Story at a glance:
- Daylighting improves a Chicago parking garage project’s sustainability, aesthetics, and more.
- Kingspan Light + Air (KLA) reimagined the luxury apartment building’s garage.
- A new Architectural Solutions Team works with architects from the start of projects to ensure the best solutions.
When the design team behind Spoke Luxury Apartments in Chicago set out to design their parking garage, they knew it had to be special—in keeping with the proximity to downtown.
“It’s the focal point of the building. The architects were willing to spend the time and energy required to make it something pretty rather than something concrete and ugly,” says David Gregory, senior architectural support specialist at Kingspan Light + Air (KLA) and Solatube, who worked on the project.
While challenging, Gregory says it was a lot of fun designing a custom solution and exploring different anchoring methods for Spoke. While most of the jobs their team completes are custom, this job’s single panel assembly was also in a non-conditioned space, so they had the freedom to design something creative.
The team had to anchor to cast-in-place concrete, precast concrete, steel tubes, and wood blocking, to name a few. The project even had a Halfen anchoring system like what you’d see on stadium seating—essentially a tracked anchoring system that allows you to change where your anchor point is. It’s used in embedded concrete. “All of those resulted in a really difficult job,” Gregory says.
KLA created a custom glazing solution that appears to almost jump in and out at anyone looking at it. Beyond bringing in light, Gregory says ventilation and aesthetics were key to the design.
“We worked with the general contractor and the architect to come up with this design that resulted in us having to design all of the support structure to pull the glazing away from the concrete behind it,” he says. “If you were to pull all of our glazing off of this building you would see a normal parking garage.”
Instead, what you see from the outside looks like a beautiful building. It doesn’t look like a garage at all. “It’s hidden in plain sight,” Gregory says. “Too often parking garages are treated as a necessary evil in areas with buildings downtown and limited space.”
The glazing does an excellent job of balancing color and light, Gregory says. “The glazing is more like a rainscreen or a veneer support structure, so you can design the system to make a variety of spanning capabilities depending on the needs of the job. For example, this one needed to span 13 to 14 feet in some cases and only have two anchor points.”
In other places the team had a limited area to work in so glazing had to be continuous. “Unlike a normal glass or glazing system where you need a clamping bar that stops and starts to hold the glazing in place, in this design there are sometimes 300- or 400-foot runs where you don’t have a single break in the panel.”
Bringing in Light
The architects could have chosen to cover the garage with insulated metal panel, aluminum siding, or some other traditional exterior cladding, but that would make for a dark space that constantly needs to be lit inside.
“Nobody wants to walk around a dark parking garage,” Gregory says. “This glazing system allowed for an aesthetic appeal from the outside and brought a lot of light to the inside where it would normally be dark.”
The structure also doubles as a beacon at night, as the glazing emits a beautiful glow. You can even see passing headlights reflected in the exterior.
“The light transmitting material works in both directions. At nighttime our products often become beacons for the city or for the clients,” Gregory says. “Whether it’s being used as a parking garage or to cover up something traditionally ugly, or even if it’s the entrance to a building, at nighttime it glows to create this very unique look.”
KLA and Solatube are in the business of managing daylight. But there’s also such a thing as too much natural light.
“We’ve all been in a room with tons of glass windows, where no one sits in this one spot where all the heat is going. It’s about using glass in the appropriate places,” Gregory says. “It’s about managing the daylight in such a way so you maximize the natural light you bring into the building without sacrificing that space for it.”
Introducing the Architectural Solutions Team
While the Architectural Solutions Team did not work on the Spoke project, it’s an example of another way KLA and Solatube offer unique services. “We offer a dedicated team of people who concentrate on the design aspects of the building,” Gregory says, adding that the Architectural Solutions Team expands what the company has been doing for years. “We recognize that this is a niche product and that it is not used on every single building. So when it is used we help architects navigate the design phase. We will be involved as little or as much as they want us to be during that process.”
Whether it’s a facility modernization or a brand-new design, KLA and Solatube’s Architectural Solutions Team can determine the most effective daylighting solution to provide outstanding annual daylighting performance for energy-savings and occupant health and well-being.
“It’s a free resource for architects,” Gregory says. “We really view it more as a consultation, especially because we have access to many types of products and hundreds of applications for those products. What’s interesting about our product lines is in picture form they kind of all look the same, but they use dozens of types of frames and connection methods and extrusions to get to different looks based on the needs of the job.”
The new group includes a dedicated team covering California, Texas, Florida, Washington, Oregon, Tennessee, and Georgia—providing daylighting product education, integrated design solutions, and full-service support from project start to finish—but can also provide services nationwide.
More about Kingspan Light + Air and Solatube
Since acquiring the California-based Solatube International in 2021, KLA offers a full range of standard and custom daylighting solutions built to perform across an array of conditions.
KLA is a business division of Kingspan, a global leader in high-performance insulation and building envelope solutions. The North American division of KLA was established in 2016 to expand Kingspan’s vision of providing truly holistic building envelope solutions.
Solatube is a leading manufacturer and marketer of tubular daylighting devices and has earned worldwide acclaim for its unrivaled ability to transform interior spaces with natural light.