Collaboration at the Bell Museum of Natural History

Posted on April 25, 2017, by

Construction on the new Bell Museum of Natural History facility is well underway. All of the external bird-friendly glass curtainwall has been set. A dot pattern within the low e glass helps to deter birds from flying into it and the expansive curtainwall offers natural daylighting throughout the facility.

If you could sum up the Bell Museum project in one word, “collaboration” would be it. Collaboration between people through design-development to glazing installation, and collaboration through Virtual Design Construction and 3D modeling to deliver innovative solutions for constructability.

Empirehouse is proud to be the Architectural Glass & Metal Contractor for the U of M Bell Museum of Natural History working with McGough Construction and reviewing plans with Perkins + Will Architects to collaborate early in the design phase and provide design assist for enclosure constructability.

Collaborating Design Intent with Design Assist for Constructability

Empirehouse was engaged by McGough Construction as one of a select group of architectural glass and metal contractors to offer at the 50% design-development phase. Utilizing our collaborative delivery method, Empirehouse connected with the McGough team in conversation to interpret the design intent and create efficiencies in constructability of the complex exterior glazing systems.

Early pre-construction engineering and thermal modeling helped the team to identify and implement the appropriate materials for complex conditions such as the “fly-by” extended jamb and parapet bypass conditions while maintaining the desired thermal efficiencies and aesthetic continuity.

Throughout the collaboration process, many product enhancement requests were reviewed for the exterior cladding scope, such as: “bird-friendly” glass options, photovoltaic infill panels at exterior glass railing systems, custom component skylight systems, and dynamic glass infill systems. While not all of these components were ultimately represented in this project, the collaborative relationship between McGough Construction, Perkins + Will Architects, and Empirehouse provided a solid foundation for integration of the appropriate combination of functionality and aesthetic.

Collaborating through 3D Modeling, Design Assist to Glazing Installation

As being a Certified Women-Owned Business Enterprise, Empirehouse helped to achieve the minority requirements for the project. Our collaborative working relationship with McGough Construction on other recent projects like TPT Twin Cities PBS and the YMCA Midway, along with several University of Minnesota projects, and our experience working in a collaborative Virtual Design Construction (VDC) environment using 3D modeling are also factors which led to being awarded the contract.

Not only does the VDC 3D model provide Regents of the University of Minnesota a virtual walk-through experience before construction begins, but other project partners, such as the General Contractor, Glass and Metal Contractor, Mechanical and Electrical Engineers, and other trades are able to add system design details into the Architect’s 3D model for constructability.

Collaboration on this project has worked well between Empirehouse and the General Contractor, Architect, and trades on site. The use of VDC and 3D modeling has added another level of collaboration with many benefits including improved communication and documentation, time efficiency, cost savings, clash detection, and trouble-shooting.

Video: 3D Modeling of the Glass and Glazing Scope

Green Roof Vestibule and Curtainwall Corner Transitions:
VDC Collaboration in Design Assist

Virtual Design Construction and 3D modeling were especially helpful when it came to detailing the green roof vestibule which was added later in the project, as well as for addressing curtainwall corner transitions. The 3D model identified the design intent where Empirehouse collaborated with the Architect and General Contractor to provide design assist for glass and metal constructability in alignment with conjoining sections of the building.

Where the exterior vestibule flat-lock galvalume metal wall panels transition into our curtainwall system, Empirehouse collaborated with the General Contractor and other trades to create a covered entry from the green roof to ensure that the addition was secure and waterproof.

Through this collaboration and the RFI process, the green roof vestibule details were approved.

Another area where the 3D modeling was useful, was in curtainwall corner transition designs at the southwest main entrance. The bottom curtainwall façade glass lites transitioned to an outside corner while the third top glass lites ran-through to create a soffit above the entrance. With the help of 3D modeling, the shop mocked up this transition to work out the kinks for easier installation in the field.

Installing glass by hand

Collaboration: VDC Design Assist through Glazing Installation

The Glazing Team made up of Foreman Dan Weis, Glaziers Troy Cagle, Bill Hueman, Gary Salma, and Apprentice Andy Henricks noticed that there wasn’t a place on the roof for safety tie offs. They quickly brainstormed an innovative way to install the large glass units and 1,100 pound frames safely by erecting a scaffolding system for tie offs and chain fall system to secure the heavy frames.

“Each member of the Glazing team had a specific role that they were very efficient at and they worked really well together,” said Foreman Dan Weis.

The Field Installation Team also collaborated with the General Contractor at the project’s onset to develop a pull plan to foresee issues and plan all of the trade schedules. This meant working from back to front from project completion to project start in order to trouble shoot issues before they happened.

In addition, a six-week and one-week look-ahead plan was made to iron out any wrinkles which included material placement on-site for sequencing and installation efficiency. One example was efficient sequencing of the largest curtainwall steel frames which were set in two-and-a-half-days as compared to three weeks without a proactive sequencing process.

In addition to the collaboration between the General Contractor and Architect, there was much collaboration between departments within Empirehouse: Drafting, Project Management, Project Assistants, Fabrication, Field Superintendents, and the Lead Glazing Foreman. “Everyone brainstormed together as a team in how to tackle the project to flow seamlessly and accommodate the schedule,” said Dan Weiss.

The Field Installation Team is now setting interior glass railings, diorama glass walls, a glass skylight, and glass entrances. The new U of M Bell Museum of Natural History plans to open in the Summer of 2018.

Owner: Regents of the University of Minnesota
Contractor: McGough Construction
Architect: Perkins + Will
Architectural Glass & Metal Contractor: Empirehouse

For your next project, trust a Certified NACC Glazing Contractor for quality results. Call Empirehouse at 763-535-1150 or contact us.