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Daylighting system creates 'an oasis in the city' for renovated hotel in downtown Minneapolis

Solatube daylighting systems were used to bring natural light into the lobby of the Midland Bank building in Minneapolis.

January 16, 2021 |
Emery Hotel lobby with Solatube Tubular Daylighting Devices. Photo: Courtest Solatube Inc.

Emery Hotel lobby with Solatube Tubular Daylighting Devices. Photo: Courtesy Solatube Inc.

The Emery Hotel is situated in the heart of downtown Minneapolis in the historic Midland Bank building, built in 1905. The owner, KHP Capital Partners, had a distinct vision for the 10-story, 229-key hotel: to revive and beautify the historic space by filling it with natural light and lush greenery, creating an urban oasis and using biophilic design to enhance the guest experience, with a view to improving well-being and health.


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The Midland Bank Building's dark interior spaces before renovation and daylighting enhancement. Photo: Courtesy Solatube



One of the most significant difficulties the designers encountered with the project was how to deliver direct natural light to a building surrounded by parking ramps and high-rise buildings, as well as how to capture the low-angle sunlight during the winter months.

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Construction begins on the lobby of the mid-century Midland National Bank. Photo: Solatube


The design team — McCaren Designs (architect), Studio Mai (interior design and buildout), and  Designer Specialty Products (daylighting consultant) — needed to determine a way to capture and redirect enough sunlight deep into the building to keep the plants alive and accomplish the owner’s goal to create a green oasis in the middle of the city.

"My concern from the outset was the low-angle sunlight in the winter, as our solar altitude gets down to around 22 degrees," said Pat O’Neal, Designer Speciality Products. "The sun is directly behind the building, and we’re looking to capture that natural daylight and redirect it down into the space."


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Before and after shots of the lobby of the early 1900s Midland Bank showing the impact of the daylighting system. Photos: Solatube



To ensure a proper amount of daylight, the design team used Solatube’s proprietary Design Calculator to determine the number of units needed and the amount of light that the Solatube Daylighting Systems would bring into the space.


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The Solatube Design Calculator was used to determine the necessary daylighting levels and device placements. Image: Solatube


Fourteen Solatube SkyVault M74 DS units were used to capture sunlight at the rooftop and transfer natural light deep into the historic bank lobby — on sunny and cloudy days.


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Solatube Integrated LED Light Kit. Graphic: Courtesy Solatube


SkyVault Collector and Amplifier extensions were also added to improve the delivery of daylight to the lobby floor.


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Solatube SkyVault with Collector. Photo: Courtesy Solatube


Featuring proprietary Raybender HD, LightTracker and INFRAREDuction technologies, the SkyVault Collector maximizes daylight delivery by capturing and redirecting low-angle light downward into the system and minimizes solar heat gain by preventing heat-carrying infrared rays from entering the system.

The cone-shaped SkyVault Amplifier, with 36 highly reflective facets made of proprietary Spectralight Infinity material, reorients daylight to the visual task plane in occupied areas and converts daylight, traditionally delivered at inefficient angles, into usable light for increased optical efficiency.


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The design team focused on using sunlight to enhance the biophilic benefits in the Emery's renovated lobby. Photo: Solatube



The Solatube Daylighting Systems achieved even light levels and good plant growth, creating a lush, comfortable and inviting naturally lit dynamic space. 


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Solatube Tubular Dayligh Device brings sunlight to the the new plantings in the formerly dark lobby. Photo: Solatube


The Solatube Daylighting Systems allowed the Emery’s transformed design to embrace the spirit and nostalgia of the past by integrating seamlessly into the ceiling and highlighting the building’s marble and granite finishes. (The term emery refers to the finishing compound used to bring out the color of marble.)

The architectural vision was "to maintain the feel of the old bank," said Simon May, President, McCaren Designs. "By using the Solatube tubes, wewere able to maintain the ceiling" in the bank lobby.



May cited the project's biophilic aspect — "the innate connection between humans and nature."

He continued: "We're hard-wired to understand natural settings, and the connection to daylight. People feel better when they're in touch with nature."


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The Emery Hotel lobby upon completion, showing daylighting system and tropical landscaping. Photo: Solatube


“We accomplished the owner’s goal to create that oasis in the middle of the city,” said Designer Speciality Products' O'Neal, whose firm installed the Solatube system.

“It was a world of difference," said Kelly Snyder, General Manager, The Emery Hotel. "I never thought the Solatube units would bring in that much light. It is amazing.”



Here's a short video on the Emery Hotel daylighting and biophilic landscaping program.

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