In the heart of the environmentally astute Institute of Science and Technology STEM school in Cherry Creek, Colorado is an illuminated tube which brightens the school both physically and symbolically with abundant sunshine. The dramatic chandelier and light pipe is connected to a sun-tracking Sundolier light harvester, which is able to completely illuminate the school's entrance and upper corridor with daylight. Sundolier CEO Peter Novak took Inhabitat to the roof to school us on the potential of natural lighting - read on for a closer look!
The Sundolier piqued a lot on interest when we first reported on the unique solar robot, which can light entire rooms. The other side of the design is the company’s diffusion ‘chandlers’, which bounce and bend all that sunlight throughout the space. The company’s most unique installation so far is the 27-foot-tall light tube which lights up a significant part of the STEM building’s second floor lobby. As the school focuses on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), the installation also provides the unique opportunity for the school to conduct educational science experiments using controlled sunlight.
Peter took me to the roof to get a close look at the Sundolier, which looks like a set of huge metallic wings hidden behind a round parapet. A petite solar electric panel powers two small batteries which move the entire mirror assembly precisely according to the sun’s trajectory. Sunlight reflects off the main polished aluminum mirror and then bounces of a second, then a third, then a fourth before it finally enters the building. The sunlight is powerful enough to rebound off the interior chandelier and illuminate the relief ceiling, which in turn lights up approximately 1,000 square feet.
In the center is an 8 inch or so tube that protrudes two stories down. Horizontal etchings inside the clear tube are lit by the incoming light– creating a rather mesmerizing effect. When you enter the building, the warm glow of the sun pipe draws you into the interior, past the constellation of LED lights in the ceiling. An operable hatch is placed in the middle of the tube to so that kids can perform light experiments to study the science behind sunshine.
The school’s curriculum of science and technology is reflected by its design DNA, which was envisioned by Hutton Architecture Studio. Windows at either end are sized according to the Fibonacci sequence, and an assortment of science-inspired design motifs can be found throughout the building. The solar electric array on the roof, solar tubes, and Kalwall translucent panels help make the school twice as efficient as similar schools.