February 2014

Conceived by a group of artists more than 10 years ago, the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art in Washington state, USA recently opened to critical acclaim, showcasing the very latest eco-building technology, including a motorised solar shading solution from Levolux.

Designed by Matthew Coates, Principal of Coates Design Architects, the 20,000 square foot, two-storey building accommodates nine galleries, two classrooms, a 95-seat auditorium, in addition to a double height reception area.

The new cultural centre occupies a prominent water-facing location and is targeted for LeaBainbridge Island Museum of Art PN2 200 x 200dership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold status. Sustainable features are at the forefront of the scheme, including the application of motorised louvres across a double-height, south-facing glazed elevation.

With a growing reputation for offering tailored solar shading and screening solutions on several high profile projects across North America, Levolux was approached to help develop a custom solution for the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art.

The custom solution comprised 32 bays of single-piece, extruded aluminium Aerofoil Fins, applied externally across a curved, south-facing glazed elevation. The Fins, each measuring 250mm wide by 50mm thick, are motorised, allowing them to be opened or closed, rotating through 90 degrees.

Each bay of Aerofoil Fins is linked by a vertical link arm to a motor which rotates the Fins smoothly and quietly. The Fins in each bay are faceted to create clean, continuous lines as they follow the curved contour of the building.

Aerofoil Fins operate in two groups, responding automatically as the sun passes overhead from east to west. The Fins are carefully rotated to maintain the optimum level Bainbridge Island Museum of Art PN3 200 x 200of shade at any given time. This is critical for preserving a naturally cool and comfortable interior.

Solar heat gain is a significant problem that is symptomatic of glazed buildings that lack an effective form of solar control. In such cases the sun’s rays transmit excessive heat energy into the building. While this can be desirable in winter, in summer this usually results in an uncomfortable and inefficient building.

As the design of the museum progressed and the curved glass façade took shape, the choice of solar control became critical. Matthew Coates, president of Coates Design Architects, was pleased with Levolux’s contribution on the project, commenting; “From an early stage the design support and flexibility offered by Levolux was a significant help. Once we settled on the concept of motorised louvres, Levolux supplied the complete solution. Our faith was repaid, as the system works beautifully.”

The Aerofoil Fins applied to the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art tackle solar heat gain, but they also help to maximise daylight levels within the museum and give passing pedestrians tempting glimpses of the interesting exhibits lying beyond its walls.

As a striking feature of the building’s façade, the Fins effectively ‘dress’ the building, creating an interesting art-form of their own. The Aerofoil Fins have been given an attractive Cherry Wood effect powder coated finish, which respects the museum’s wooded setting. In addition, subtle branding has been applied to the external surface of some Fins, using adhesive vinyl to form 5 metre high letters courtesy of pro-bono designers nbbj Architects. As the Fins are closed, the letters A-R-T become visible and the word “ART” can be deciphered.

The motorised Aerofoil Fins have been a popular feature of the museum since it opened in June 2013. Greg Robinson, Executive Director & Curator at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art has been impressed with the results, commenting; “The staff and visitors have been captivated by the motorised Fins. Their positive impact on tBainbridge Island Museum of Art PN4 200 x 200he internal environment is greatly appreciated. Even on a hot summer’s day the Fins act as the first line of defence for the building and the art. They protect the art from the sun, and ensure the building remains a cool and comfortable place for visitors and a pleasant place to work.”

The Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, with its sweeping curved glazed façade clad with motorised Aerofoil Fins from Levolux, not only promotes local culture and economic vitality for the region but also sets a benchmark for sustainable building design that is world-leading.