Problem with Glass Panels Delays MSU Art Museum Opening
March 1, 2012

by Sahely Mukerji, smukerji@glass.com

Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects

The opening of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing, Mich., has been delayed because of ill-fitted glass.

The 46,000-square-foot museum was designed to be constructed of steel and concrete with a pleated stainless steel and glass exterior. The glass for the project is being manufactured by Guardian Luxembourg and fabricated by BGT Bischoff Glastechnik AG of Germany, says Daniel Bollman, MSU design administrator. The glazing contractor is Calvin and Co. in Flint, Mich.

"The desire of the architect and the size of the glass made us go to Germany," Bollman says. "The glass panels weigh as much as 1,500 pounds and measure 4-feet-by-15-feet. There are no companies in the U.S. that have such big coating machines. They can cut glass that's that big, but not coat."

Zaha Hadid of London designed the museum, and construction was on schedule until a problem occurred with the glass panels, Bollman says. "Eighty-six percent of the pieces fit, but 43 out of 300 [panels] didn't fit or broke," he says. "They were fabricated correctly, but once they got to the site there was just enough deviation that they didn't fit. There's only 2-millimeter tolerance per side of each panel, so it's tricky to fit."

All the panels are triple-glazed, argon-filled and low-E-coated either on the number 2 or 3 surface. Some of the panels are either vertical, back-tilted or under-slung. Some of the south-facing lites that don't have stainless-steel louvers to shade have a white frit on surface number 2. Most are parallelograms that don't have 90-degree corners, and had to be produced from a bigger sheet.

"It was a 3-D model, and the steel framing on the building wasn't as it should have been," Bollman says. "So the glass was hard to fit in the mullions. It was a constructability issue. And some panels were broken or scratched [in transit] by customs."

Guardian Luxembourg currently is in the process of remanufacturing the panels.

"Our first priority is quality and that the building is built to the highest standard, so we chose to wait as opposed to rushing the install," Bollman says. "It's a procurement issue and we're dealing with it."

Gartner in Germany is the contractor for the building envelope, steel and doors, and the construction manager is Barton Malow Co. in Southfield, Mich.

The original opening of the museum was scheduled for April 21, "but now we anticipate it'll be this fall, so we'll have students in the campus for the opening," Bollman says.

MSU broke ground on the $45 million museum on March 16, 2010. The Broad Foundation has given $28 million for the museum, $21 million for construction and $7 million for acquisitions, according to the museum website.

Stay tuned to USGNN.com™ for a follow-up.

Subscribe to USGlass magazine.
Subscribe to receive the free e-newsletter.