When developers decided to renovate the Leamington Building in Oakland, Calif., they knew they wanted to update the old skylights to give the new communal space an open vibe.

Background
Designed by architect W.H. Meeks in the mid 1920s, the Leamington Hotel heralded a new era for downtown Oakland. The building went from luxury hotel to music venue before shuttering its doors in bankruptcy in the 1970s.

It reopened in the 1980s as offices and included stained glass atrium skylights to provide light to the first floor bank. With demand for office space from the tech industry, the building’s owner, Harvest Properties, decided to remake the ground floor into a communal area where people can meet to grab a coffee or a bite to eat.

Challenge: Keeping the Skylights Without Breaking the Budget
Harvest Properties hired RMW Architecture & Interiors to open up the ground floor where they envisioned a new dining and retail area.

Before the renovation: The first floor had been segmented into offices and included skylights with a stained glass diffuser.

“We saw great potential for the lobby area, so we removed the cubicles and opened up the space,” said Shane Gilroy with Harvest Properties. And while replacing the old skylights was a project must-have, they worried it could be both expensive and time-consuming.

Solution: VELUX Modular Skylight System – Ridgelight
Burlingame, Calif.-based Crown Sheet Metal & Skylights bid three skylight options, but the team ultimately selected the VELUX Modular Skylight system.

“The VMS system comes with all the performance—the operables and the shades—and a price that is 20 to 30 percent cheaper than custom skylights,” said Don Dennehy Jr. of Crown Sheet Metal.

The new skylights have performance features such as rain and wind sensors, and energy-efficient LoE3, argon-gas-filled, tempered-over laminated OSHA-rated high-efficiency glazing. “The cost to do a custom skylight would have been much more expensive. This system was panelized and everything was numbered,” said Billy Keller with Charles Pankow Builders.

The new VMS system includes venting skylight units to bring in fresh air.
The new VMS system includes venting skylight units to bring in fresh air.

Quick Installation: 72 Modules in Just Four Days
Crown Sheet Metal installed the VMS ridgelights in four days, much faster than a site-built and glazed installation. They used custom sized modules to fit the original skylight openings, and each ridgelight has venting skylight modules to provide cooling airflow to the lobby below.

After removing the old, glass skylights and framing, Crown Sheet Metal did some infill on the existing curb and added an I-beam rail. They installed the VMS ridgelight framing system and then they snapped the VMS units into place.

Crown Sheet Metal used a spider crane to position the skylight modules.
Crown Sheet Metal used a spider crane to position the skylight modules.

An Open, Airy Lobby

The lobby has been transformed into a light- and air-filled gathering space with restaurants, businesses, and an open meeting space.

“Yesterday it was 85 or 90 degrees outside and the security guard in the lobby had the skylights open,” Gilroy said. “It brings in fresh air that cools the space off. They’ll crack them open when it’s really hot.”

The view from inside the Leamington building’s new lobby.
The view from inside the Leamington building’s new lobby.

Learn more about the VMS system by exploring CAD/BIM files, technical specs and installation videos.