Volume 44, Issue 2 - February 2009


Glazing Contractors Share the Ins and Outs of Their Latest Projects
by Megan Headley and Ellen Rogers

Quick … think fast … you’re in New York and you want to see a Broadway show tonight. Where can you go for same-day tickets at a discount price? Why, the TKTS booth (part of Father Duffy Square) in Times Square, of course. And now, thanks to glass craftsmanship, the TKTS booth itself is quite a tourist attraction. While the new booth opened just last October, the project has actually been in the making since 1999 when Choi Ropiha, an Australian architectural firm, won a design competition for the renovation project; the project itself is owned by the Times Square Alliance, Theatre Development Fund and the Coalition for Father Duffy. 

According to Radhi Majmudar, a principal and vice president of structural engineering firm Dewhurst Macfarlane, the TKTS booth is one-of-a-kind.

“To my knowledge, the TKTS booth is the first all-glass structure in the world, having glass beams, glass walls, glass stair treads, a cantilevered glass canopy and glass balustrades. All of the glass is structural and self-supporting and the steel beams that are in the design are redundancy beams that serve to hold the structure up in the event of a major failure,” Majmudar says. “Given its location and innovative characteristics, it will stand out boldly in the middle of Times Square. We’ve never really done a structure as large as this, all in glass, without load bearing metal to support.”

“This is a true glass building—the windows are holding up the roof,” says Michael Ludvik, also with Dewhurst Macfarlane, “A true glass building is the holy grail for we glass engineers. If you stand on top of this thing, every bit of your weight is carried through to the ground with glass.”

Probably the most significant feature of the $19 million structure is the red glass staircase that encases the booth. The amphitheatre-style staircase is 27 steps high and offers seating room for more than 500 people. Austria’s ECKELT Glass, a subsidiary of Saint Gobain, fabricated the slip-resistant glass steps. The steps are lit from below with LED technology. 

“The technical complexity and sizes of the units precluded many conventional glass suppliers. We met with the architects, engineers and contractors early on to ensure that the design could be manufactured to comply with our internal production requirements, as well as the specification and New York codes,” says Roger Watson, vice president of sales and marketing for Saint-Gobain Glass Exprover North America in Scottsdale, Ariz. 

Watson explained that much of the individual glass fabrication was relatively straightforward, but some of the units (such as the large, quadruple-laminated panels with large holes and the SentryGlasPlus interlayer) had never been made anywhere before. 

“Manufacturing trials, testing and technical interaction between the different processing departments, as well as the design team, was critical. Early involvement with the hands-on personnel was critical to establish maximum capabilities, tolerances and details,” Watson says. “The structural beams that support the stair treads are almost 60 feet long and were made as a composite beam (glass and metal plates) stitched together with bolts. These beams were also saw-tooth shaped to accommodate the treads.”

In addition, a geothermal system of five wells located 450 feet below Times Square delivers a solution of chilled or heated water/glycol to radiant panels. The radiant panels regulate the temperature inside the glass shell, preventing it from getting too hot in the summer or warming the surface to melt ice in the winter. 

“The simple elegance of the design belies the extreme complexity of the structural solution,” says Nick Leahy, AIA, a principal of Perkins Eastman, the project’s architect. “This was only possible through a concentrated, collaborative effort using cutting-edge glass technology and working with the world’s leading industry experts.”

So, bringing this all-glass creation to life required the talents and skills of a top-notch installation crew. That responsibility went to David Shuldiner Inc., a 120-year-old glazing contractor based in Brooklyn, N.Y. Michael Stellato, a senior project manager, points out that his company was not the original contract glazier selected for the job.

“That winning design concept went through the bid process [we bid the work], but Harans Glass Co. of Scotland was the original winning contract glazier. They got started on the job and they ended up going out of business after the structure had been started,” says Stellato. “So the general contractor went over to the United Kingdom and contracted privately with some of the Harans engineers in order to keep the project going, but he also needed someone who was already familiar with the job to [do and manage the installation] and that’s when it became our project.”

With glass coming to New York from Austria, the project was not without its coordination challenges.

“We originally thought the work would take six months, but it ended up being around 14 months,” says Stellato, who adds, “Thank goodness for the electronic media we have today. Since the glass was being fabricated in Austria we were able to send files, drawings, etc. digitally.”

However, there were also visits back and forth.

“And, while glass typically comes in on a boat, there were times when the owners had to put the glass on a plane to get it all here in time,” Stellato says.

When the time came for the actual installation, attention to detail was absolutely critical. 

“Working on a structural project such as this is like building a house of cards; as you’re building it, only pieces are up at a time and they have to remain there as you add the next piece and the next. And, it has to stay structurally supported during the installation,” says Stellato. “So all of the logistics had to be thought out in order to assemble it safely piece by piece.”

Since some of the glass panels weighed 3,000 pounds, there were very precise tolerances.

“Accurate installation controlled the issues that could occur later on so you had to pay attention to detail from the first piece to the last,” Stellato says.

Yet Watson says that strong relationships between all groups on the job really made for a successful finish.

“The manufacturing of the glass was coordinated with a good team of employees with constant interaction with the job-site personnel. Technical ability at the factory with a good understanding of client requirements and attention to processing details was critical,” says Watson. “Although there is a time difference and the Atlantic between, commitment to the project was 100 percent. Successful client relationships built over time instilled confidence in ability and performance.”

Stellato agrees.

“This was an effort between everyone involved. We all realized we needed each other and we had to have that input and respect from each other … it could be challenging at times when the owners were concerned about [sticking to the] budget and the schedule … but we all made the commitment to see this all the way through,” says Stellato.

Turquoise Place, Orange Beach, Ala.

Doyle Bryan, contract manager of Glass Inc. headquartered in Meridian, Miss., spent more than a year leading one puzzle of an installation—literally. 

“There was not a single straight line on the entire project; everything was a segmented or radiused system,” Bryan says of the glass in the Turquoise Place condominiums in Orange Beach, Ala.

The building features a 24-story-tall, 75-foot wide, all-glass feature wall on the north side. In addition, two elevator rotundas measured about 35 to 40 feet wide and more than 300 feet tall. 

Yates Construction was the general contractor that brought Glass Inc. to work on the project designed by Forrest Daniell & Associates. Oldcastle was chosen to supply glass systems that included 1-inch Versalux insulating glass units and green 2000T tempered glass. The vision lites and spandrel lites included common sizes measuring 46 by 94 and 46 by 23 inches, but there were countless pattern pieces as well. The package was put together using EFCO’s 5800 EWall curtainwall system. 

“It’s an exterior glaze system,” Bryan says, explaining that the EFCO E-wall curtainwall is a silicone gasket-glazed system. 

According to Dave Hewitt, director of marketing for Monett, Mo.-based EFCO, that means that the curtainwall offers plenty of thermal efficiency. 

“When you have a typical pressure wall you have a thermal isolator that would be penetrated by a bolt that would connect the pressure plate to retain the glass into the frame,” explains Hewitt. “In this case you have a structural silicone gasket that’s on both sides of the glass that basically isolates the glass from the frame—so it’s got some of the best thermal values in the industry.” 

Hewitt adds that the system also is designed for impact resistance, primarily as protection from hurricanes. And alongside these performance benefits is one advantage thrown in for the design-conscious owner and architect. 

“One of the advantages of that silicone gasket curtainwall system is the gasket was custom-made for a custom color to match the glass. … it blends beautifully,” he says.

As is often the case, the architect and owner turned out to be open to negotiation on the system installed. Yet the supplier ultimately had the last say. 

“We had done three previous towers at the Cree Resort with the owner with E5600 walls,” Bryan says. But EFCO representatives helped direct the owner to the 5800 E Wall to meet their requirements. 

Everything was assembled on site—so the installers had to keep a close eye on which uniquely shaped piece went where, with help from the fabricator. 

“Because it was segmented you had to make sure everything was lined up just right. It was not a simple, flat wall,” says Hewitt. “On the shop drawings you want to make sure it’s marked by elevation and packaged by elevation so these guys can have the right parts and pieces at the section of the building where it saves them time.”

According to Bryan, “We devised a pretty efficient system. We were able to stock the materials by floor in trailers and then when the full floors became available we would transport it from the trailers to each floor and stock out each floor; we’d stock it by the unit itself.” 

To keep the installation running smoothly, Bryan says he found that it was key to “really just stay with the engineering department with Yates.” 

When it came time to span the massive feature wall, Glass Inc. brought in some special tools. 

“We used mass climbers … all the way across the face of the wall,” Bryan says. He adds, “Everything else was pretty standard straightforward.” 

The curtainwall choice helped ease the installation a bit, according to Hewitt. “The thing that makes it a little bit easier you basically engage a gasket into the aluminum so you don’t have to bolt pressure plates on and then snap on covers.”

All told, the project took about 14 months to complete, from the end of 2006 to the beginning of 2008.

Now, a project with so many segments to piece together might drive some project managers mad. “… When I say every single piece was segmented-radiused, it was every single piece, I’m talking from the first stick to the last stick,” Bryan recalls. “On the South side it was inverted and out-verted—it goes both ways—and then on the North side the feature wall did the exact same thing.” 

But would he take on another puzzle like this one? Bryan’s quick to answer, “Without a doubt.”

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