aluminum curtainwall system with custom flyby conditions

“Open Doors Open Futures” is a Westminster Presbyterian Church campaign which features a 40,000 square foot expansion. This new modern, light-filled space connects to the Church’s 1895 Romanesque architecture and will provide a space for the community to enjoy for the next 150 years.

Empirehouse teamed with Mortenson Construction and James Dayton Design as the architectural glass and metal contractor for the Westminster Presbyterian Church expansion project and engaged in design-assist services to bring the architect’s design intent to life.

Completed skylight interiorThere are many unique glass features that make up the Westminster Presbyterian Church expansion project, such as a 30-foot wide by seven-foot-high domed skylight, an over-sized sliding glass door systems, a folding glass wall system for sound control, and a structurally glazed point-supported system with heavy tempered glass fins and glass units treated with a dichroic film application to simulate modern stained glass, and a total glass area of approximately 11,000 square feet. These specialized glass features involved a collaborative effort between many members from Empirehouse project management, fabrication, and field installation team who pooled their thoughts to develop a comprehensive installation plan and keep the project running on schedule.

Key roles

Completed dichroic structurally glazed point supported system and curtainwallThe Empirehouse team was comprised of many roles working together to accomplish this project: project manager, project assistant, drafter/3D modeler, general superintendent, director of fabrication, project superintendent, safety and quality manager and glazing foreman.

Aluminum storefront entranceProject Manager drove the schedule and budget. The Project Assistant helped with submittal logs, tracked submittals, created cutting lists, checked glass orders, kept files up-to-date and accessible to team members. The Drafter/Modeler created the first submittal shop drawing/model and updated the drawings as needed based on reviews/comments from the Project Manager, Architect and Engineer. The Director of Fabrication efficiently facilitated the fabrication process. The General Superintendent managed Empirehouse field labor. The Superintendent provided daily man power and equipment needs on site for the project, attended weekly foreman meetings, coordinated site logistics, material delivery acceptance, and on site material staging. The Safety and Quality Manager provided safety protocol for the field installation team and reviewed the quality of field work completed. The Glazing Foreman planned and directed the glazing and field installation team through daily activities.

Schedule management

Empirehouse identified the client’s needs and worked lead times backwards to ensure timely release of material in order to meet the demands of the schedule.  3D modeling was used for clash detection to confirm layouts and dimensions that were used for fabrication to release long-lead framing and glass ahead of field verification.

A safe work environment

The Empirehouse safety program included formal daily organized stretching exercise activities to prevent unnecessary injuries on the site. We also required all team members to wear their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which was checked daily for wear. Regular on-site monthly audits by the Empirehouse Safety & Quality Manager were also performed. Empirehouse also prepared daily task plans and material layout analysis to ensure that each specific team was properly equipped and wore the correct equipment suited for the location on the site and the specific job task for that day.

In addition to the Empirehouse safety program, the most unique safety considerations were accessing different elevations in tight controlled areas. This meant that a combination of safety equipment had to be used in addition to specialized training.

Hand installing 9000 lbs of glass four stories above ground

Glazing the skylight dome provided a challenge as the frame hung four stories above ground. In the past, glaziers would glaze the domes by walking on the glass set from the bottom to install the next piece without being tied off.  Today’s safety standard require fall protection tied to a 5,000 lb. per person anchor point.  The Glazing Foreman, Safety & Quality Manager, and Field Superintendent submitted a task specific safety plan to Mortenson.  This included using vertical lifelines around the center oculus and anchoring them through wedge anchors in the concrete curb. The Westminster job site is situated in downtown Minneapolis. Coordination between Empirehouse, Mortenson, and the city was a must to ensure jobsite and public safety.  In addition, reaching areas with JLG lifts, working on rooftops, and the installation of the structurally glazed point-supported system took additional coordination with the installers and other trades working in the area.

Dichroic glass installationThe large glass units had to be meticulously loaded, transported, unloaded, and craned into the perspective opening without applying too much pressure on the dichroic applied film. New gloves were worn daily by installation crew and dust control had to be at a minimum.  Lifts and ladders were used safely to produce a completed product as well as providing a safe environment for the workers.

Project challenges
Westminster Skylight Frame by Beau KnockOne of the unique glass, metal and glazing elements of the project consisted of a 30-foot wide by seven-foot tall custom dome skylight which was to be tower craned above the opening of a four-level central staircase. Assembly access of the metal frame and glass installation posed a challenge. The solution was to provide a steel lift ring where the skylight metal framing was assembled.

Once the 4,500-lb. metal framing was erected, it was tower craned over the fourth floor opening. Then a safety rigging was engineered for the glazing team of four to hand install 9,000 lbs. of glass units into the skylight over the fourth floor opening.

Applying dichroic filmAnother challenging aspect of the project was a structurally glazed point-supported system with a surface-applied dichroic film. Large glass units, as large as 44” x 136,” were point supported with spider fittings which meant that the glass needed to be filmed in our production facility and safely transported to the jobsite where they were craned and glazed into place.

Before the dichroic film was applied, Empirehouse worked with Mortenson Construction and James Dayton Design to determine the best film placement in order to showcase the full dichroic color pallet as the sun shifts across the room throughout the day. Once film placement was determined, dichroic film was applied to each 4 x 11 foot 350-pound glass unit in the production facility before they were transported to the job site for installation. Dichroic film was applied to glass fins after the units were installed on site. A quality-control check list was established to ensure that each glass unit maintained quality standards throughout this unique application and installation process.

Dichroic film on stackwall by Jake ReiningIn addition to the dichroic film application, the structurally glazed point-supported system went through extensive design assistance for constructability. Empirehouse engaged in scope and constructability review, aesthetic selection and product integration, structural engineering and detail development, Revit modeling design and VDC integration, computer-simulated thermal modeling, logistics review, cost estimating, and value alignment, pre-engineering, and value engineering to determine an effective anchoring of the system.

Empirehouse provided design assistance to determine the fin dimensions, whether the fins would be visible or recessed, whether the system would be base loaded or top loaded, address the live load in the roofing, and develop a structural steel mechanism to anchor the structurally glazed point-supported system and accommodate roof deflection upon the arrival of snowy winter months.

600 lbs lites installed into the aluminum curtainwall systemIn addition, the curtainwall system had a fly by at the ends with no structural support behind it or at the head. Through engineering and design-assist innovation, steel was utilized within the system to accommodate the load transfer and secure the glass and framing at these locations.

Owner: Westminster Presbyterian Church
General Contractor: Mortenson Construction
Architect: James Dayton Design
Glazing Contractor: Empirehouse, Inc.
Total Glass Area: Approx. 11,000 square feet

For your next project, trust a Certified NACC Architectural Glass and Metal Contractor for quality results. Contact Empirehouse at 763-535-1150 or contact us.

Photo gallery: (Click to enlarge)

Empirehouse is an NACC Certified Glazing ContractorEmpirehouse is a certified NACC Architectural Glass & Metal Contractor for demonstrating consistency, quality and safety excellence. Empirehouse has met the NACC program requirements which have been established by a Certification Board of AG&M contractors, industry experts, and end user stakeholders and formally accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to the globally-recognized ISO/IEC17065:2012 standard.


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