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Glass catalyzes transparency, connectivity and identity at University of Kansas Medical Center

Transparent low-e glasses central to lantern box design and glass-enclosed bridge

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July 14, 2020 |

A glass-enclosed bridge featuring ultra-transparent Solarban® 72 Starphire® glass provides access to 6,000 square-feet of lounge, meeting and student-activity space.

By night, the University of Kansas (KU) Medical Center Health Education Building (HEB) illuminates its campus with an iconic, lantern-like presence. By day, the spotlight is on education and human connection. No matter which side of the glass you’re on, the building is a testament to how the ambitious use of glass can define a building façade in both form and function. 

Solarban® 70 (formerly Solarban® 70XL) solar control, low-emissivity (low-e) glass and Solarban® 72 on Starphire® low-iron glass by Vitro Architectural Glass (formerly PPG Glass) are key components of this multipurpose academic facility.

Designed through a partnership between Helix Architecture + Design and CO Architects, the five-story, 171,000-square-foot facility creates an “educational zone,” serving as the primary teaching facility to support interprofessional education for the schools of Medicine, Nursing and Health Professions.

Balancing the use of glass, metal and brick to create an iconic presence on campus, the building features a four-story glass “lantern” box design glazed with high-performance Solarban® 70 glass fabricated by Insulite Glass, a member of the Vitro Certified Network. Flexible learning studios and state-of-the-art clinical skills labs “float” within the box to show off the core of the building’s curriculum to the public.

A 250-foot-long glass-enclosed bridge featuring ultra-transparent Solarban® 72 Starphire® glass passes through the center of the structure and connects it to adjacent buildings, providing 6,000 square-feet of lounge, meeting and student-activity space. The exceptional clarity of the glass met the architects’ design requirements for transparency, connectivity and identity.

A three-story skylight system that allows ventilation between floors is supplemented by the energy-efficient glass configuration featuring Solarban® 70 glass, which limits heat gain to enhance occupant comfort. A large cantilevered glass “cube” highlights the medical simulation and clinical skills floors as the “heart” of the building. Decorative wooden slats encase the inside of the third and fourth floors, folding in to form a “rib cage.”

The project design also accommodates a 25 percent increase in class sizes, enabling the KU School of Medicine, the only medical school in the state, to help meet the growing demand for health care professionals. Other technology-enhanced environments include active classrooms, mock exam rooms, a medical simulation center, study areas and spaces that enhance the social and collaborative aspects of learning.

With center-of-glass visible light transmittance (VLT) of 64 percent and a solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) of 0.27 in a standard one-inch insulating glass unit (IGU), Solarban® 70 glass helped deliver the abundant natural daylight, provided ample exterior views and fostered a sense of openness around the education process that the architect was seeking.

Formulated with the industry’s most advanced triple-silver coating that is engineered for use on Starphire Ultra-Clear® glass, Solarban® 72 glass has visible light transmittance (VLT) of 71 percent with a solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) of 0.30.

To learn more about Solarban® 70 or Solarban® 72 Starphire® glasses, or to locate a member of the Vitro Certified Network, visit or call 1-855-VTRO-GLS (887-6457).


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