Volume 42, Issue 10 - October 2007

Project Pride
Contract Glaziers Share their Solutions on these Project Challenges

by Megan Headley

When complete, these glass-encased buildings may inspire viewers, or they may just blend easily into their environment. Either way, when they were just a shell, these buildings—like most any other project—posed challenges for the glazing contractors on the job. Their solutions may inspire other glaziers to try their tips when taking on challenging jobs with ease. Share your glazing challenges by e-mailing Megan Headley at mheadley@glass.com

Knight Oil Tools Headquarters Facility in Broussard, La.

It was September, Fall had begun and construction on the new Knight Oil Tools corporate headquarters in Broussard, La., was moving along as planned. Designs had been approved, shop drawings had been finalized, and work on the 96,400-square-foot facility was underway. But when the glazing contractor hired for the job, suddenly filed for bankruptcy, an entirely new challenge emerged.

Jackie Guillote, president of Advantage Glass in New Iberia, La., hadn’t been the successful bidder on the first go-round, but when the general contractor, Rudick Construction, needed another glazier to step up to the plate, they thought of Advantage Glass. 

Due to his strong relationship with the contractor, Guillotte’s company won the job this time—despite the fact that, by this point, Guillotte’s crowded schedule meant that his team of glaziers couldn’t do the job alone. “At the time that I bid the job I knew I could do it, but from the time you actually bid a job to the time you get on it is roughly six months to a year. So by the time the year comes around, my plate was full,” he says. 

It didn’t help that Advantage Glass faced a problem many glazing contractors are up against—a shortage of qualified labor. 

Guillote adds, “We were so busy at the time and basically we’re always understaffed—that’s a problem in this area, getting people to work. I knew that I needed some help to do the job, so what I did was I got in touch with Kawneer representative Jim Griswold, and then, in return, he put me in touch with Dana DeGeorge who is another Kawneer dealer.” 

DeGeorge, owner of DeGeorge Glass, a large glazing contractor based in Metairie, La., says he had never been asked to help another glazing contractor on a job, but was willing to offer support on this one. With more than 120 miles between the two shops, competition was not considered an issue.“I don’t really look at work in his market at all,” DeGeorge says. The two companies agreed to tackle the Knight Oil Tools project together.

While DeGeorge Glass provided the fabrication for the project, in addition to the field management, DeGeorge says he found it advantageous that Advantage Glass could provide local support. 

“We fabricated the job here … shipped it to the site,” DeGeorge says. “I supplied a foreman and a few glaziers and he supplied the balance of the glaziers.” 

The partnership was only one piece of the puzzle, however. The project’s original shop drawings were submitted with a different manufacturer’s products shown. The tight timeframe meant that the team had to work backwards—order materials first, have shop drawings done second.

“It was definitely the opposite of the way we normally do things,” says Griswold. 

According to Guillotte, when Advantage accepted the job, the original metal manufacturer was still in the shop-drawing stages. “We didn’t use Kawneer shop drawings; we just basically used architectural [drawings]…” 

Guillotte says the glaziers couldn’t work from the detail drawings, because of the decision to use another metal supplier on the project. “We basically had to do the job blindfolded, and had it engineered over the telephone and then produced drawings after the job was complete—which is totally backwards.” 

Despite the change in materials—and the “backwards” procedure—Guillotte says there was no conflict when it came to bringing the architect’s vision to life.

“Everybody was aware the other glass shop had gone belly-up. At that point, the interest of the owner and the contractor … is to get the building closed up and keep it on schedule. At that point you really can’t [slow down]—because it’s about a 14-week process, and they didn’t have 14 weeks to spare,” Guillotte says. 

Just weeks after receiving the initial call from Rudick Construction, the team was able to begin fabrication and installation on the facility. The job was completed the following May. 

“It ran really smooth, it really did,” says Guillotte. “The biggest part was getting the materials there and getting the job started. You know, we had to hit it full force. We had to man the job with a lot of people in the beginning. And then at that point when the job leveled out, we just pulled people out of there.”

Guillotte adds, “By working together, we were able to complete the job within the timeframe and budget allotted to us.”

It may have been unusual and unprecedented, but Guillotte says he would joint venture again given the opportunity. “Most definitely—anytime with Dana DeGeorge, I would most definitely joint venture a job.” 

The Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

Fans of New Jersey’s hockey team have been waiting impatiently for the late October completion of the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., the new home of the New Jersey Devils. Ian Josloff, for one, already has his tickets. 

Then again, Josloff has had a firsthand view of the work it has taken to complete the building designed by Morris Adjmi Architects in New York, HOK Sport + Venue + Event in Kansas City, Mo., and El Taller Collaborativo PC in Newark, N.J. The owner of Newark, N.J.-based Josloff Glass Co. managed the glass installation for the arena. 

The Prudential Center features a curtainwall composed of oversized insulating glass units (IGUs) and two glass-encased stair towers that frame the front of the building. Josloff Glass worked on installing the units from December of 2006 straight through until the end of August 2007. 

Josloff says it didn’t hurt to be based in the Newark area when it came to winning this job. “In terms of our involvement on the job, I don’t think it hurt [being local] that’s for sure. We were involved fairly early on with the pre-con, budgeting and design, with the architect and the construction manager and kind of just segued right through to a successful bid.”

Getting involved early allowed Josloff to take part in the design, and also to develop the appropriate systems and attachments and specify products. Upon completion, the exterior insulating units for the façade of the arena consist of more than 95,000 square feet of PPG red Solarban 60 clear high-performance low-E glass and complementary subdued grey spandrel units.  J. E. Berkowitz (JEB) in Pedricktown N.J., fabricated the IGUs to a roller-wave tolerance not to exceed 0.003 to achieve the highest optical clarity possible, says Chris Lalonde, CSI, CDT, marketing/LEED specialist for JEB. The units also were fabricated to an improved tolerance of 1⁄2 of ASTM C1048 for bow and warp of heat-treated glass.

“We paid special attention at the beginning to the tolerances with distortion,” Josloff says. “Berkowitz was really able to tune the manufacturing process to eliminate the wave distortion … which is important with very large glass.”

“The accepted industry standard is usually not to exceed 0.006 inches peak-to-valley; however, currently there is no ASTM for roller-wave distortion,” Lalonde adds. “The goal of trying to minimize roller-wave on the project is so that, ultimately, the owner has the flattest heat-treated glass possible on their project. 

The reflected images in the glass will be clearer and the project will look more appealing aesthetically because there is less variation in the inherent roller-wave created in the heat-treating process when controlled to a tighter tollerance.”

The two glass-encased stair towers—measuring 75 feet wide by 120 feet high—that frame the front of the Prudential Center proved the most challenging aspect of the installation. “You’re dealing obviously with a segmented enclosure around radius steel, so we worked with Kawneer and developed a custom splayed vertical mullion to conform with the degree of splay required to satisfy the diameter,” Josloff says. Josloff says that Kawneer provided a timesaver when it came to working on the towers. The vertical mullions feature Kawneer’s IsoStrut, an integral pressure plate and cover that is part of the extrusion. “When you’re done with your install, you don’t have to come back and install your pressure plates and your covers after the fact; while you’re glazing it’s already part of the mullion,” Josloff says.

The glaziers from Josloff Glass also worked smart in that even on the high elevations of the glass towers they were able to “sidewalk-set” the glass. 

“We used mast climbers—hydro mobile work platforms—to erect and glaze all of the large curtainwalls on the project. Those were rented through Dunlop Mast Climbers and they were really fantastic,” Josloff says. “It eliminated having to crane-set the glass; the glass was all set by hand off of the mast climber because you have the ability to carry a load, unlike a regular aerial lift. It essentially becomes a sidewalk-set with the glass because you’re just working right off essentially what’s grade.”

The Prudential Center will be the first in a series of buildings aiming to bring back growth and prosperity to the downtown core of Newark, according to Lalonde. “The result of this collaboration is a structure that is clad in glass-and-brick, paying homage to the city’s historic architecture and industry.” 

The Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge over the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia

The glaziers at Midwest Curtainwalls Inc. in Cleveland knew they were in for a tough job when they agreed to install the glass in the operator’s tower of the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge. From modifying the original specs to modifying the concrete bridge to modifying their equipment, Midwest showed that flexibility can be a necessity for a glazing contractor. 

The new bridge which spans the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia was constructed to expand the number of lanes and increase the height of the bridge, making drawbridge openings less frequent than on the old bridge. While the solution was much appreciated among commuters who travel along the high-traffic thoroughfare, there there were some interesting challenges to meet before the first car could cross the river. 

“The curtainwall system that we designed for the Woodrow Wilson Bridge was a very, very difficult system in terms of its geometry,” recalls Don Kelly, president of Midwest. “Just about everything was curving: curving metal, curving glass.” 

Cricursa Curvados S.A. in Barcelona, Spain, a glass manufacturer specializing in curved and specialty glass products, created the multi-panel sections of bent layered glass in a “dot” frit pattern. The tower features 13 bullet-resistant curved low-E glass panels and one flat panel, totaling 1,500 square feet of glass. Each trapezoidal panel measures 6 feet 6 inches wide by 19 feet high. The outboard sections of the insulating glass units (IGUs) have four glass layers; the inboard ones, two, according to information from Edgetech I.G. in Cambridge, Ohio, who supplied the units’ Super Spacer® TriSeal™. 

“Just about 1,300 square feet,” Kelly says. “That’s a very small job.” 

Small it may be, but simple it was not. The units aren’t characterized by anything so simple as a straight line or 90 degree corner, according to Edgetech.

“Everything was hard beyond the difficulty that we expected, what we bid to do, which was design and engineer and manufacture and install a very difficult system,” Kelly says. 

To begin with, once Midwest had field-assembled the unusually shaped IGUs, they had nowhere to put them. According to Kelly, the concrete on the bridge was out of position by several inches in most places, requiring the general contractor to scale back the concrete. As the extra concrete was removed slowly in pieces at a time, the glaziers would fit the units into place. 

“We’d set a unit, and then take it back down to the road, and set it back up again, then take it back down again, pick it up again—so it’d be four or five or six tries to get a unit set,” Kelly says. For an unusual job, the glazing contractor brought on an unusual tool. A specially-built system of 12 vacuum cups, powered by Midwest’s proprietary lifter, raised the curved IGUs into place.

“That custom piece of lifting equipment … allowed us to set these units and without it we don’t know if we ever could have ever set them,” Kelly says. To lift the units from the bridge required a well orchestrated process. Once the cups were placed on the glass and the vacuum activated, the glaziers would “lift the vacuum cup equipment and the curtainwall unit up about 6 feet, and then we rotate the equipment and the unit 90 degrees so it’s now vertical … on its long edge to the ground. Then we lift it up higher and we rotate it another 90 degrees in a vertical plane, so that we can now lift it up to the concrete structure that’s about 30 or 40 feet in the air and place the unit in its proper position on the concrete structure.”

Once the glass was in position, the glaziers holding the unit would release the vacuum cups and pull the lifting device from the glass. “That’s how we set the 13 very heavy curtainwall units that ring around this structure that looks like a speedboat,” Kelly says. 

Although he’s used to adapting equipment for challenging jobs, Kelly says an added bonus was being able to “recycle” this custom equipment. “Luckily, a client of mine in California needed some equipment just like it so we were able to sell it after we finished the work at the bridge.” 

For a company that’s used to taking on unique and challenging projects, it may seem like the sky is the limit. But after enough unforeseeable delays, any smart contractor will know that a unique project is great, but only if the job can be completed to everyone’s satisfaction.

“You’ve got to know your limitations,” Kelly advises. 

Megan Headley is the editor of USGlass.

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