Glass Makes Football FantasyaReality
in Cowboys Stadium?
Construction of Cowboys Stadium Brims with Glass
by Katie Hodge
As football season gets underway this year, the Dallas Cowboys
will be kicking off in a brand new record-breaking stadium, Cowboys Stadium.
This brain-child of architect Bryan Trubey with HKS Sports & Entertainment
Group proved a labor of love for building envelop manufactuerer Oldcastle
Glass, glass fabricator Viracon and glazing contractor Haley-Greer. It
opened for its first football game on August 21, but featured concerts
throughout the summer.
Approaching Cowboys Stadium—which is the largest NFL stadium in the world—the
vast size of the structure will leave visitors awed. The three million-square-foot
stadium is 900 feet from end zone to end zone and has an approximate seating
capacity of 80,000 fans. Spectators will first see the giant 86-foot-high
canted glass exterior curtainwall as they approach. The glow of the curtainwall,
caused by the 14-degree angle, radiates outward all day long. Upon entering
the stadium, all eyes will take in the uniqueness of the interior design,
which includes 120-foot-high glass retractable end zone doors. The roof
of the stadium holds the title for the world’s largest domed roof at 660,800
square feet and has retractable dome doors that open and shut in only
A large portion of what makes Cowboys Stadium so unique is the eye-catching
glass. Lynn Eaton, project manager at Viracon, sums up the stadium well.
“The Jones family really wanted the stadium to be a reflection of the
team—both in the colors and in the general aesthetic—and the glass skin
became a focal point for the stadium,” she says.
• The Dallas Cowboys’ stadium has the largest retractable end zone doors
in the world.
• Each side of the LED video screen is equivalent to 4,920 52-inch flat
panel television screens.
• The first football game played in Cowboys Stadium was a game of Playstation
3 on the giant LED screen (Madden NFL 10, for the record).
• It took Oldcastle Glass 150 truckloads in order to transport all of
the materials to the jobsite.
• The Cowboys Stadium site covers 72 total acres; the overall site encompasses
140 total acres.
• There are more than 1,600 bathrooms in the stadium.
• The stadium roof has 14,100 tons of structural steel, which is equivalent
to 92 Boeing 777s.
In a Glass of Its Own
The glass, manufactured by a number of different suppliers, was fabricated
by Viracon in Owatonna, Minn. “Viracon provided more than 300,000 square
feet of glass to the project,” said JulieAnn Matter, an inside sales representative
for Viracon. “The primary glass type was a VE1-52 insulating glass with
custom white silkscreen on the #2 surface. The project also used
VE1-52 insulating glass without a silkscreen pattern,” Matter adds.
The glass creates a unique aesthetic quality appearing to be gradated
as the glass rises. Matter explains how Viracon made this possible. “It
features a unique custom silkscreen pattern. The silkscreen pattern
used was not a gradated pattern, but rather rows of patterns that give
a gradated effect overall. There is heavy frit coverage on the lower wall.
The wall leans out as it moves to the top and the frit coverage
becomes lighter. The effect of this silkscreen, when combined with
a clear glass substrate and low-E coating, is a gradated glow of the façade
The slope of the glass led many of those involved on the construction
to refer to this part of the stadium as “the bowl.” Tony Childress, owner
of Childress Engineering, says, “To ensure efficient installation of the
unitized glass frames on the ‘bowl’ section, the glass panels were designed
to tilt when being lifted into place to match the slope of the steel structure.”
The exterior of the stadium features more than a half-million square-feet
of glass and stone.
With a stadium that breaks down barriers in construction, the vast amount
of testing required for a project of this size could boggle the mind.
Matter recalls, “Viracon did internal testing on the custom silkscreen
patterns based on the amount of paint coverage and general appearance.”
Jeff Benson, project executive for Haley-Greer in Dallas, recalls the
massive amount of testing that occurred. “There was a dynamic test at
the test lab at Construction Consulting Labratory [in Carrollton, Texas].
Then we had torque testing on the well studs. An engineer came out and
did a torque test on the steel grid that supports ‘the bowl’ to make sure
they were strong enough to support the curtainwall and that the well was
good. We needed a pull test on all of our sealants. There was also an
illumination test on the curtainwall. They did a mock-up for lighting
so they could see how the wall was going to look with all the gradation
in the glass. We, of course, had a whole series of hose tests as well.”
Oldcastle Glass unitized the glass and curtainwall used in the stadium’s
major features. “There was intensive laboratory testing in terms of air
and water infiltration into the system,” adds Larry Long, president of
the Oldcastle Glass Building Envelope Group in Dallas. “There was approximately
800,000 pounds of aluminum incorporated in our system and it all had to
be tested to conform to the high performance of the specifications. There
were 64 new dies required.”
When the glass was delivered to Oldcastle Glass’ facility in Texas, it
was assembled and glazed into the Series 4000 unitized curtainwall system.
In addition, Oldcastle Glass also produced the Series 650 curtainwall
system and the Series 250 pressure wall system that are featured throughout
Putting the Pieces Together
When you ask any member of the construction team what was the most unique
feature on the stadium, they all mention the 120-foot-tall glass doors.
Benson was left in awe of the finished product. “The end zone doors are
120-foot-tall and our glazing system clad to the face of that steel. Those
doors operate at 120 feet, which is pretty amazing.” The Cowboys Stadium
doors are the largest operable glass doors in the world.
Haley-Greer supplied and installed all the aluminum and glass doors for
the project, including the all-glass doors for the exterior entrances,
as well as hardware.
Long considered the end zone doors a challenge. “… We had to clad all
that steel in glass and that was a challenge. Our scope of work was to
learn how to anchor back to those steel doors and make sure that when
they started opening up, we had taken into account how much they would
deflect over a 150-foot height. From an engineering standpoint it was
a little bit challenging, but the process went really well.”
A stadium of the magnitude of Cowboys Stadium could either intimidate
or excite those responsible for its successful construction. For most
of the team members the positive outcome outweighed the challenges. Childress
states, “The Dallas
Cowboys Stadium was an aesthetically beautiful project but also very challenging
due to its multiple geometric designs.”
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was an integral part of the project. He took
an active role in many of the design decisions.
Long says, “Jerry Jones and his whole family came out and we mocked up
three different designs with the glass and aluminum and he made the decision
along with the architect on which one they wanted to go with.” Jones’
involvement throughout the entire project was evident.
Long recounts, “They paid an up-charge to go with a custom bullnose horizontal
cap all over that stadium. It was a big increase in price, but Jerry Jones
wanted to make the design stand out and make it look different than just
a normal curtainwall system.”
Viracon worked closely with Jones as well. Eaton recalls, “Viracon supplied
hundreds of samples with different substrate colors, coating combinations
and silkscreen patterns to narrow down glass selection and create the
glowing blue skin the architect and owners envisioned.”
It’s safe to say, Cowboys Stadium follows the adage that everything is
bigger in Texas.
Katie Hodge is an editorial assistant for USGlass
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