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Owego Elementary School case study

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Owego Elementary School

Case study

Owego, New York, United States | March 1, 2019

Tropical storm casualty rebuilds with Guardian SunGuard® coated glass

One day into the 2011-2012 school year, Tropical Storm Lee changed the community of Owego forever. The district had four of its buildings destroyed by the waters of the 2011 flooding, and sustained significant damage to others. One of the buildings destroyed was the original Owego Elementary. Within days of the initial flooding, Highland Associates Architects was on site working hand-in-hand with the District, FEMA, New York State Education Department and the State of New York to assess the damage.


Highland Associates committed to create an elementary school that was not the typical elementary school, and the firm was forced by the project partners to execute in a particularly tight timeframe.

“We wanted the building to be an integrated tool for their curriculum, and foster different types of learning; classroom learning, spontaneous interaction, small group collaboration, large group instruction, outdoor learning, etc.,” explains David Degnon, senior associate, Highland Associates. “It was important for us to ensure the school embody the healing of a community (that was devastated by a natural disaster,) and serve as a symbol of the determination and perseverance of the Owego community.”

Additionally, Highland Associates needed to design a building with a high-performing envelope in order to meet LEED® requirements, including the enhanced acoustical performance credit. While it examined high performance, low-E glazing options, the building team knew that incorporating laminated glass would greatly reduce the amount of outside noise.


In approaching the design, Degnon says the firm considered that a 120,000-square-foot building can be very overwhelming, especially to a 4-year-old going to school for the first time. In order to avoid long, tunnel-like corridors, the halls are bent and broken, creating intermittent learning spaces that are filled with natural daylight and views of the outdoors. The design provides unobstructed views of the outdoors in more than 90 percent of the occupied spaces, an important consideration given that multiple studies prove students perform better with natural light and outside views.

Owego follows the school design trend to include several multipurpose rooms: Staff want the flexibility of spaces that can be used at all times of the year, which means the glass must help manage solar heat gain year-round.

‘’The spaces have a sense of relaxed vitality that comes only with a strong connection to the outdoors. This would not be possible without the strategic use of specialized glass products such as Guardian SunGuard® coated glass.‘’

David Degnon

senior associate, Highland Associates

Guardian SunGuard SNX 62/27 coated glass was selected because of its balance of performance and light transmittance. “To increase the thermal performance, we initially looked at a triple-pane system,” he says. “Because of the added complexity of the laminated glass, the curtain wall system would have become a custom system. This would have dramatically increased the cost of the façade. The solution was to use argon in place of air for the airspace and to couple that with SunGuard IS 20 coating. By doing this we were able to achieve triple-pane performance in a laminated, double-pane system.”

The ability of Guardian SunGuard IS 20 coated glass to bring the U-value performance of double-glaze units closer to that of triple-glaze improves performance in buildings and climates where maximum heat flow resistance is desired while still allowing abundant natural light. This combination of SunGuard products, fabricated by independent Guardian Select® fabricator J.E. Berkowitz and installed by Forno Enterprises Inc., has a 60 percent visible light transmission and a low 0.26 solar heat gain coefficient, for an impressive light-to-solar gain ratio of 2.34.

The school has applied for LEED® Silver Certification.

The Guardian SunGuard coated glass product line for commercial applications offers excellent solar control and a wide variety of colors and performance levels. SunGuard glass products create value through innovative, leading solutions for appearance, economics and energy efficiency, and are available through an international network of independent Guardian Select® fabricators.

Architects and designers utilize the industry-leading Guardian Glass Analytics™ for North America for comprehensive engineering and analytical modeling and custom glass content that demonstrate the advantages of high performance glass in building facades.

Product Overview

Triple-glazed Guardian SunGuard® SNX 62/27 coated glass and Guardian SunGuard® IS 20 coating, providing a visible light transmission of 60 percent and a solar heat gain coefficient of 0.26, balance high performance with light transmittance and the right aesthetic to help architect Highland Associates create a state-of-the-art school to replace a structure destroyed by a tropical storm.