Solar power transforms historic Harvard Square atrium

Trinity Property Management Inc., in partnership with Solar Design Associates, has successfully commissioned a unique translucent solar power installation over the glass atrium atop one of the premier properties in historic Harvard Square.

The project on the site of Trinity’s 50 Church Street will enable the building’s atrium and roof to generate up to 66 kW of solar photovoltaics, while preserving open sky views from the atrium area. The project will also provide much more effective year-round temperature control in the popular space, providing additional meeting and work space for the office tenants and providing a venue for various community events and functions.

Designed by architects Bruner/Cott & Associates, the renovation of 50 Church solved several longstanding challenges with the building at the same time:

  • Replacing a much-loved but energy-inefficient glass ceiling over the atrium space that was installed in 1980 and led to seasonal temperature extremes on the sunniest days of summer and the darkest, coldest days of winter, which was akin at best to a ” two seasons porch”
  • Ensuring Trinity can install a translucent solar panel without being tied to a technology for the long term, while continuing to grow solar PV output and technologies – the solar panels are installed as a rain screen above and separated from the new atrium glass
  • Replacement of a faulty passive solar hot water system installed on a 55° rooftop tower more than 40 years ago
  • Enabling modernization and renovation of a Cambridge Historic Commission approved building in the heart of historic Harvard Square

“We have transformed 50 Church Street into an even more attractive, more comfortable, and now much greener and more sustainable building for all of our tenants, visitors and Trinity corporate offices,” said John DiGiovanni, president of Trinity Property, also president of Harvard University. Square business association. “While we could have integrated solar panels to form a glass atrium ceiling, this innovative, collaborative solution allows us to reap all the benefits of today’s generation of solar PV, even while retaining the flexibility to build even more efficient ones in the future. exchange solar panels. years without having to replace the glass ceiling of the atrium.”

The project uses translucent panels from Colorado’s Lumos Solar, which allow approximately 50% of sunlight to enter the atrium space for natural lighting and passive space heating in the cold season, while producing PV energy. Approximately 10 kW of solar panels have been installed over the atrium glass, in addition to a further 56 kW installed on the chamber and tower structure on top of the building. Combined, they can generate enough electricity over the course of a year to meet the needs of 10 medium-sized homes in Massachusetts and offset a significant portion of the total electricity consumption at 50 Church Street.

Haskell Werlin of Solar Design Associates, who oversaw the project as the owner’s engineer, said the project has provided some hands-on lessons on the most effective ways to install semi-translucent solar panels, including separating the array from the glazing by separating the glazing. installing the modules as a rain screen mounted on custom rails that hang 9 in above the glazing, so that they can be replaced in the event of breakage or damage without having to replace the actual roof glass.

News item from Trinity Property

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