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A Glass Icon: A Case Study

Kean University wanted something dramatic and iconic to greet those approaching its Union, NJ, campus from the west. “Our goal was to mark the campus entry with a bold architectural statement and announce to visitors and the general public that they are about to experience something special upon entering the campus,” Kenneth A. Gruskin, AIA, principal and founder of the Gruskin Group, told What his firm proposed, in the words of Graham Architectural Products Sales Rep Nick Irwin, “was all very complicated. If you can envision an ice cream cone on the side of an undulating building that’s basically all glass….” Technically, that tilted ellipse was the biggest challenge on the job, but Green Lane has several unique features: A vertical radius wall over the main entrance; then, moving clockwise around the rest of the building, a sharp, 57-degree corner, followed by the tilted ellipse, which reaches toward the roadway; finally, a conference room on the very top floor, which is a true radius wall sitting on top of the tilted ellipse. Said Gary Snee, project manager for Dobco, the general contractor, “This is by far the most unique project I have worked on from a design and constructability standpoint. The radius and sloping curtain wall made it a challenge.”

And it got interesting right out of the chute. “As originally designed, the job was to have all the framing dead-loaded of the second floor slab,” said Gary Tongco, national sales manager for Graham Architectural Products, Curtain Wall Solutions, “But afer we did our calculations, we discovered the second floor slab couldn’t support the weight.” Other challenges emerged, too. The architect wanted the top surface of the intermediate members to be in the same plane as the floor slabs, and he wanted the horizontals to be the same depth as the vertical members. “So we ended up changing to a hybrid pressure wall/unitized curtain wall system,” said Tongco, “which was a pretty dramatic change.” Plus, said Snee, “There were several connection issues that were not fully detailed on the contract drawings due to the sloping curtain wall. Graham was able to come up with quick solutions that were acceptable to the engineering team, satisfied the architects aesthetically, and kept within our schedule.” The sunshades increased the degree of difficulty. The architect wanted specific profiles, which were particularly challenging on the radiused and tilted ellipse walls, where each of the sunshades had a unique profile. “The transition from a tilted ellipse to the vertical wall created obstacles to overcome, and the interface with the vertical walls created additional challenges in fabrication and assembly,” said Irwin. The entire job was pre-glazed in Graham’s Merrill, WI, facility and the sunshades were designed, engineered, fabricated and assembled there as well. Sunshades were installed in the field.

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