When designing custom glazing systems, meeting the architectural design intent and overall vision is the most critical facet of the project. However, site logistics and installation methods must be considered, often as early as the bid stage, to determine design trade-offs and how they impact the project budget.
When these costs are not well documented, they can become a source of disagreement further into the project regarding who is responsible for specific charges. It is critical that the design team understand the site conditions and installer limitations, and prioritize them against the parameters of the original design.
Site specific challenges posed by factors such as surrounding conditions, site logistics, material sizes, and even installation methods can vary greatly. The most efficient way to avoid these issues from arising once the project has begun is to engage in clear, up front communication between the design team and installer. Information such as glass panel weight, steel size and length, and even fabrication assumptions should be discussed in the design phase so that a strategically coordinated installation plan can be created. For instance, limited site access and equipment availability may be an argument for limiting material weights, sizes and fabrication methods.
Design Assistance Project Examples:
Edward M. Kennedy Institute
Bellwether’s structural glass wall at the EMK Institute in Boston includes glass lites that are 11’6” tall x 3’ wide. Designed to meet 105 mph wind speeds with minimal, two-sided structural support, the insulated glass units are 2-5/8” thick, and 24 lbs. per square foot. This yields a glass unit weight of 828 lbs. The final dimensions of the lite sizes was partially determined by a strategy to keep each lite below 1,000 lbs., based on the type of equipment needed to set the lites initially, and for potential re-installation after finished walkways were installed. Various design studies were undertaken during the shop drawing phase in order to fine tune the appropriate bay widths with these weight parameters.
Glass Conservatory – Private Residence
Bellwether recently completed an exterior glass conservatory project at a private residence that had very limited access to the install area. In addition to the limited access, the structure had to be designed so that it could be disassembled as needed in the future. A modular steel frame was designed with low profile connections to provide for easy assembly, without compromising the architectural design intent. Additionally, the installer was able to easily transport materials down a narrow walkway and maneuver them into place by hand.