Energy-efficient curtain wall system gives Waukegan’s Jack Benny Middle School a new look
The exterior of Jack Benny Middle School in Waukegan, Illinois was in desperate need of a makeover. The classroom façade had not been updated since the school was built in the 1950s. Its colored metal panels had faded and dented, and rust covered its mullions. To make matters worse, cold and heat passed through the glass and forced HVAC systems to work harder.
Today, a new curtain wall, designed by Legat Architects, meets current energy code requirements and reduces energy expenses. It also refreshes the school’s appearance, brings much more natural light into classrooms, and improves views from the building.
Sunglasses and Sunscreen
The new glass features low emissivity (low-e) coatings. During winter, the glass reflects interior heat back into the room to prevent it from escaping. During summer, it blocks unwanted solar radiation that would otherwise cause room temperatures to rise.
Len Wynter, project manager with Legat, said, “It’s almost like having sunglasses and sunscreen during hot summer days: the low-e coatings minimize the amount of ultraviolet and infrared light passing through the glass, so the HVAC systems don’t have to work as hard and the district doesn’t have to pay as much to cool the building.”
Monolithic and Sophisticated
A major goal of the curtain wall replacement was to give the façade a cleaner, more sophisticated contemporary appearance.
“We used darker glass, along with color-matched integrated spandrel panels and metal louvers, to create a sleeker, more monolithic design compared to the broken-up banding of the original façade,” said Wynter. “Additionally, the light bronze mullions complement the brick on either side of the curtain wall.”
The opaque spandrel glass masks interior elements between floors and blends into the rest of the façade’s transparent glass. The louvers (i.e., angled slates that allow air and light to pass through) also merge with the curtain wall to minimize the visual impact.
Wynter said, “Everything looks like it was designed to fit seamlessly, rather than different parts forced together.”
The project also replaces green-painted wood panels outside the cafeteria and music room with impact-resistant fiberglass-reinforced plastic panels. The chocolate-colored panels are not only more durable than the wood, but also better complement the new façade.
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