Spherical reflectors help spread daylight throughout a college library in Portland, Ore. [BD+C's 2014 Great Solutions Report]

The 40,000-sf library is equipped with four “cones of light,” spherical reflectors made from extruded aluminum that distribute daylight from the library’s third floor to illuminate the second.

December 29, 2014 |
Section rendering courtesy SRG Partnership

For the past three decades, the Energy Studies in Buildings Laboratory (ESBL) at the University of Oregon has been focusing on how to reduce a building’s energy load while bringing more light into the interior.

This past April, ESBL and local architecture firm SRG Partnership took another step toward that goal with the opening of a new library at Portland Community College. The 40,000-sf library is equipped with four “cones of light,” spherical reflectors made from extruded aluminum that distribute daylight from the library’s third floor to illuminate the second.

Kent Duffy, an SRG Principal, says that the cones, which spread from five feet in diameter at the top to nine feet at the bottom, were preferable to a daylight shaft from the roof, which would have obstructed the third floor. 

GZ (Charlie) Brown, ESBL’s Director and Professor of Architecture at the college, says the library is cooled by a passive energy system that obviates the need for air-conditioning. The windows on the second floor are left open at night to cool the building’s mass. During the day, the windows are closed to allow the building mass to cool the interior. The cones help circulate the cool air.

Duffy and Brown say it took some doing to get the college to sign on to the cones of light, which were only included midway through construction. “Everyone is reluctant to be the first to try something new,” says Brown. 

Also on the library Building Team: PAE (mechanical engineer), Catena (SE), Keylight + Shallow (lighting), O’Neill/Walsh Community Builders (CM), and Inline Commercial Construction (GC).

Read about more innovations from BD+C's 2014 Great Solutions Report.

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