Orfield Laboratories’ Steve Orfield knew that the media room he had planned for his own home would be different from anything else he’d ever seen. In his room, daylight would suffuse the space and there would be at least as much concern about the non-media use of the room as there would be for its “theater” functions.
Orfield’s project started with a traditional home adjacent to a Minneapolis city park and lake. The intent was to add a glass-encased sunroom and upper deck to the south side of the home that would provide more daylight than any space in the current house. Orfield also wanted to feature the full range of building performance specialties that his multi-disciplinary laboratory consults on, including daylight and lighting control, acoustics, thermal comfort, indoor air quality, and media room design. (Inset) The Orfield team created a 3D daylighting model and designed exterior louvers to protect the room’s glass during cooling periods. To control brightness, they chose clear glass with motorized interior shades.
The project started with a traditional home adjacent to a Minneapolis city park and lake. The intent was to add a glass-encased sunroom and upper deck to the south side of the home that would provide more daylight than any space in the current house. Orfield also wanted to feature the full range of building performance specialties that his multi-disciplinary laboratory consults on, including daylight and lighting control, acoustics, thermal comfort, indoor air quality, and media room design.
First, the Orfield team agreed on a room shape that would maximize the light in the space. They created a 3D daylighting model and designed exterior louvers to protect the glass during cooling periods. To control brightness, they chose clear glass with motorized interior shades.
The firm decided not to blackout the room for video in deference to the scenic view of nature that the location and floor-to-ceiling windows provided. A light-colored, matte finish shade with high visual reflectance values was selected for comfortable visual adaptation with daylight and good interreflection with the lighting system. Very open shades provided a clear view of the outdoors while preventing pedestrians from easily seeing inside during the day.
To provide further privacy from the outside world, a lighting system was designed with deeply recessed downlights placed close to the top of the shading system. This shade luminance significantly masks the view from outside and provides a soft, indirect lighting system inside on a very light-colored blind. Because this was the only illuminationbased lighting in the room, only the shades are illuminated and not the people. The cut-off angles of these fixtures are great enough that one cannot see light sources from any use position in the room, which, in turn, controlled potential glare.
To provide further privacy from the outside world, a lighting system was designed with deeply recessed downlights placed close to the top of the shading system. This shade luminance significantly masks the view from outside and provides a soft, indirect lighting system inside on a very light-colored blind.
This lighting was controlled by a Lutron HomeWorks system with scene settings for different uses and times of day and full lighting control scheduling software. For further lighting impact, Orfield designed a color-addressable Color Kinetics LED indirect lighting system, which was accompanied by an LED system on the upper, outside deck above the sunroom to subtly illuminate the outside of the deck, indirectly projecting from the top of the vertical house wall. The result was a glare-controlled, indirect system similar to the sunroom.
The interior of the sunroom had all hard, acoustically reflective surfaces, from the granite floor to the floor-to-ceiling windows and the gypsum ceiling. The furniture added very little mid-frequency absorption because it was a combination of hardsurfaced or leather-covered furniture with nothing porous in place for absorption.
Steve Orfield took on a media room project at his home and employed the entire range of building performance disciplines for which his multi-disciplinary architectural firm consults.
While the furniture provided pleasant reverberation time and acoustical presence, it was not ideal for media use. The blinds were chosen partially on the absorption value of the air column created when they were fully extended, providing a considerably more controlled acoustical value. A quiet motor was used, so the blinds operated almost silently.
The home is located next to a busy parkway and near a major airport, so Orfield designed the glazing system with a layer of sound control, laminated glass to dramatically reduce noise. In addition, the roof above the sunroom was assembled first with a gypsum ceiling and absorption, then a steel deck membrane with a concrete topping, eight inches of insulation, and concrete pavers. The result was a very high-performance floor-ceiling assembly for noise reduction.
A five-pronged attack was developed to resolve the complex issue of thermal comfort. First, custom glazing by Alpen Glass was specified with a suspended thermal control sheet, called an “interliner,” and the glazing was filled with argon gas. This provided a window that had about four times the insulation value of Low-E glass. Secondly, the exterior louvers kept the direct sun off the windows during cooling periods. Third, a slot diffuser system was designed for air supply and washed 100 percent of the air supply across the windows and then into the room, ensuring the interior space was thermally balanced under all conditions. The sunroom was also built over a thermally conditioned crawl space for vertical thermal symmetry. And finally, both the heating and air conditioning were dedicated to this space, so they could be turned down or shut off when not needed. As a result, much of the time, this space does not require air conditioning at all. And to this end, the two pairs of doors leading into the sunroom are fully insulated exterior doors, so that when the room is not air conditioned it still thermally shelters the adjacent living room and music room.
Indoor Air Quality
Both systems were located for clean outside air intake without pollution. One of the best air quality strategies during the spring, summer, and fall is to have operable windows for direct fresh air intake. The house is located on a park that overlooks Lake Nokomis, and the prevailing winds are generally toward the house. Two large, double sliding doors were installed on the front and rear of the sunroom, so natural ventilation could be used easily. This saves energy while providing 100-percent natural space conditioning and pleasant prevailing winds scented by the natural environment.
Audio Visual Design
The audio system in the sunroom was designed as a six-channel surround system with all speakers mounted in the ceiling except a floor-mounted subwoofer. Each of the speakers was equipped with two gimbals for aiming the cone and tweeter separately. The music room closet was used as an AV closet with a commercial rack system for mounting all components, including the receiver, the DVD-CD player, an iPod dock, cable receiver, and computer Wi-Fi system.
The video systems’ selection provided a series of problems that needed resolution, because it would be viewed in the presence of significant daylight. Thus, normal video projectors would be too dim, and normal projection screens would be masked by the daylight and ambient light reflections. As a result, a high-contrast Panasonic PT-F100NTU projector was chosen, and this was used with a high ambient light rejection, silver-surfaced Stewart LX062V FireHawk projection screen. The projector was mounted high on the entry wall, making this one piece of visible technology hardly noticeable.
Audio Visual Control
Orfield chose Crestron to control the sunroom theater, lighting, and shading systems. This control system was based on a portable LCD control panel and can control the input media (TV, DVD, iPod, computer and radio broadcast), volume and mute functions for cable channel selection, and the shading system (one control for each window plane), as well as addressing and controlling the lighting scenes.
This adjustment capability allows for viewing with shades down during overcast times, with just the shade on the south side extended during late afternoon hours if sun is present, and with the additional choices for shade closure on the east and west faces, depending on morning and evening daylight control conditions.
Energy and Sustainability
An important part of this program included a focus on daylighting and lighting, with the intent of providing energy savings based on natural illumination and highly efficient interior lighting.
The energy used in this sunroom is extremely low as there is so much available daylighting that lighting is only turned on occasionally, and when it is on, it is always dimmed. With regard to heating and cooling, since the structure is so thermally insulated, the need for heating and cooling is dramatically reduced from a typical space, and the HVAC systems are often turned off.
Many other features of the room, in addition to low levels of energy use, are examples of sustainable design practice, including the exterior daylight louvers, the ceiling assembly, the conditioned crawl space, the highly efficient glazing, and the floor material, which serves as a passive solar gain.
This project demonstrated how the approach Orfield Laboratories uses in commercial designs overlays residential installations in meaningful ways, and sustainability and LEED practices have a natural fit with design as long as the process is first defined for occupancy quality and then for sustainability. Residential projects perform at a higher level if they are more intentional, and this performance is central to making them more comfortable and more sustaining to occupants.
Lindsey Snyder (email@example.com) is assistant editor for Residential Systems and Systems Contractor News.