Shining a Light on Library Design

How the Louisville Northeast Regional Library Solatube daylighting design showcases innovative solutions that enhance energy efficiency and aesthetic appeal

As the final jewel in a trio of new regional libraries for the City of Louisville, the Northeast Regional Library in Lyndon, Kentucky, faced unique challenges. The design team needed to create a cost-effective, energy-efficient building with ample natural daylight. To achieve this, the architects turned to Solatube Tubular Daylighting Devices (TDDs). Continue reading to discover the Louisville Northeast Regional Library Solatube daylighting design.

A Pavilion in the Park

The Northeast Regional Library was envisioned as a pavilion within the park. This design revitalizes the community’s connection to the historic Bellevoir mansion Bellevoir Mansion and its grounds. Built in 1867 and designated as a National Register site, the Bellevoir Mansion is surrounded by a 13-acre formal lawn. This lawn had been hidden from public view by surrounding developments. The choice of this location for the new library was driven by its beauty and strategic position.

The choice of this location for the new library was driven by its beauty and strategic position. However, it brought challenges that required innovative solutions. The team had to uphold the site’s historical significance while integrating it seamlessly into its urban surroundings. They also prioritized occupant wellness, cost-effectiveness and energy efficiency.

Community Connection

The Louisville Northeast Regional Library brings resources and inspiration closer to home for the community. It is strategically located to ensure 90% of Louisville’s residents live within five miles of a full-service library. The 40,000-square-foot facility is more than just a place to borrow books. It’s a vibrant, innovative hub for learning and connection. Serving over 170,000 residents in Eastern Jefferson County, the library offers a welcoming environment with various amenities, including an auditorium, dedicated spaces for children and teens and innovative maker spaces with advanced technology. Additionally, it provides an audio/visual lab, kitchen facilities for cooking classes, and services for senior citizens, fostering an accessible, inviting and healthy environment for knowledge acquisition, sharing, and application.


Collaborative Design Effort

The design team, comprising JRA Architects, MSR Design of Minneapolis and Solatube International commercial distributor Shaffner Heaney Associates, Inc., embarked on a collaborative effort to create a facility that serves as a well-rounded community space. Upon entering the library, visitors are greeted by a sweeping vista of the park and a view of the historic home. The building’s centerpiece is the mirror-clad maker suite, which supports simultaneous events in three interior spaces and one screened exterior space. This allows larger activities to flow seamlessly from inside the building to the covered plaza.

Innovative Design and Daylighting Solutions

Central to the Northeast Regional Library’s success is its focus on wellness and connection. This is achieved through careful daylight penetration and minimizing reliance on electric lighting. This approach enhances the library’s aesthetic appeal and fosters a healthy, inviting environment.

Solatube Tubular Devices

Advanced lighting design software utilizing photometry was employed to maximize natural lighting relative to building orientation and performance modeling studies. Fifty-three SkyVault M74DS TDDs were integrated throughout the building. This significantly reduced the need for electric lighting during the day. The design team also installed Solatube Daylight Dimmers to provide light control for presentation areas.

Replacing the traditional clerestories used in the first two regional libraries, the design team combined TDDs and acrylic panels to create an array resembling a continuous skylight. Despite large overhangs on the south face blocking direct sunlight, the TDDs ensure ample natural daylight throughout the space, maintaining a bright and inviting atmosphere.

“It was critical to us to maintain consistent, uniform lighting levels throughout the space to really create the best space for people to enjoy the materials they are connecting with. Part of that strategy was to create daylighting zones to subdivide the building in a way that would allow the lighting controls to react to the amount of daylight pouring into the space throughout the day and different weather conditions…We have had a tremendous amount of good fortune to really embrace what Solatube brings for the quality of light and the value in cost to create a space like this that has a vast amount of daylight for an affordable price.”

– Colin L. Drake, AIA, LEED AP, Principal Architect, JRA Architects

“The Solatubes have been very well received by the public and the staff. The staff love it here; they are almost a part of the outdoors with all the natural light we get in. The daylighting provided by the Solatubes also aids in lighting up the books, which can be challenging because, with shelving, it is often hard to get the light just in the right spot where you can read the spines.”

– Doug Foster, Manager of Design & Construction for Louisville Free Library

A Testament to Daylight Design

Incorporating thoughtful daylighting design alongside the strategic use of Solatube TDDs not only promotes but also achieves remarkable energy efficiency. By harnessing natural daylight, the library reduced its electrical usage from 1.02 watts per square foot to 0.65 watts per square foot. This significantly lowers the utility bill. The architectural decisions extended beyond energy efficiency gains. Eliminating large clerestories streamlined the building’s aesthetic and yielded tangible cost savings. Simplifying the roof framing effectively cut structural steel expenses by $249,765.

The Louisville Northeast Regional Library’s success stands as a testament to collaborative effort and innovative design thinking. Overcoming challenges related to historic preservation, urban integration, and sustainability, the project team created not just a building but a vibrant addition to its community.

Today, the Louisville Northeast Regional Library stands as a beacon of knowledge and connection. It sets a new standard for sustainable regional architecture.

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