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Kent State University Art Building The secret life of Buildings Eric Sauer Environmental Technology III Prof. Adil sharag-Eldin The Kent State Art Building Built in 1971 Architect Tony Parsons Designed by art faculty for the School of Art

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Kent State University Art Building

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kent state university art building

Kent State UniversityArt Building

The secret life of Buildings

Eric Sauer

Environmental Technology III

Prof. Adil sharag-Eldin


The Kent State Art Building

Built in 1971

Architect Tony Parsons

Designed by art faculty for the School of Art

Houses the school of art, galleries of both student and professional work, and presents six major exhibits a year


The building was designed by John Andrews & Associates of Toronto, and completed in 1971. It is a simple post-beam construction. There are no supporting walls in the building. The translucent walls are fiberglass and were manufactured by Kalwall Corporation in CT. They were supposed to be treated for UV effects every seven years, but, of course, the University never coated them, so you can see some peeling in places. As insulation, Kalwall does not work well at all – the metal strips that hold the walls in place are cold in winter and hot in summer.


Even with the Kalwall panels admitting light into the building, electric light is still a necessity. Each classroom, studio space, and gallery is equipped with enough electrical lighting to effectively light the space without any daylighting. Many of the rooms are equipped with motion sensors that automatically turn off the lights when no people are occupying the room for a certain amount of time. All lights in the building are T8, 32-watt fluorescent lamps. There are no dimming circuits on any of the lights, and there is very little light control in the rooms.

The building’s floorplan is designed in a zigzag configuration to allow two exterior walls in many of the rooms. This allows for a maximum amount of daylight to enter the room through the exterior walls.


About Kalwall translucent wall panel systems

Kalwall is formed by permanently bonding, under heat and pressure, a specially formulated, fiberglass reinforced face to a grid core constructed of interlocked, extruded structural aluminum or composite I-beams.

the panels can be infilled with translucent fiberglass insulation "batts." Optional thermally broken panels yield the ultimate in energy performance and condensation control. "U" factor performance ranges from a standard .29 to include options from .53 to .10 in the standard 2-3/4 inch (70 mm) panel thickness.

Millions of prismatic glass fibers imbedded in the faces of Kalwall refract sunshine, and even gray daylight, in a balanced, diffuse wash of glare-free, usable light.



The goal is to determine how well the daylighting provided by the translucent panels works with the electrical lighting system to provide light for the tasks to be performed within the building. The art building employs a Kalwall Translucent Wall Panel System on most exterior walls and about half of the roof to provide light to the rooms inside. This project analyzes how well this natural system works in conjunction with the electrical lighting systems in the building. When done properly, daylighting can reduce the need for electrical lights and reduce the amount of energy used to cool a building. The overall objective of this project is to determine if the Kent State Art Building achieves any of those goals.


Do the translucent panels provide adequate lighting to meet human needs?

Visibility and task performance

Visual comfort

Mood and atmosphere

Aesthetic judgement

Health safety and well being

Social communication



My original hypothesis is that the translucent panels alone, during the day, will not provide enough light appropriate for an art studio space. The panels will minimize the additional light required, and thus significantly reducing energy consumption in the building. Upon investigation of the spaces, it is evident that additional artificial lighting is almost always required. The panels may reduce the amount of artificial light required, but the light control is very poor in the spaces, the lights have to be all the way on or all the way off. Some rooms even have motion sensing lights that come on as soon as someone enters, thereby defeating the purpose of having natural lighting.

My hypothesis, thus far, still follows my original idea that the translucent panels alone will not provide adequate light for an art studio space. Daylighting must work in conjunction with the electrical lighting systems in order to be successful in building. Both these lighting systems, as a pair, do not function together to adequately light the spaces and conserve energy use throughout the building.


To research how well the art studio spaces were being lit by the translucent panels and by the electrical lighting, one of the first tasks was to take measurements of how much light was actually in the spaces. Using the Minolta Illuminance Meter, I took light level readings of several studio spaces throughout the building. Readings were taken during one sunny day and one cloudy day. On each day I took two sets of readings from several points of each space, one with the electrical lights off and one with the electrical lights on. I then compared these readings with the standards set forth by the IESNA.


third floor studio. This studio space is approximately 4500 square feet. All translucent panels along most of the walls have been covered up to no longer permit light to come through.


third floor studio. Location of luminaires.

With natural light only, on a sunny day, the average footcandles throughout the spaces was 239fc. With all of the lights on, there were 392fc in the space. According to the IESNA, at least 300 footcandles is required for the performance of visual tasks of low contrast and very small size over a prolonged period. This studio is used primarily for painting and drawing, where it is crucial that there be enough light to accurately see what one is doing.


small drawing area on the second floor. This room is only about 800 square feet, but had 130 fluorescent lamps to illuminate the space.


The average amount of natural light in the space was 290 footcandles. With the electrical lights on, the average reading was 458 fc. This is an area were student come to do very exacting work, such as graphic design. By IESNA standards, an area such as this should provide 400-500 footcandles of light. So we see here that the natural light is not sufficient for the tasks to be performed.


sculpting room on the first floor. This room is approximately 1500 square feet, and about 20 feet high. The north and west walls are constructed completely of Kalwall, and 50 percent of the roof is also Kalwall. The are 176 fluorescent lamps in the space, mounted 15 feet above the floor.


The average reading in the space with only natural light was 131 fc. With electrical lighting the average reading was 239 fc. In this space the lighting falls well short of the recommended 400-500 fc.



30 students and professors.

85 percent - the translucent panels alone do not provide enough light to perform the necessary tasks.

100%- need electrical lighting during daylight hours for art tasks either most or all of the time.

50%- Light for reading was reported to be needed time during daylight hours for reading.

The students also reported that the electrical lights are usually turned on, even if they are not necessary. This also depends on the professor, and what kind of class it is, not just the Kalwall performance. Most of the students reported that they felt the overall lighting conditions were adequate in the building. Some of the problems that were reported about the Kalwall were that it sometimes provides unwanted light, and sometimes casts unwanted shadows. None of the people surveyed reported any problems with glare.



My overall conclusion of the art building is that the building does not effectively use daylighting to provide light to the interior space or to reduce energy consumption within the building.

The main problem with the lighting systems is that the electrical lighting does not respond at all to the natural light. There is no way to control the amount of electrical light to use in the room; lights must be either half on, all on, or all off.

The translucent panels provide enough light to the studios that only a small amount of additional electric lighting is needed, but there is no way to turn the lights on only a small amount. So since the lights need to be on almost all the time anyway, the daylighting becomes unnecessary.



In order for the daylighting to function well in the building, the electrical lighting needs to have more control. It is impossible to completely eliminate the need for electrical lighting during the day in an art building, but the electrical use could be greatly reduced. Dimmer switches, better light placement, and more specific lighting could greatly reduce the amount of electrical lighting used in the building.