Volume 44, Issue 9 - September 2009


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 12 minutes.

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. 

Fast Facts
• 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 at night.”

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 the stadium.


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.”


Off-the-Field Team
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 magazine.

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