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Roof detail: Frick Laboratory, Princeton University by Hopkins Architects

[Working detail 23.06.11] Atrium roof and shade canopy for chemistry laboratory

It became apparent at an early stage that external shading elements would be required to reduce solar gain within the atrium. Early options explored tensile membranes and static louvres before the decision was made to integrate a large photovoltaic array into the building. This was driven partly by the university’s desire to promote the use of renewable technology in the building.

Thirty-six steel carrier frames traverse the atrium roof, elevated 178mm above the glazing. Each frame supports six glass-embedded photovoltaic panels at an angle of 20 degrees. Despite the frames, their structure and the access gratings all contributing to the shading, the spacing and arrangement of the individual photovoltaic cells were still calculated to the millimetre in order to precisely regulate the amount of daylight entering the atrium.

Studies were conducted in close collaboration with Arup to achieve a year-round ‘comfort factor’ and minimise cooling requirements, while maintaining comfortable light levels and sky views through the atrium roof.

Pre-treated air providing cooling or heating for the offices is transferred into the atrium for a second use before exhausting through high-level louvres to an air-handling unit in the mechanical penthouse. It then passes through a heat-exchanger and is mixed with fresh air for a third use in the labs.

Andrew Stanforth, architect, Hopkins Architects

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