Why choose between great views and superior sustainability when you can have both?

Designed by Semple Brown Design of Denver to encourage and support working relationships with community cultural organizations, the 92,000-square-foot Ent Center for the Arts at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) consolidates the Department of Visual and Performing Arts, which had previously been spread across six venues.

Glass and natural light are defining features of the facility, the first purpose-built performing and visual arts center on the 550-acre campus.

To maximize energy efficiency and preserve views of the surrounding Rocky Mountains, Semple Brown specified high-performance Solarban 90 glass for the building’s curtainwall system. “We placed a high priority on transparency and neutrality for glazing,” explains Bryan Schmidt, AIA, of Semple Brown. “We wanted a product that would allow for views to the exterior without too much tint in the glass. Similarly, we wanted the activities within the building to be apparent from the exterior.”

The glazing was a key factor in enabling the building to achieve LEED Gold in January.

Energy consumption is an important concern with institutional facilities such as the Ent Center. Additionally, LEED also takes into account such factors as occupant comfort and well-being, which is why daylighting in facilities is stressed by the voluntary program. Low-emissivity (low-e) glasses typically complement generous visible light transmittance (VLT) with low solar heat gain coefficients (SHGCs). These performance characteristics can significantly limit the need for interior lighting and air conditioning.

Mountain views and energy efficiency highlight new Ent Center for the Arts at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.
Mountain views and energy efficiency highlight new Ent Center for the Arts at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.

High Performance in More Ways than One

Research suggests a strong link between natural light and enjoyment of the arts, as well as student and employee performance. A 2017 study published in the journal Indoor and Built Environment studied the effects of daylighting on visitors’ satisfaction at art museums. The results showed significant statistical correlations between visual comfort and visitor satisfaction.

A study conducted by Human Spaces revealed that employees who work in environments with natural elements, such as natural light, reported a 15 percent increase in creativity compared to those who worked in dim lighting and few natural elements. Other studies, such as a paper published by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, reveal that students attending schools that have been designed to optimize daylight benefit from increased performance and general health and well-being.

Thanks to the project team thoroughly vetting the products that met aesthetic and functional requirements, UCCS obtained a building that will not only meet the needs of the institution and its students for years to come, but also serve as a new architectural landmark for the city of Colorado Springs. Characterized by a dramatic metal skin that complements the contours of the Rockies, as well as two large sculptures along its perimeter, the building itself functions as a beacon of the arts.

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