The Westminster Presbyterian Church project features a 40,000-square-foot expansion which includes a total glass area of approx. 11,000 square feet. This new light-filled space connects to the Church’s 1895 Romanesque architecture and provides a modern space for the community to enjoy.
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.
There are many unique glass features that make up the Westminster Presbyterian Church expansion project, such as 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, 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 curtainwall with custom fly-by conditions.
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.
Thirty-foot-wide domed skylight
One of the unique 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.
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 requires 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 glazing team of four safely hand installed 9,000 lbs. of glass units into the skylight placed over the fourth floor opening.
Video: Empirehouse Skylight Frame & Glass Installation at Westminster
Dichroic-filmed structurally glazed point-supported system
Another challenging aspect of the project was installing a structurally glazed point-supported system with a surface-applied dichroic film. Large glass units, as large as 44” x 136,” were filmed at our production facility and carefully loaded, transported, unloaded, craned, and glazed into the perspective opening without applying too much pressure on the dichroic film.
Before the dichroic film was applied, Empirehouse worked with Mortenson Construction and James Dayton Design to determine the best film placement to showcase its full color pallet as the sun moves across the sky.
Design assist for constructability
In addition to the dichroic-film application, the structurally glazed point-supported system went through extensive design assist for constructability. Empirehouse provided design assist to: determine the glass 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.
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 way to anchor the system.
Another unique glass and metal feature was a curtainwall system with a fly-by condition 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.
The 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.
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 Westminster job site is situated in downtown Minneapolis. Safety coordination between Empirehouse, Mortenson, and the city ensured jobsite and public safety. The most unique safety consideration was accessing different elevations in tightly controlled areas. This meant that a combination of safety equipment had to be used in addition to specialized training. Reaching areas with boom lifts, working on rooftops, and the installation of the structurally glazed point-supported system took additional safety coordination with the installers and other trades working nearby.
The Empirehouse safety program included formal daily stretching exercises to prevent unnecessary injuries on the site and that all team members wore personal protective equipment. Empirehouse prepared daily task plans and material layout analysis to ensure that each team was properly equipped for the job task for that day. Monthly on-site safety and quality audits were performed regularly by the Empirehouse Safety & Quality Manager.
Empirehouse earned a 2018 Minnesota Construction Association Award of Excellence for Subcontractor/Specialty Contractor Project of the Year for the Westminster Presbyterian Church expansion.
Owner: Westminster Presbyterian Church
General Contractor: Mortenson Construction
Architect: James Dayton Design
Glazing Contractor: Empirehouse, Inc.
Total Glass Area: Approx. 11,000 square feet
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