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Case study: Interior window walls let light in

Riverton High School in Riverton, Utah, was designed to provide a light, open setting where learning can take place in an uplifting atmosphere.

One key to the successful melding of interior and exterior spaces is the use of interior window walls that allow the natural lighting and views to permeate major areas of the building, including the media center and administrative offices.

"We've found that many schools that were constructed in the 1960s or 1970s seemed to turn in on themselves and had a dark, cavernous feeling," says Kyle Taft, vice president of MHTN Architects, project manager for the school. "Our firm and the district felt that light and openness would be more conducive to a positive attitude. The building was designed with academic wings that spread out like fingers so that we could get exterior light into as many classrooms as possible."

To carry this light throughout the building, aluminum window walls were incorporated into the upper portions of several exterior walls. The design also included large window wall areas on interior walls to distribute this light to other parts of the building.

To capture light in the media center and other interior spaces, the construction included Steelcraft frames with wire-reinforced glass that provide the needed fire ratings.

The same approach enhanced the faculty lounge, which features a curved window wall that overlooks the media center.

"The faculty room windows are on a rounded wall," says Taft. "You can look down into the library and also through the library windows to the outside. Not only is the faculty room an interior space, but the borrowed views that draw light to the inside also make a connection to the outside. You get the same effect from the administrative area. It creates a transparency in the rooms."

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