Volume 44, Issue 4 - April 2009


Above and Beyond 
These Skylight Projects Are Really Tops 
by Megan Headley

Anyone who has stepped into a Gaylord resort—and many visit simply for an afternoon to stare—will know that the owners strive for an atmosphere resembling a self-contained city. In the original Nashville resort, for example, a river meanders through one atrium. However, much of this effect is due to the generous use of glass and skylights that allow natural lighting to fall upon visitors. The latest addition to the Gaylord list—the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Oxon Hill, Md.—is no exception to this rule. 

With 2,000 luxurious guest rooms and 470,000 square feet of meeting, convention and exhibition space—and an $880 million price tag for construction—the National Resort is the largest combined hotel and convention center on the Eastern Seaboard. Gensler in Washington, D.C., designed the hotel, with the owner’s trademark use of large spans of glass in mind. A joint venture between Perini Corp. and Tompkins Builders Inc., a subsidiary of Turner Construction, served as the general contractor. 

Victor Cornellier, president of TSI/ Exterior Wall Systems, Landover, Md., says of the project, “It was challenging because of the spans.” But other than that it was business as usual—just lots of it. “It was a lot of application of conventional unitized and stick-built curtainwall systems.”

Deep Bhattacharya, vice president of development and technology for Oldcastle Glass® in Santa Monica, Calif., agrees when it comes to the skylights that cover the resort’s atriums. “Large skylight, large spans on curtainwall required custom extrusions, complex interfaces with other building materials,” Bhattacharya says. “The scale of it was definitely unique.”

TSI picked up a $25 million portion of the contract that included installation of the curtainwall and windows and doors throughout the facility. Oldcastle Glass’ Naturalite division took care of the $10 million installation of the custom skylight systems that hover above the garden atriums, using solar control low-E to control the sunlight pouring into the hotel. According to Cornellier, there wasn’t much in the way of coordination between the two glazing contractors “because there was a distinctive difference between the systems.”

YKK AP America in Dublin, Ga., provided the 30,000 square feet of metal used throughout the convention center portion of the facility, while Mid-Atlantic Construction Supply Co. (MCS)—a sister company of TSI—provided composite metal panels used in the convention center. 

Cornellier notes that as far as the install was concerned, the “glass was pretty straightforward.” Oldcastle Glass supplied the majority of the glass in the hotel and convention center, nearly 180,000 square feet, with about 9,500 square feet coming from Viracon. Accura Systems Inc. in Dallas, Texas, supplied 109,000 square feet of its Accunit fixed window system for the hotel factory-assembled and –glazed to help ease the installation process.

“The primary Accura system chosen for the Gaylord project was the 2 ½- by 6-inch Accunit system, designed specifically for high-performance strip and punch window applications such as this,” elaborates Duf Hudson, executive vice president of Accura Systems Inc. in Sunnyvale, Texas. “This system is fully unitized, allowing for very high production in the field compared to traditional methods.”

According to Accura project manager Danny Castellano, nearly 250,000 pounds of aluminum and 6,890 insulating glass units were provided in 2,057 unitized frames. It took 49 truckloads just to deliver the material to the site. 

Hudson points to the advantage of unitized systems for the glazier. “Once on site, the completely factory-assembled and -glazed units just needed to be hoisted into place and ‘buttoned down’ by the installer. This consisted of setting the unit on pre-installed ball anchors and attaching four bolts to embed tubes in the concrete. This unitized approach allowed TSI to enclose a high quantity of openings in a much faster time than a stick-built and field-glaze system,” Hudson says.

Once all of those windows were installed it was time to turn to other openings. Cornellier points to the numerous doors YKK supplied for the convention center as a bit more of a challenge than the windows. “I think there were well over 100-some odd doors that all had special hardware, especially in the convention center,” he says. 

Cornellier further explains, “Everything had to be tied into the smoke release system for evacuation so when the fire alarm goes off the doors open automatically to the outside and evacuate smoke and people.”

Revolving doors from Crane Revolving Doors guard the hotel’s main entrance, along with Dorma Group’s sliding doors and PRL’s swing doors. Kawneer supplied aluminum doors to the pool enclosure, where NanaWall also provided its operable glass wall. 

In addition to fire protection, the glass has to protect the facility from winds coming off of the Potomac. “That was a big concern and so the engineering for the curtainwalls had to meet those requirements for 100 mph sustained winds,” Cornellier says. 

Hudson adds, “The specification for resistance to water infiltration was 12 psf on the project. The Accunit system has been laboratory- and field-tested numerous times to withstand water infiltration up to 15 psf and higher (15 psf is equivalent to a 76 mph wind), and the system has been structurally tested to loads equivalent to the high end of a category 4 hurricane.”

But the biggest challenge the curtainwall contractor faced was installing nearly 300,000 square feet of glass, doors and windows in 11 months time. 

“The schedule was a cruncher,” Cornellier says. And the pressure was all about getting done in time. “The fact that it came out in time was what mattered,” he says. 

But on April 4, 2008, the Gaylord National Resort hosted its first convention and welcoming guests to rave reviews. 

100 West Putnam
Stamford, Conn.

Skylights are a great way to add natural daylighting into a space, but the commercial skylight recently installed on the roof of an offsite trading facility at 100 West Putnam in Stamford, Conn., does more than just let in light—it knows when to keep it out too. The building owners requested that the replacement 30- by 85-foot double-pitch skylight incorporate electrochromic glazing.

“Not only did they take it to that point,” explains Tom Kozak, sales director for Acurlite Structural Skylights of Berwick, Pa., “they took it one step further and put photovoltaic (PV) panels in it.

The general contractor on the project contacted Acurlite about installing a product that had caught his eye. “The general contractor had seen this glass, sold the owner on it, then said ‘how do I accomplish this?’” Kozak recalls. 

Part of the appeal was the fact that the “switchable glazing” provided by Sage Electrochromic Inc. in Faribault, Minn., is able to reduce glare from the sun by darkening to the point of opaque during those hours when the sunlight is most direct. A little protection from the heat and glare was a much-desired upgrade for the building owner. 

What made the project unique for Sage was the incorporation of building integrated PV, a first for the company.

“PV puts out DC voltage and our electrochromic glass, SageGlass, accepts DC voltage,” Lou Podbelski, vice president of Sage. “Whatever the BIPV ‘sees’ in terms of energy from the sun is used to our power our SageGlass.” 

Modules provided by Suntech, based in the U.S. in San Francisco, create a 14 ½-inch high strip at the bottom edges of the skylight, hidden from interior view. 

It was a new type of technology that Acurlite faced on the jobsite in July 2008. Although the skylight manufacturer had never before worked with SageGlass, Kozak says, “For that kind of technology it was really simple to put in.” 

Installing 2,800 square feet of glass was no small job, but using the Sage product added a twist.

“Typically when you do a skylight you’re just taking a piece of glass [and setting it in],” Kozak explains. But with this project, “Each glass is individually wired so it can be individually controlled.”

According to Kozak, because this project called for a technology they weren’t used to—and a tight turnaround time to get the building back to usable—constant communication between Acurlite and Sage was essential. “I think the communication between the two companies and our experience made it really very easy and—very painless,” he says. 

Despite all obstacles thrown at the installers, the project was completed by September of 2008.

Megan Headley is editor of USGlass.

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