Glass Works in Healing the Economy
Hospital Work Keeps Contract Glazier Busy
by Megan Headley
Within its industry, the Van Andel Institute (VAI) in Grand Rapids, Mich.,
seems made to take on challenges. Among
other things, the medical research and education facility is dedicated
to finding the molecular origins of cancer and other diseases.
The slightly less lofty goal of installing the complicated glass portions
of the $170 million, 240,000-square-foot facility expansion provided its
own share of industry challenges.
The first phase of the VAI, built in 1998, was designed in part to resemble
the falling water of the Grand River that flows in the distance. Phase
II, completed in December 2009, clearly put a prominence in connecting
the interior and exterior and making the most of natural daylighting,
even while ensuring energy efficiency.
For the Phase II expansion, Rafael Viñoly of Rafael Vinoly Architects
PC in New York, the lead architect on both phases, aimed to fulfill his
vision for the glass walls, windows and interior elements. Viñoly
designed three areas in particular—the Café curtainwall, the “Angel”
wall and the CEO conference room—to emphasize the landscape and views
of Grand Rapids.
“Glass is the most prominent and creatively utilized building element
in the expansion,” says Steve Heacock, Van Andel Institute CAO and chief
Vos Glass Inc., a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based glazing company, was chosen
by VAI to carry out this vision, by compiling a team to provide the unique
glass features required by the architect and meeting the installation
challenges as well.
“During the design development phase, as well as the construction phase,
Vos Glass provided advice, comments, shop drawings, submittals, suggestions
and information on systems and components of various aspects of the glazing
trade to the [general] contractor and architect,” says Linda Vos-Graham,
president of Vos Glass. That didn’t make the final project any less challenging.
“The logistics and installations on this project were challenging,” explains
Ken Graham, project manager on the VAI glassinstallation and vice president
of Vos Glass. “We committed ourselves to staying true to the architect’s
The Cafefs Curtainwall
A unique segmented window wall, measuring 140 by 66 feet, now provides
abundant natural light to the cafeteria.
To get to that point, a great deal of coordination was needed.
First, a Kawneer 5500 aluminum framing system was installed to create
130 individually-framed fenestration openings, each measuring 42 by 200
inches. Surrounding each exterior opening, the glaziers installed a continuous
vertical and horizontal projection, measuring 30 inches by 12 feet, created
a unique architectural feature as well as a sun control component. A fully
engineered substructure also was built to create attachment locations
for the projectionfs cladding.
To create the intended profiles, or "fins," 1.8-inch-thick sheet
aluminum was break-formed and post-painted with a Kynar finish. A Kawneer
7500 Isoweb aluminum framing system closed the endwalls. The fins were
fabricated and installed by Accuform Industries of Grand Rapids, with
supervision by Vos Glass, while Erie Architectural Products of Novi, Mich.,
fabricated the lion's share of Kawneer curtainwall components throughout
the facility. Statre Corp. in Troy, Mich., supplied Vos Glass with Viracon
2-inch triple lite, "gclear" inboard, argon-filled, heat-strengthened
insulating glass units (IGUs), which provide a high thermal performance
while maximizing natural light transmission. The framing and glass were
cantilevered on each end of the wall opening to give the appearance that
the glass and frame hang from the building.
Prior to installation, a full-size 40- by 40-foot mock-up was constructed
and tested for air and water infiltration at Architectural Testing Inc.
in York, Pa. With minor adjustments made and all tests passed, Vos Glass
began the installation process during the fall of 2008. The Michigan winter
is its own challenge, and led to the construction of a fully heated and
system to protect the workers and materials from the elements.
The Angel Wall
The "Angel" wall, so called because VAI's angel logo ultimately
was applied to the glass, began with a 36- by 36-foot steel frame. The
challenge for Vos Glass was not simply to install the glass - but to find
and purchase it.
Vos Glass ultimately called in Mexico-based Cristacurva, one of only a
few glass fabricators capable of fabricating the project’s custom 9- by
9-foot triple-pane, heat-strengthened IGU’s, some with bent glass, and
all with a specified U-value of 0.18.
“We were not familiar with Cristacurva,” Vos-Graham says. “We were led
to them by the architect. Vos Glass and a team of professionals representing
the owner, the Institute and the contractor traveled to Guadalajara, Mexico,
to consult with the supplier, inspect production methods and products,
and coordinate the safe delivery of the specialized product.”
The four-sided IGUs were structurally glazed directly to the structural
support steel. A stainless steel plate system, designed by the building
envelope engineers at Wheaton & Sprague in Stow, Ohio, was used to
create a closer tolerance for installation than the steel structure alone
offered, while additional hidden fasteners aided in supporting the IGUs
Installation of the IGUs—each of which weighed more than 1,500 pounds—required
some special tools. A hydraulic platform scaffolding system was used to
ensure the glaziers worked safely. Special glazing suction cups and a
power crane also were needed due to the weight of the units. Woods Powr-Grip
Co. assisted in the power cup section to meet the needs of this project
and ensure installation safety.
The CEO Conference Room
Vos Glass calls the CEO conference room the jewel in the overall design
of the building. The 40- by 36-foot semicircular conference room is comprised
of full-height glass—66 by 151 inches—on three sides. The glass is bent
to match the radius of the room while also leaning out at a 7-degree angle—creating
two different radii and a very unique structure.
The specifications for the CEO conference room called for a U-value equaling
0.18. The 2 ½-inch-thick, triple pane, lowiron laminated IGUs featuring
high performance coatings went through several mock-ups before the best
solution was determined.
The challenge, Vos-Graham says, was that “we needed to meet a performance
requirement of a 0.18 U-value using a clear glass that was bent and met
the architect aesthetic requirements.”
The support design underwent a change as well. The original design called
for the glass to be unsupported vertically, creating a complete wall of
glass. However, final engineering analysis required that solid, vertical,
custom, stainless steel tees be used to support wind loads. The glass
units were captured at the head and sill with a custom-designed stainless
steel channel system. The final result is a 300-degree panoramic view,
120 feet above Grand Rapids.
A Look Inside
While capturing the exterior views was the primary goal for the architect,
glass was specified throughout the interior as well. Vos Glass also installed
10,000 square feet of glass entrances and ½-inch floor-to-ceiling
glass partition walls. Interior rooms on the third and sixth floors maximize
natural light transmission with transom areas. Custom Kawneer frames with
two pieces of ½-inch-thick glass create a 4-inch airspace as well
as a high STC rating for the working environment.
Custom glass handrail systems with bent radius glass were installed on
the second and third floors, while on the exterior of the sixth floor
CEO conference room balcony, the company installed ¾-inch custom
glass handrails. Privacy film separated sections of the expansion from
Phase 1 sections. Firerated glazing installed at most fire-rated doors
and smoke baffle glazing at open stairwell locations completed the job.
All told, it took more than a year and led the building to a LEED-NC Platinum
“A construction project of this magnitude requires a specialized team
of highly skilled and knowledgeable people,” says Vos-Graham. She adds,
“We hope our glazing offers an inspiring environment for all the Institute
scientists and staff to work.”
Health Care Remains Bright Spot Amid
Bleak Nonresidential Predictions
The American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) recently released
“Consensus Construction Forecast” projects that 2010 will be another
weak year for nonresidential construction, but improvements later
in the year in the institutional sector will lead an overall nonresidential
recovery in 2011.
“Health care, in particular, is forecast to show only a modest
decline after suffering through a weak year in 2009,” says AIA
chief economist Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA, in the report.“The
uncertainty surrounding health care reform has limited investment
in some health care sectors, which likely will free up once this
issue is resolved.”
Glass fabricators and installers
around the country have looked to the healthcare sector, as well
as areas such as educational facilities and overnment buildings,
for new construction work. Vos Glass in Grand Rapids, Mich., is
one such glazing contractor. Having just completed the Van Andel
Institute, a medical research facility, the glazing contractor
is about to embark on the glass and glazing work for the Michigan
Street Development Tower 35 project, a medical office.
However, Linda Vos-Graham, president of Vos Glass, says, “Most
of the reported projects for the West Michigan ‘medical mile’
are now complete or nearing completion.”
Still, even the AIA report indicates
that in 2010 healthcare is simply the least “bad” option, predicting
a 0.3-percent decrease in spending on healthcare, followed by
a 2.5-percent increase in 2011.
“West Michigan, and Michigan in
general, is feeling the impact of a
weakened economy,” Vos-Graham
says. “All areas of construction are
down, with perhaps the exception of road construction. Obtaining
work will be challenging in the next year or two.”
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