Behnisch Double-Wall Facade
by Scott Murray
The twelve-story Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, located at the University of Toronto's St. George campus, is a high-performance building that achieves impressive levels of energy efficiency and — with airy, light-filled spaces throughout — attention to occupant comfort. The building responds intelligently to its climate and orientation with an enclosure system that presents an open face to the campus and adapts to changing environmental conditions. At the same time, it strikes a balance between automated and individually controlled devices.
Designed by architectsAlliance and Behnisch Architekten, the 248,000-square-foot (23,000-square-meter) research facility is organized with laboratories to the east, circulation to the west, and principal researchers' offices to the south, facing a landscaped entry plaza.
It is this south-facing wall that is the most technologically innovative. Offices here are enclosed with a double-skin glass curtain wall, framed by extruded-aluminum mullions, that provides a high degree of acoustic, solar, and thermal control.
The outer skin of monolithic glass is separated from the inner layer of insulating glass by an air space of 2.5 feet (0.8 meters), containing retractable perforated aluminum sunshade louvers to reduce solar heat gain and redirect daylight into the building. The outer skin incorporates operable louvers at the top and bottom to ventilate the cavity, while the inner wall has operable windows to naturally ventilate the offices.
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This article is excerpted from Contemporary Curtain Wall Architecture by Scott Murray, copyright © 2009, with permission of the publisher, Princeton Architectural Press.