Volume 47, Issue 10 - October 2012

Architects Guide to Glass
A special section of USGlass magazine

Design with a Purpose
Glass for a New Massachusetts Hospital Meets Multiple Requirements
by Ellen Rogers

Bright and open may not be the first words that come to mind when thinking of facilities of the past designed to treat the mentally ill. However, the recently completed Department of Mental Health Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital in Worchester, Mass., was constructed with glazing elements that help achieve multiple purposes. The Cambridge, Mass.-based architectural firm Ellenzweig designed the 428,000-square-foot space to be not just safe and secure, but also with ample glass; the curtainwall and glazing elements were fabricated to provide both fire-rated and impact performance.

The Cheviot Corp. in Needham Heights, Mass., installed 2,111 square feet of fire-rated/detention glazing supplied by Vetrotech Saint-Gobain for the project. Total cost for the project, which was completed in April of this year, was $302 million. According to architects, the new hospital is the largest building project ever undertaken by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and was designed to achieve LEED Gold certification.

Getting Started
For a project such as this, not just any curtainwall system would do. As Ed Malley, project manager with Cheviot Corp., explains, “this is a state-of-the-art Department of Mental Health (DMH) facility.” His company qualified to be pre-approved by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for this project.

“The Cheviot Corp. bid for the glass and glazing scope of work, which included impact-resistant windows and curtainwall, as well as standard curtainwall, heavy-duty entrances, Sallyport entries, entry hardware, skylights, glass canopies and steel fire-rated curtainwall, and security screens.”

He says the vast majority of components on the project were aluminum curtainwall and windows.

“The architect was also looking for a steel fire-rated product that looked like an aluminum curtainwall,” says Malley.

“Cheviot sent out a request for quotes on the project, providing the elevations and plans, which included a requirement for fire-rated glass and detention glazing,” explains Art Byrd, inside sales manager with Vetrotech. “We, in conjunction with Cheviot, conducted the testing to meet the detention requirements.” He says the products they supplied were mostly custom created specifically for the requirements of this project.

According to Sean Ross, design and testing engineer with Vetrotech, the glazing was tested to ASTM E-119, Standard Test Methods for Fire Tests of Building Construction and Materials, which at the time was not yet published. The doors and sidelites underwent three impacts “and if there was an opening of the size that about a hand could go through that was a failure,” says Ross, noting that the glass they supplied was installed in both interior and exterior applications.

“We did two tests, one for doors at their facility and then we also did a mock-up of the curtainwall here in our facility,” says Ross.

Byrd explains that to meet ASTM E-119 the non-fire side of the frame system and the glazing can not reach an ambient temperature of greater than 450 degrees.

“The impact testing was to what the hospital had requested and does not carry an ASTM number,” says Byrd. “They accentually exceeded what is normally required for detention-type glazing.”

All exterior glazing incorporates insulating glass units, among other performance features.

“We require a low-E coating on the outboard lites as part of make up for our fire-rated glass,” says Byrd. “All of our glass is supplied by local vendors and for this project we used a mix of both Hartung and Northwestern Industries. In our facility we do the layup and fill the doors with the special fire-rated material and that’s unique to our industry; we are one of two companies that produce the fire-rated products here in the U.S.”

Byrd adds that his company also did all of the framing and assembly in its facility as well. The framing is designed and supplied by Forester, which is headquartered in Switzerland, then shipped to Vetrotech where it is assembled.

Working Together
Combining unique features such as fire-rating performance as well as detention glazing can result in a challenging job, particularly if those involved are not familiar with such products. On this project, however, Byrd says his company had worked with Cheviot in that past, which was helpful.

Malley adds, “All communication, submittals, samples, etc., went from our vendors to Cheviot, processed by the construction manager (Gilbane Building Co.), and onward to the architects. Once construction started, the architect had one to two men on site from start to finish of the three-year project.”

Ross adds that on such a massive, new construction project as this, it was not without challenges.

“The coordination of getting the mock-ups together properly and making sure we could produce properly was a challenge,” he says. “The impact requirements were also a challenge because certain manufacturing techniques had to be able to be made, and the hardware for example took time to coordinate, but once we had that it was easy to coordinate [production] through the plant to make sure we could produce and ship on time.”

Malley agrees that projects such as this one can offer unique challenges.

“The main difference is that Vetrotech’s system had to be modified to add a layer of protection against potential patient impact in this DMH facility,” says Malley. “The patient impact requirements were stringent.” He points out that the lab testing requirements for impact loads were the equivalent of 2,000 pounds per square foot, with the impact performed from interior of the unit (patient side). “This is a part of the criteria for a (New York DMH guideline specification) adapted by Massachusetts.” He adds that it was a challenge to meet the goal of patient safety, while at the same time providing aesthetics and long-life performance products.

Lessons Learned
On every project, regardless of how big or how small, there are always opportunities to learn. Everyone involved on this job agrees the project provided learning opportunities.

“The impact load requirements exceeded a lot of the smaller impact jobs we’d done in the past,” says Byrd. “It required … a lot of specialty parts that we can carry forward to projects in the future. We also learned a lot about coordination with the architect and the contract glazier in design phase.”

The new psychiatric hospital consolidates two existing mental health facilities, the Westborough State Hospital and the Worcester State Hospital, and serves as a secure, chronic care facility, with 260 adult beds and 60 adolescent beds.

Ellen Rogers is the editor of the Architects’ Guide to Glass & Metal magazine. She can be reached at erogers@glass.com or follow her on Twitter @AGGmagazine and like AGG magazine on Facebook to receive updates.

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