Soft, diffused natural light from VMS Northlight transforms Eagles Nest Outfitters’ office
For years, the staff of Eagles Nest Outfitters (ENO) worked in cramped, dark offices in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. Their second office didn’t even have any windows, which isn’t ideal for an outdoor equipment company specializing in portable hammocks and camp chairs.
So when it came time to move from downtown to a location that could accommodate both the office and a warehouse, the company’s leaders challenged architects to connect the new space to the outside.
“We’re an outdoor company and we’d all rather be outdoors each and every day,” said Lane Nakaji, general manager with ENO. “No one wants to work in darkness.”
Challenge: Opening up a 1970s building
The new building was at first not very promising. Located in a business park with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, it dated back to the 1970s with a red brick exterior and a cedar shake mansard roof.
“It was a rabbit warren of an office,” said Charles Krekelberg, the project manager on the ENO project for Samsel Architects. “They had perimeter windows behind arborvitae trees, so it was oppressively dark.
“They wanted to radically transform the space,” Krekelberg added. “They wanted open spaces for people to collaborate, planters and natural light.”
The building was gutted down to the exterior walls and a new roof constructed. Inside, the maze of hallways and offices became open space. And to solve the lighting problem, architects turned to two VELUX products: VELUX Modular Skylights (VMS) – Northlight Configuration and Fixed Curb Mounted Skylights.
Solution: VMS Northlights bathe the design and sales work areas in diffused natural light
VMS Northlight systems resemble a sawtooth roof with the skylights mounted almost vertically on a prefabricated curb.
The ENO installation includes four Northlight systems with the skylight mounted at a 75-degree pitch. Two sets of four skylight modules and two sets of three skylight modules mounted in a single row along the back wall of the office bring soft, diffused light to the product design area and the sales department.
“We only turn the lights on when it’s raining or very cloudy,” said Allison Ettinger, ENO’s credit manager. “Natural light is generally more relaxing. It’s definitely softer than turning on the electric lights.”
The skylight units are all fixed with dimensions of 39.4” width x 47.2” height and VELUX high-efficiency glazing. The LowE3, argon-filled dual-paned glazing assembly consists of a high-strength outer tempered pane and an inner laminated pane. The system is equipped with electrically controlled shades, which employees say are only drawn on weekends to optimize the building’s energy efficiency.
The office also has nine VELUX Fixed Curb Mount Skylights (FCM 2246) with LowE3, laminated glazing and solar-powered remote-controlled shades installed over offices, hallways and conference rooms.
Like other VMS configurations, the Northlight system arrives on the jobsite palletized for easy staging. Its plug-and-play installation method takes less time than custom, site-glazed skylights. It took the crew from JP Ross & Co. one week to complete the installation.
“We focus only on skylight design, sales and installation and have over 20 years of experience,” Jason Peterson, project manager with JP Ross & Co. “The only difference with the Northlight was that the panels were installed vertically.”
VELUX vapor barrier wraps around the skylight modules and lines the interior roof rough opening for an airtight seal between the skylight modules and the building, creating a very energy-efficient building envelope.
Results: A striking appearance inside and out
Natural light bathes the sales department and product development area in soft natural light throughout the day, and employees are happy to have it.
“When we don’t have that glare from artificial lights, it creates a calm,” said Julia Schell, manager of e-commerce at ENO. “Things get hectic around here.
“Sometimes when we come in after the weekend and the blinds have been closed, we forget and turn the lights on and it’s like ‘What’s wrong?’” Schell added.
Plus, the Northlights give the building’s exterior a unique look.
“The owner wanted the skylights to be as much of an exterior expression of the design as an interior lighting device,” Krekelberg said. “They truly liked the look of the skylights and wanted them on the roof.”