Volume 47, Issue 1 - January 2012


Dwelling on Glass at Home
From East to West, All-Glass Houses Remain the Best for Maximizing a View and Commanding Style
by Megan Headley

The versatility of glass within homes is becoming more prominent, as homeowners adopt glass (indoors and out). From the bathroom to the kitchen, glass products are helping to open up spaces, as bigger feature windows allow for a greater connection to the outdoors.

Glass Adds to Hudson River Views
For those lucky few who are able to design that dream house on a site selected for its extraordinary views, glass may seem an obvious cladding choice. And since it's a dream house after all, why not free up views of the fabulous interior furnishings with interior glass railings, frameless glass shower enclosures and lots of brilliant mirrors to reflect the light at every turn as well?

And for those lucky few glazing contractors that are able to work directly with the owner who specifies only the best of the best in his search for a fully transparent dream house, quality is key in materials and installation.

ATM Mirror & Glass in Buchanan, N.Y., had such an experience working on a residence situated directly on the Hudson River in Hyde Park, N.Y. The company worked on the project from the early stages until the owner was ready to move in.

Yes, the house features curtainwall, custom bent walls, glass railings around the exterior perimeter and throughout the interior. But in the house, the wow factor is in the details. Take the bathrooms, for example.

A 3,500-pound hand-carved bathtub had to be installed prior to closing in the room. "We call them WT units," explains Jim Count, president of ATM Mirror & Glass, in explaining the frameless bump-out units that make up the home. "They're all bumped out from the house and the bathtub fits in one of these in the master bath. It's all 13/16 laminated glass, all butt-jointed together so you see nothing. There's no metal. It's beautiful."

And then there's the powder room. "The whole powder room is bumped out so when you're out there all you see is the Hudson River," Count says. "It's almost like you're standing outside. It's an amazing house."

Letting Nature Shine
According to Lee Ledbetter & Associates in New Orleans, which worked early on as the project architect, the Ledgerock Residence was "conceived as a series of pavilions connected to a central spine whose geometries may at first seem random; however, both the spine and the pavilions follow the topography to occupy the highest elevation between two small caves that flank a rock outcropping. The house is clad in cast stone, and the roofs of each pavilion undulate in naturalistic wraps and curves that create dramatic interior spaces while referencing the rugged topography as well as the movement of the river."

Arriving visitors first meet a roughly 5,000-square-foot guest house that mimics the glass appearance of the 20,000-square-foot main residence.

"At the end of the drive, the entry façade can be understood as a planar backdrop to the naturalistic setting," writes the architect. "Clean stone walls and clerestory windows create a preview to what can only be appreciated upon entering the house-the panoramic views of the Hudson River and the Catskills through the mostly glass river façades."

"The job took about 19 months to do," Count recalls. It's easy to understand why as he describes the company's scope, from fabrication of interior glass works to a wide range of installation projects.

From the River to the Pool
The exterior of the project featured custom-fabricated curtainwall supplied by Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope.

"Everything was custom fabricated onsite," Count says. The clerestory windows on the upper roof line of the house were all custom bent by custom steel fabricators Newburgh Steel Products in Newburgh, N.Y., based on templates provided by ATM Mirror & Glass. Tempered low-E glass was used throughout for energy performance. J.E. Berkowitz in Pedricktown, N.J., fabricated the oversize insulating glass units in various curtainwall locations throughout the home, measuring 105 by 135 inches, and the 13/16-inch laminated glass used in the frameless bump-out units.

Trickier still was installation of the glass units, some of which weighed up to 1,800 pounds. Weight was only part of the problem-access to the riverfront property was another. Enter the crane.

"The whole back side was very challenging," Count says. "We had a 50-ton crane up there hoisting glass."

As he explains, "The glass came from the front of the house, over the house and then set into place There's no handling the glass because of the enormous sizes of the glass."

ATM also glazed the nine Weiland lift slide glass doors supplied by Weiland Sliding Doors and Windows in Oceanside, Calif. "It is a unique system that they have," Count says. "They work beautifully. I mean, they slide like butter."

A segmented glass railing flows along two sides of the house, framing a patio. ATM also fabricated and installed sunscreen over each balcony.

It wasn't enough to have unhindered views from the house. The homeowner also wanted his river views visible from within the swimming pool.

"The whole swimming pool is almost level [with the river]," Count says. Installers sunk the glass railing's shoe right into the concrete surrounding the pool, "so it looks like the glass is coming straight out through the concrete." Count adds, "I don't think [replacement] would be that tricky. He's got all stone out there so it would mean pulling up a few stones, maybe chiseling out the cement and then replacing the piece of glass."

Custom swing gates around the enclosure feature Italian hardware throughout.

Once the curtainwall was closed in, ATM's workers were brought inside. The glazing contractor fabricated the interior scope-including glass railings along the staircases, frameless shower doors, custom medicine cabinets and mirror work-for the project as well as doing installation. The exception is the ½-inch-thick curved tempered glass wall that spans two floors of the home.

"The wall itself is 24 feet long, 16 feet high (split into 4 panels) spanning two floors of the home. It was installed using standoffs, custom made by Los Angeles-based C.R. Laurence, installed directly into the structural steel." The greatest challenge, Count explains, was that the radius of the curve was not consistent, changing throughout the span. "With this being installed via standoffs combined with an inconsistent radius made for a challenging installation. Never mind the weight of the panels themselves! As many glass professionals know; being the finish person can pose a certain degree of difficulty " he adds.

Hand in Hand
The use of glass throughout this unique home meant that the glass fabricator-installer was on call for 19 months on this project, overseeing complex products and difficult installations.

"There was a whole lot going on up there, plus we were running our whole fabricating place, plus doing other installs down here. So there was a lot to do," Count says.

"If I was up there it was in the early morning and then back down to our shop running these crews down here, and also communicating with them throughout the day up on that site. And when there was any specialty work, like when we had the 50-ton crane there, of course I had to be onsite because this was dangerous. This was glass that weighs 1,800 pounds apiece and they need to be set very, very delicately. So there was a lot going on all the time."

Because glass use was so intrinsic to the project, ATM Mirror & Glass was involved in nearly every step of construction.

"We followed the project from the very beginning on the structural steel all the way through to the end, until actually the owner was moving in," Count says.

As the project went on, the project architect grew less involved, Count says, meaning the contract glazier dealt primarily with the home's owner. He says there were daily questions from the owner, keeping him closely involved. "It was nonstop, constantly, every day," Count says. But the questions worked both ways.

"It was a great project to work on," he says. "The owner was very understanding to just about anything that needed to be done. If we thought it would be better this way or look better this way or perform better that way then he was definitely for it."

Although the house provided its share of challenges, the experience proved a positive one for Count. "Working with the homeowner was really great of course he was very excited and anxious as well to get into the home," Count says. "If we [had been] working with a builder or a developer, I don't think we would have gotten to do some of the things that we were able to do in this house. Bringing it straight to the owner, the source who was paying for it, we were able to do some unique things to this house."

Speaking for Itself
Among the more typical sales, ATM Mirror & Glass continues to keep busy with work on the occasional all-glass house.

"We do a lot of glass houses," he says. "We're finishing one up right now It was all single-glazed, which we converted to all insulating glass. We stay busy with it.

"People just seek me out for that kind of thing," he continues. "We've done quite a few and I guess people who have these situations, they look for [us]. And then of course we get recommendations and such."

Touring the finished Ledgerock home might inspire some of those calls for help on similar such projects. "The pictures don't even do it justice," Count says. "If you could walk through the house-it's really amazing."

Glass Adds Modern Vibe
Architect Guy Dreier designed this Bonsall, Calif., home with custom fabricated glass throughout, to create clean, modern lines. "The expansive use of glass was desirable not only to capture the amazing views but also as a unique architectural element," says Justin Mayall of Justin Mayall Installations (JMI) in Oceanside, Calif., the glazing contractor.

JMI worked directly with the architect "to make their vision a reality," Mayall says, offering input on the glass makeup and frame design.

The end result: a range of glass components seamlessly merge from exterior to interior and from room to room, demonstrating that glass can be at home in any room.

At first glance, the most dramatic use of glass in the residence is the large-scale lites in the windows and curved exterior railings, which open the home to natural sunlight and grand views.

The project features Pilkington's EverGreen Eclipse low-E glass over clear, in sizes up to 120 inches.

Mayall notes among the project's challenges was choosing a product that didn't have a reflective quality, per the architect's request, and trying to get the R-value up. He adds that such challenges are "pretty typical of a custom home."

Once inside the home, a pathway of unique glass continues, most literally in the glass floors and illuminated stair treads. The stairs feature custom colors and textures. GlasPro in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., fabricated the staircases with various unique interlayers, including textural options from its textile and line and another with high-resolution graphic interlayers.

"The glass for the stairs was a low-iron laminated, tempered over white with silver strand, which was a decorative details as well as a key design element," Mayall explains of the first. On the latter, he says, "We used light tape, which is a phosphorous tape hit it with a low voltage charge and it glows," he says.

Glass makes a splash in other rooms as well. Glass lined shower systems with matching shaped transoms are unique to each bathroom.

Although the frameless shower featured no major hardware, it did have one rather unique addition: "Half of the shower was inside the fireplace," Mayall says. "I was really concerned about thermal breakage. So what I did was I used square standoffs that were about 3 inches long, and I put a piece of glass [on either side]. I kind of made an insulating glass unit, but I did it with standoffs. That way the heat would hit that [outer] piece of glass prior to going to the next piece of glass."

Beyond the bathroom, ¾-inch cut glass countertops were used to complete the kitchen and the recreation room.

Joe Green, the owner of GlasPro, points out that glass has found new life in nearly every room of today's house.
"Bathrooms are still going to be the main focus but, let's face it, it's starting to creep into other areas as well, being used more
as surfaces as opposed to just vertical walls," Green says.

Megan Headley is the editor of USGlass. She can be reached at mheadley@glass.com or follow her on Twitter @USGlass.

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