ARCHIVED – Improving energy costs and the indoor environment of Canadian atrium buildings v1n3-12

Volume 1, Number 3, Winter 1996

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An atrium space being monitored by IRC researchers

IRC is heading a consortium of provincial, federal and utilities agencies formed to find new tools for reducing energy costs in atrium buildings, while at the same time, optimizing indoor environment parameters such as maximizing daylight in the atrium and its adjacent spaces, and improving acoustical performance.

New and retrofitted atria are popular in commercial, office and residential Canadian buildings because they can provide high marketing value with their environmentally controlled, naturally lit spaces. With the slow-down of building construction, the atrium has become a popular solution to link, expand, or give a new image to old and historic buildings. The attraction of atriums for building owners is being undermined, however, by reported high energy costs and complex design considerations.

Key to reducing these costs is an understanding of how energy consumption is affected by choices in:

  • type and area of top-glazing
  • heating, cooling and ventilation strategies
  • daylight-linked lighting control systems.

In addition to these issues, improving energy costs should not be done at the expense of acoustical performance in the atrium and adjacent spaces. Also, smoke control measures still need to be investigated, as some of the code requirements in conventional buildings do not apply to atria.

The multidisciplinary project, which draws upon expertise from IRC's Building Performance Laboratory, Acoustics Laboratory and Fire Laboratory, will develop guidelines to help designers choose:

  • glazing systems that will maximize daylight and minimize heating and cooling loads
  • a strategy for heating/cooling and ventilating an atrium building, with an understanding of its effect on smoke movement
  • appropriate materials to optimize the sound quality in the atrium space and to reduce sound intrusion into the adjacent spaces.

Consortium members include CANMET, Hydro-Québec, Société Immobilière du Québec, and Public Works and Government Services Canada. Others are welcome to join the consortium.