U of M Bell Monumental Span Curtainwall

U of M Bell Museum of Natural History monumental span curtainwall, structural glazed curtainwall, and skylight.

The new U of M Bell Museum of Natural History features complex glass and glazing systems as four-sided structural glazed, dual cantilever box curtainwall and monumental span curtainwall systems with a total glass area of approximately 16,000 square feet. The expansive curtainwall systems surrounding the facility offer natural daylighting and were glazed with bird-friendly low-e insulated glass to help birds avoid unexpected collisions.

Collaboration and design assist using virtual design construction

McGough Construction, Perkins + Will Architects, and Empirehouse Architectural Glass & Metal Contractor began collaborating early in the design-development phase of the U of M Bell Museum of Natural History project through Virtual Design Construction (VDC), 3D modeling, early pre-construction engineering, and thermal modeling. This collaboration and technology helped deliver constructability and thermal efficiencies to the complex exterior glazing systems, such as identifying and implementing the most effective materials for complex “fly-by” extended jamb and parapet bypass conditions while maintaining aesthetic continuity. Technology also addressed curtainwall corner transitions, systems integration and alignment with conjoining sections of the building, and detailing of the green roof vestibule which was added later in the project.

Bird friendly glass

Bird-friendly low-e insulated glass will help birds avoid unexpected collisions.


U of M Bell Curtainwall

On of two U of M Bell Museum of Natural History four-sided structural glazed, dual-cantilever box curtainwalls.

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, a mock up of this transition was created to work out the kinks for easier field installation.

U of M Bell Monumental Span Curtainwall and Glass Railing

U of M Bell Museum of Natural History several curtainwall systems including a monumental span curtainwall and glass railing.

Bell Museum of Natural History

U of M Bell Museum of Natural History four-sided structural glazed curtainwall, skylight, and thermal aluminum entrance doors.

Virtual design construction improves communication

The use of VDC and 3D modeling between Empirehouse and the General Contractor, Architect, and trades on site improved communication and documentation, time efficiency, cost savings, clash detection, and trouble-shooting, as well as provide Regents of the University of Minnesota a virtual walk-through experience before construction began.

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.

“Everyone brainstormed together as a team in how to tackle the project to flow seamlessly and accommodate the schedule,” said Empirehouse Lead Glazing Foreman Dan Weiss.

Glass and Glazing Scope:

  • Four-sided structural glazed, dual-cantilever box aluminum curtainwall systems
  • Monumental span curtainwall aluminum curtainwall systems
  • Balanced glass doors
  • Aluminum thermal entrance doors
  • Exterior glass railings
  • Vestibule and glass entrance
  • Interior railings
  • Interior diorama glass displays
  • Skylight

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 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.

Video: 3D Modeling of the Glass and Glazing Scope

The new U of M Bell Museum of Natural History plans to open in the Summer of 2018.

U of M Bell Museum of Natural History
Regents of the University of Minnesota
Contractor: McGough Construction
Architect: Perkins + Will
Architectural Glass & Metal Contractor: Empirehouse

Let the Empirehouse design-assist and constructability experts identify and solve your architectural glass and metal system issues before your next construction project begins. Call Empirehouse at (763) 535-1150 or contact us.

U of M Bell Museum of Natural History Photo Gallery: (Click to enlarge)

Installing a Skylight

Glazing Foreman Dan Weis directs the crane as it flies the skylight glass at the U of M Bell Museum of Natural History.