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Glass helps Calgary Central Library convey collective and community

200,000 square feet of glass with 462 unique unitized panels create a one-of-a-kind curtainwall

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September 29, 2020 |
For Calgary Central Library, Snøhetta architects studied how daylight affects interiors, eventually specifying triple-pane insulating glass units (IGUs) witha variety of
Starphire® and Solarban® glasses by Vitro Architectural Glass.
Photography by Michael Grimm

When it opened in 2018, the Calgary Central Library in Alberta, Canada, already was being celebrated for its beauty and its brains. Variously described as resembling an open book, snowflakes, snowdrifts or ice cracking on a lake, the library’s curved exterior surface is outfitted with a hexagonal pattern of alternating clear, glazed and ceramic-fritted glass and iridescent aluminum panels — an arrangement meant to convey the ideas of collective and community. A more functional purpose of the alternating panels, according to project architect Dennis Rijkhoff of Snøhetta architects, is to diffuse light inside the building while preserving views.

“The design process focused on providing a variety of conditions for people to enjoy in each space – the goal being that users can choose whether to sit in the sun or shade,” he explained. 


Calgary Central Library’s glass curtainwall required 462 unique unitized panels, which were painted in three different colors.

Photography by Michael Grimm


After studying how daylighting and views affected interior spaces and the composition of the façade, the architect settled on a mix of 60% insulating metal panels and 40% triple-pane insulating glass units (IGUs) utilizing Starphire Ultra-Clear®, Solarban® 72 Starphire® and Solarban® 60 glasses by Vitro Architectural Glass.

Oldcastle Building Envelope (OCBE), a member of the Vitro Certified Network, fabricated three types of triple-pane IGUs for the project, each featuring a single lite of Starphire® glass sandwiched between panes of Solarban® 72 Starphire®and Solarban® 60 glasses. 

The finished IGUs were then supplied to Ferguson Corporation, which engineered, assembled and installed the curtainwall. This involved fabricating 462 unique unitized panels, which were painted in three different colors for various interior and exterior surfaces and infilled with clear, glazed or fritted IGUs. The panels, which took eight months to fabricate, were placed randomly around the building to enable each side to function as its front. 

Julia Unitas, manager of the Vitro Concierge Program for large and complex projects, said the project required months of continuous oversight and production scheduling at Vitro Glass’s Fresno, California, and Salem, Oregon, plants.


Architects sought to allow visitors to choose whether to sit in the sun or shade.

Photography by Michael Grimm


“We had to transfer Starphire® glass from Fresno to Salem for coating, and we needed to time it to accommodate transfers and coating schedules to meet the contractor’s draw rate,” Unitas explained. “Which type of glass are they taking first? Are they taking multiple types simultaneously? Those were just a few of the considerations we had to manage while producing and delivering almost 200,000 square feet of glass.”

Since its opening, Calgary Central Library has earned numerous accolades for its design, including the 2020 AIA Architecture Award and the national 2019 AIA/ALA Library Building Award, granted by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the American Library Association (ALA). More important, the building is fulfilling its mission to serve as an open and welcoming learning and community center, attracting more than 200,000 visitors in its first three weeks and nearly 1.75 million visitors in its first full year of operation.

To learn more about Solarban® 60, Solarban® 72 and Starphire Ultra-Clear® glasses and the Vitro Concierge Program, or to find a member of the Vitro Certified Network, visit www.vitroglazings.com or call 1-855-VTRO-GLS (887-6457).


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