A new vision of education

The David Tepper School of Business sits at the heart of the university’s campus in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and aims to facilitate collaboration with academics from across the whole institution, bringing together disciplines that are often kept separate.

This meant that fostering a sense of connectedness was a fundamental principle in the design, and glazing has played a key role in achieving this aim.

The centrepiece of the 295,000ft2 scheme is an atrium lobby, whose multi-level interior features a wide range of spaces designed to facilitate different interactions between people, from large gatherings to formal and casual meetings between groups of any size.

This five-storey space is flooded with natural light thanks to a spectacular, uninterrupted 51-foot-tall wall of Pilkington Planar glazing positioned above the entrance.

The wall of glass is supported by laminated fins that are suspended from a steel truss structure at roof level.

The architect’s initial plan for the construction was to use two free-span vertical steel trusses and horizontal steel beams with stainless steel tension rods connected to the front to help support the weight and transfer wind load deflection. But engineers at the glazing designer W&W Glass advised that transparent fins could be used, both removing visual interruptions from the surface and helping to reduce costs.

This is possible thanks to the strength of the Planar l SentryGlas System laminated glass that was used in the fins, as well as the capabilities of the Pilkington Planar 905 series heavy duty fittings that hold the system in place.

The clear facade glass is made of large toughened glass units that offer both low-emissivity (low-e) insulation and solar control to help control the climate in the building and help to reduce the reliance on heating and air-conditioning. The 10ft by 7ft 5in units are made of Pilkington Suncool 66/33 T and are held in place with heavy-duty stainless-steel countersunk bolts, anchoring them to the supporting glass fins.

In addition to the main atrium glass fin wall, the lower entrance below used point-supported structural glazing as well, off of cantilevered, painted steel plate beam blades to allow for expansive 13ft 4in tall structural glass panels at the ground floor with only one row of mid-clip fittings.

The fact that the significant weight of the glass is supported by a steel truss that spans the space added complexity to the installation, as it needed to be pre-loaded to avoid any deflection once the units were in place – something that could have compromised the build.

This was achieved using temporary tension cables that simulated the weight each part of the structure would hold, both in terms of the structural glazing and the steel roof beams which support the roof glazing.

These tensioned cables were removed one-by-one throughout the process as the glass was installed so that the position of the supporting structure remained fixed.

Chris Lalonde, architectural sales at W&W, said: “The lynchpin position this building occupies at the Quadrangle in the broader CMU called for a landmark architectural feature, and the wall of structural glazing completely delivers this, while also helping to create a stunning interior space for collaboration.”

Phil Savage, commercial contracts sales manager at Pilkington UK said: “Our structural glazing system offers great possibilities to architects and structural engineers, and this building is one of the best examples we’ve seen of that potential being realised. We’re enormously proud that our product has been selected as the ‘front door’ to this world-class university.”