Product We Love: Polycarbonate

Interior view of Terrain Cafe at Devon Yard.

On a recent project, NewStudio was asked to provide a greenhouse feel to a restaurant space—something light, warm, and airy. Typically, greenhouse roofs use a material called polycarbonate. Polycarbonate is essentially a very strong plastic material that can be easily manipulated into varying shapes, colors, and transparencies. Aside from greenhouse roofs, polycarbonate has many applications including eyeglass lenses, bottles, and car bumpers. Fun fact, polycarbonate was originally created by the aerospace industry, and was used for astronauts' visors.

Aerial view of Devon Yard lifestyle center.

One of the challenges of designing a restaurant space that feels like a greenhouse, is that a restaurant has very different energy requirements. The majority of a building’s heat energy is lost through the roof, so if you are designing a space where the roof is virtually one large window, imagine how much heat will escape.

Exterior view of Terrain Cafe at Devon Yard.

With energy management in mind, we researched polycarbonate roof systems—assemblies with both energy-effective polycarbonate panels and appropriate framing. We discovered a product by CPI Daylighting called Quadwall®, which is a two-panel skylight system. Think of it as a double-glazed window you might find in your home but made of plastic. The product enabled us to achieve a high level of building energy performance while providing glare-free, diffused natural daylight to anyone inside the space.