Third of three stories on this GROWING design trend. Previous articles in this series on Oversized Glass have covered the views from architects and fabricators regarding the growing trend of oversized or “jumbo” glass. Now it’s time to hear from the folks that install these large spans. The glazing contractor has many responsibilities when it comes to closing the building envelope, not the least important of which is handling of the glass. In the case of oversized glass, the pressure to perform falls squarely on the shoulders of the glazing contractor.

To this point, the fabricator has taken monumental sheets of glass, cut them to size, and then finished them into either an insulating glass units or monolithic pieces of glass.  Now the glazier steps on to center stage, maneuvering large and very heavy pieces of glass from the safety of a rack or crate, and into a frame on the building.

According to Paul Robinson of Pioneer Cladding and Glazing Systems there are several factors that they need to consider when installing.

“It starts with assessing whether or not we need special consideration for unloading, storage and handling.  Do we need bigger equipment such as bigger forklifts and bigger power cups?  Sometimes the day-to-day equipment we utilize can work, but not always. Bottom line, we always lean on the side of safety, so if it’s close we are not taking chances.”

Jeff Kirby of Precision Glass relayed similar sentiments.

“No question that safety is first.  With the growth of oversize products we do need to ensure our equipment can handle them, if not we have to utilize machinery that can.  Slowly but surely we are seeing more high performance equipment that we can purchase that covers all aspects of our business but that is still a work in progress.”

In terms of equipment design needs, the glass industry is getting up to speed.  At the 2018 National Glass Association Fall Conference, one of the headlining topics was “Big Glass- Can You Handle It” and during that presentation glaziers were updated on the new equipment and tactics, they can take with regards to working with jumbo glass sizes. Key points all concerned planning:

  • Are these single or multiple story buildings?
  • What if any building overhang is there?
  • What lifting equipment will be utilized?
  • How is the glass being delivered?
  • How is the glass being installed?

In addition to these considerations, Robinson added a few more.

“Will there be attic stock? If required, where to store, and can owners even store their own attic stock? Does offsite storage need to be considered/included? Also glass replacement, these pieces can come with a big cost and long lead-time are you prepared and planned for this?”

Beyond that, the architectural team and the general contractor also must be aligned so the glazier can get their work done. Robinson explained in detail.

“Items such as future tenant build-out…how to stock the building with furniture, etc. when removing a lite… perhaps leave a single bay per floor (at the least visible location) that is glazed with some smaller units. These units can be more easily removed and re-glazed. When a single BIG lite has to be removed in order to stock a building, the cost and risk is also BIG…removing a smaller lite would still allow the ability to stock floors, but with much less risk and costs.”

With all of the above to think about, we asked Robinson what advice he would give the designer on how to make an oversized job more efficient on the installation end.

“I would suggest making as many common sizes as possible, big units means less units, less units means it is hard to determine which, if any sizes, you want to order extras of…if the same size occurs a lot, you’d be more likely to order a few extra of a typical size.”

The trend of oversize glass will continue to grow, and the conclusions we found in this series show that communication and planning are difference-makers in how to design, produce, and install oversize glass. Only when efforts are aligned between all the parties in the supply chain, is the process truly optimized.

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