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Volume 38, Issue 4, April 2003

Installation Innovation

A Look At The Use of Architectural Metals

By Kristine Tunney

As architects, glaziers and ironworkers continue to push the envelope when it comes to the complexity of fenestration systems, the use of architectural metals becomes increasingly important. The ability to employ such metals in a variety of applications ensures architects that possibilities in design are certainly endless. At USGlass we’ve highlighted two distinctive projects that showcase interesting applications using varying degrees of architectural metals.

The Marvels of Modern Medicine

The Stanford University Center for Clinical Research (CCSR) is a facility that truly showcases both architectural and clinical excellence. A supplement to Stanford’s School of Medicine in Palo Alto, Calif., the state-of-the-art laboratory and office complex utilize a design that proves suitable for interdisciplinary biomedical research, while providing light-filled working spaces.

The 214,000-square-foot facility was designed by the London-based architecture firm, Norman Foster & Partners, whose namesake, Norman Foster, was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize shortly after the project was completed in 1999. Foster’s firm also worked in association with Fong & Chan of San Francisco.

Aside from the demand for natural light, the environmental systems that surround the building made the incorporation of natural ventilation systems a necessity. According to the Foster & Partners website, “The offices are naturally ventilated for most of the year, with mechanical assistance only on extremely hot days. Horizontal louvers on the exterior facades provide shade and correspond with a third-story cornice line established by neighboring buildings.”

Wausau Window and Wall Systems of Wausau, Wis., was appointed the task of economically engineering a complex operable window system, which needed to conform to the standards of seismic performance mandated due to the campus’s close location to the San Andreas Fault.

“Working closely with the design and project architects, we met both the aesthetic standards as well as the difficult structural performance criteria, including seismic considerations,” said Wausau’s chief designer Ken Brenden. “This was accomplished through numerous meetings, phone conversations and sharing of information over a period of a year.”

Wausau’s design incorporated a curtainwall system for the open-air courtyard and curved operable windows that allowed maximum ventilation for use in faculty offices and seminar rooms that overlook the courtyard. These radius, horizontal-rolling windows were coupled with curved, ricepaper-like screens that glide along tracks in the floor.

According to information provided by Wausau, the system wall was designed as pre-fabricated, shear wall-units that alternated with office suite bays, that were then subdivided into three smaller bays, each with a curved window. The unit’s configuration necessitated the manufacturing of 108 curved curtainwall units. In an effort to keep costs down the components were shipped “knocked-down,” for field installation by glazing contractor Architectural Glass and Aluminum of Oakland, Calif.

“Installing curved windows to accommodate the seismic considerations was a challenge,” said Bill Coll Jr., vice president of sales for Architectural Glass and Aluminum. “With a flat window, it’s easy to design a way for the window to move within itself allowing for seismic movement, but curved windows were much more difficult—any movement and they would break. We ended up installing a steel support structure behind the curtainwall and the curved sliding windows within the curtainwall system.”

In addition, Wausau provided the engineered architectural aluminum elements including the sunshade—a tubular aluminum louver system that surrounds the building’s atrium. Because of the building’s temperate environment, the system was designed so the sun’s rays filter through the aluminum louver system, eliminating the need for artificial light. The system’s operable windows allow for maximum natural ventilation and the windows’ curved design helps dissipate the sound of courtyard passersby.

A Smoking Success

While the ability to build bigger buildings with more complicated glazing elements continues to grow, the business of developing retrofitted glazing applications for older renovation projects has escalated exponentially. In Richmond, Va., the task of restoring windows in a neighborhood in the midst of a mega-makeover meant appeasing critics, who would judge the building by its aesthetics, and a historical preservation society that demanded the buildings in the historic Tobacco Row area stay within the confines of its original architecture.

The Tobacco Row area covers nearly 15 contiguous city blocks of pre-1900s tobacco warehouses and factories, many of which have undergone renovation into condos and commercial space.

“The tobacco warehouses in Richmond currently represent the largest historic rehab, as a series of buildings in the country,” said David Levey, executive vice president of Forest City Enterprises, the area’s developer. “There have been individual buildings that are bigger, but in total, this is probably the largest collection of historic buildings in America.”

EFCO Corp. of Monett, Mo., was given the task of designing the window systems that would be used in two of the buildings undergoing the conversion to condos. The building’s classification as a tax-credit building meant that its old, steel windows needed to be matched as closely as possible in order to appease the demands of the area’s historical society.

“From the initial planning stages—where we worked with architects, developers and representatives of the park service—to the material ordering stage, the process took about two years, due largely in part to the amount of work it took to agree on the exact design for the windows,” said Bill Raines, president of Engineered Glass Products, the project’s glazier.

In the larger of the two buildings, EFCO supplied aluminum, thermally broken windows as well as an aluminum storefront with grid patterns that matched the replicated steel windows. Utilizing EFCO’s 2700 series windows “an exterior muntin grid to match the old, putty-glazed steel was installed on the exterior of the glass and a muntin grid was placed between the glasses in alignment with the exterior grid,” said Richmond-area EFCO representative Mitch Snead of the Snead Co.

The project relied on Engineered Glass Products of Sterling, Va., to install the burgundy system on the larger Consolidated Building as well as installing single-hung windows on the smaller Carolina Building. The EFCO 660 series windows, used on the Carolina building required a custom extruded muntin applied to the exterior to replicate old hung windows as well as interior and internal grids.

“Usually customers want one of two things: colonial muntins on the inside or the outside. In this case, they needed both to achieve the specific look they were going for,” said Raines. “A replica sash was designed to imitate the old steel sashes used in the original building, but the windows are completely updated now, using the most advanced components such as insulating, high-performance glass.”

According to Snead, the company currently is involved in a similar project replacing windows just a few blocks away from the previous site.

Kristine Tunney is the assistant editor of USGlass.