Doubling Down on Vegas

So I am writing this on Sunday morning on a plane on the way to Las Vegas for a glazing contractors conference that starts today. Before you say, “Wait Deb, you’ve got the wrong week; there’s a glazing contractor’s meeting in Vegas next week,” let me explain.

I am attending the Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust (IMPACT) annual meeting being held at the Mirage hotel through Thursday February 27. IMPACT is an organization of Ironworkers and the contractors who employ them dedicated to addressing mutual concerns and advancing more work for both groups. It’s always been full of forward-thinking education for owners and managers of companies that employee ironworkers and for ironworkers themselves.

I was honored and humbled to be asked to moderate the session called “Building Enclosures: Dramatic Projects, Examples of Success.” It features Adam Boeckmann and Chris Portz, president and area supervisor, respectively, of Architectural Wall Systems LLC (AWS) of Clive, Iowa; Mike Padgett, executive vice president of Enclos, based in Eagan, Minn.; and Richard Diaz, principal of Architectural Unlimited in Inglewood, Calif.

And if you read this late on Monday afternoon, that will be just about the time these four gentlemen explain eight truly breathtaking projects with the audience of more than 1,000 assembled in Vegas.

In preparation for the seminar, I got a chance to review these spectacular projects. And, while they are all distinct, I did notice some common themes. And as trends, they are representations of what the future will bring. Specifically:

  1. Custom-created, one-of-a-kind glass. By this, I mean the development and use of unique variations to glass to achieve certain goals. The Hancher Auditorium, an AWS project, for example, featured a unitized double-wall rain screen and a dramatic chamfered corner. The Rufus Spheres by Enclos, sported Vitro Starphire with a Solarban coating on the fourth layer, and the Krause Gateway Center, also an AWS project, used 2.25-inch think insulating glass units with U-channel inserts embedded into the air space for helicopter clips.

    AWS used a customized power cup to set each 4,000-pound glass panel at the Krause Gateway Center.
  2. A preference for shop fabrication. The debate of shop vs. field fabrication has ended and shop fabrication has won. Whereas years ago, glazing contractors would try and figure out if anything had to be done in shop, today there is a preference for fabricating and assembling there as much as possible. It makes sense. The more controlled the environment, the less variables and the less variables, the quicker and less expensive the job.
  3. Assembly by cassette. A necessary result of shop fabrication, this type of assembly was used on nearly half the projects we discussed. Unique and odd-shaped units are created and packed in custom-made cassettes that were then moved to and around the jobsite. The original plan for the Rufus Spheres in Seattle was to install a series of glass pentagons and then install cassettes of insulating glass. Then Enclos tested the pre-installation of the cassettes and was able to save more than eight man hours per cassette. This resulted in a savings of more than $1.5 million. The company also used pre-glazed cassettes for its innovative work at Case Western Reserve.

    The Rufus Spheres, Amazon’s building in downtown Seattle. Enclos was the glazing contractor.
  4. Customized handling comes of age. In addition to creating new façade systems, today’s contract glaziers are creating new ways to move the pieces in those systems. By way of example, AWS designed and created a customized power cup to set each 4,000-pound glass panel for the Krause Gateway Center in Des Moines. Enclos utilized an innovative “flying jib” to hoist units and access the building edge below the concrete cocoon system in the Rufus Center.

    Enclos utilized an innovative “flying jib” to hoist the units at the Rufus Spheres.
  5. No shortage of glass. I don’t mean the supply-and-demand type, I mean the ever-expanding use of glass as well as the ever-expanding size of glass. At the time it was glazed, the Krause Center sported the second largest IG units in North America. It has now been surpassed a bit. The desire for large expanses of unobstructed views continues to dominate. No other building product can do what glass does.