,400-square-foot, 7-story building to be more than just a laboratory and classrooms – to have an appealing venue to welcome the thousands of students who walk across the campus each day or jog along the 27-mile SeaBurke-Gilman trail, which runs past the building and its adjacent greenhouse.

“The transparency of the glass was important to achieving these objectives while still meeting the 57% energy reduction target needed to help achieve LEED Gold certification,” Kleiner added.

As a triple-silver-coated, low-E glass on a premium low-iron glass substrate, Solarban 72 Starphire glass has a solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) of 0.28, delivers visible light transmittance (VLT) of 64% and offers U-values of 0.26 in the summer and 0.28 in the winter. According to a press release, the building is also 2030 Challenge Compliant, which means the design, materials and products were selected to reduce fossil fuel use significantly.

The atrium features 5-foot-wide by 14-feet-high panels of Solarban 72 Starphire glass suspended in a point-supported glass system made by Novum Structures. Reinforced by cables instead of frames, the all-glass façade treats occupants to campus views. Photovoltaic (PV) fins manufactured by Onyx Solar generate enough power to meet the facility’s electrical lighting needs. “The thin film solar technology is laminated between two panes of glass and has electrical wiring that is integrated into the curtainwall design,” Kleiner explains.

To fine-tune the WWR and thermal performance. Perkins+Will performed advanced energy modeling and computed the solar heat gain for each orientation and the specific uses of each interior space. This validated the decision to design an all-glass wall for the northwest elevation, which is further shaded by an adjacent building.

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