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Fire rated glazing helps historic university preserve its past

Fire rated glazing helps historic university preserve its past

When the University embarked on its first major addition since the opening of Hutchins Hall in 1933, preserving the Collegiate Gothic-style architecture was of utmost importance.


By By BD+C Staff | February 2, 2012
The proximity of the newly constructed common area to Hutchins Hall posed a unique challenge to the building team. Because these

The University of Michigan Law School, founded in 1859, is an institution rich in tradition and history. When the University embarked on its first major addition since the opening of Hutchins Hall in 1933, preserving the Collegiate Gothic-style architecture was of utmost importance. 

One of the focal points of this monumental construction project was a new common area serving as a gathering space for students, faculty and staff. The Robert B. Aikens Commons was built on an unused grassy courtyard between Hutchins Hall and the Legal research building. Its glass and steel roof and open design affords unobstructed views of the picturesque stone walls and the beautiful stained glass windows that surround it. 

However, the proximity of the newly constructed common area to Hutchins Hall posed a unique challenge to the building team. Because these structures were too close to each other, the building code required a 2-hour fire rated barrier between them.  

SAFTI FIRST worked with the architects and the glazing contractor on a solution that satisfied the code requirements and preserved the original appearance of the building, which included historic stained glass windows and aged limestone. 

The architects specified SuperLite II-XL 120, a clear, fire resistive glazing product that meets the ASTM E-119 wall standard for up to 2 hours. SAFTI FIRST supplied the SuperLite II-XL 120 product in various sizes and pattern cuts as requested. SAFTI FIRST also worked with Edwards Glass during the installation.

Project: University of Michigan Law School Academic Building and Hutchins Hall Student Commons Addition
Architect: Huntman-Cox and Integrated Design Solutions
Glazier: Edwards Glass
Products: SuperLite II-XL 120 in EZ Framing System by SAFTI FIRST

First, the existing stained glass windows were carefully removed. Then, the SuperLite II-XL 120 units were installed within a tube steel structure using SAFTI FIRST’s EZ Framing System, which was surrounded by decorative limestone. Once the SuperLite II-XL 120 assemblies were in place, the existing stained glass and newly created matching stained glass were installed on both sides. Because the SuperLite II-XL 120 units are clear, students, faculty and staff can still look through these historic stained glass windows without noticing the 2-hour fire protection that it now provides. 

The approach taken by SAFTI FIRST and Edwards Glass is definitely in line with the architects’ overall goal.

"We are proud of all the glasswork for this project, from it's design, submittal and installation work,” says Tom Schlaff, Project Director for Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC), University of Michigan. “The effort really reflects the demands that this project had to maintain - the historic character of our most precious building in the University of Michigan, the Law School Quad."

“When a fire rated wall is necessary due to code restrictions, having an open mind and using creative design techniques with a qualified glazing professional is the best way to ensure optimal efficiency in design and performance, “ says Ross Winiemko of Edwards Glass. “Understanding the look that the design professionals are going for, integrated with advanced fire rated assemblies offered by SAFTI FIRST, allowed us to offer aesthetic solutions that work nicely with the vision of the owners and architects.” BD+C

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