Lesson in Sustainability
School design's deep overhangs, sunscreens and other
features conserve energy
The judging panel said Twin Rivers Charter School's
design elevated the use of metal buildings several ways. Passive
elements are used to conserve energy, many functions are integrated
and consideration was given to the building's environmental
The two-building elementary school in Yuba City, Calif., is
designed to benefit from daylight, and mitigate solar heat gain and
glare. The judges noted the design's thoughtful placement of
apertures and openings.
Clerestory windows, prismatic skylights and light scoops direct
daylight into all the classrooms. At the same time, passive
elements including deep overhangs, perforated sunscreens and metal
curtains reduce heat and glare.
Blue, perforated sunscreen panels on Z-shaped frames shield
windows on the south, west and east sides of the school buildings.
Hanging down over clerestory windows, yellow, perforated metal
curtains diffuse direct sunlight. Hilbers Inc., Yuba City,
installed Tarzana, Calif.-based Steelogic LLC's 0.04-inch-thick,
perforated aluminum Rib Panels in Blue and Yellow with a Kynar 500
finish for the sunscreens and curtains.
Gloria Lee, principal at Swift Lee Office Inc. in Pasadena,
Calif., says, "In our case, it starts with providing abundant
daylight via the dual-glazed, prismatic acrylic, domed skylights so
we can have a nice learning environment as well as lower electrical
But the windows, which supplement the skylights, can cause glare
and solar heat gain. "So we've provided a solar screen that is
perforated just enough so that it can block and diffuse the light,"
Further reducing the school's energy demand, Hilbers installed
light-gauge metal framing, batt insulation and Lewisville,
Texas-based Metl-Span's 2 1/2-inch-thick Santa Fe Series insulated
metal panels (IMPs) in Silver Metallic and Harbor Blue with a Kynar
500 finish. "You have the IMP, but we also are using perforated
metal panel for solar control; so it's always double," Lee
The project's two buildings are a 28,500-squarefoot
K-5 building with media library and cafeteria, and
21,500-square-foot building with classrooms for grades 6-8 and
gymnasium. It was completed in January 2016 and utilized Kansas
City, Mo.-based Butler Manufacturing's metal building systems with
hot-dipped galvanized steel and Butler-Cote 500 FP finish. In
between the buildings is a landscaped plaza with shaded seating
Lee says using metal building systems provided multiple
advantages. Pre-engineered systems and components that are designed
to work together create energy-efficient structures that are
flexible enough to accommodate a wide variety of uses and make
future renovations less costly to execute than with conventional
"With the metal building system, it's all very integral at the
building component and structural levels," Lee says. "The gym and
lunch shelter aren't additions, a separate wing that has a
different structural system. Whether it's the tall gymnasium with
the classrooms or lunch shelter with the admin and classrooms, we
were able to create it with one building."
Lee says her firm's systems-based approach to the project made
it possible to include the numerous skylights, displacement
ventilation and other sustainable elements.
"The details are made to go together, so it's very quick and
easy construction and highly waterproofed, very solid
construction," she says. "You're not building curbs, you're not
dealing with flashing issues and details. They're kind of
clickable, a lot of these are meant to go together, so we're taking
advantage of the details and technologies that are used mostly in
other building types for a school." The metal building
systems-based design also gives it the ability to reconfigure the
interior or addon in the future.
"Particularly for school design, it was very important to keep
it flexible because technology is changing so quickly," Lee says.
"If you have to do any renovations, you don't have to worry about
the structural walls, or shear walls, to impede the
Lee says the school was designed with its impact on
its environment considered from multiple angles, including from
students' perspective. Many of the building components were left
exposed so they can be seen at work.
"It is our intent using metal architecture components and having
more of the systems exposed, those are opportunities for [students]
to learn about how the systems work, and may be more integrated
into their curriculum," she says.
Sustainability is more than the use of a recyclable material,
Lee notes. "I think sustainability has to be thought more broadly,
not just about getting LEED points, or just using recycled
material. But really about holistically seeing how sustainable is
it to provide a learning environment for children who we want them
to grow up to be stewards of our planet."
Twin Rivers Charter School, Yuba City,
Completed: January 2016
Total square footage: 50,000 square feet
Owner: Erik Karlshoej Education Foundation, Yuba
Architect: Swift Lee Office Inc., Pasadena,
General contractor/installer: Hilbers Inc., Yuba
Light-gauge framing supplier: Wright Brothers
Supply, Chico, Calif., wrightbrossupply.com
Metal building systems: Butler Manufacturing,
Kansas City, Mo., butlermfg.com
Metal wall panels: Metl-Span, Lewisville, Texas,
Sunscreens: Steelogic LLC, Tarzana, Calif., www.steelogic.com
Photos: Jerry Gregg, Swift Lee