Beauty & Security Unite in Jacksonville Federal Courthouse

Solutia Inc., headquartered in St. Louis, has announced that the architects at HLM Design have chosen glass laminated with its Saflex™ interlayer to help solve the dilemma of creating a "a visual symbol of the monumentality and stability of the judicial system and embody a fundamental principal of our country - the courts are open to all" as required by the General Services Administration (GSA), in the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Jacksonville, Fla.

Completed in 2003, the $80 million Jacksonville courthouse is a 15-story tower with laminated glass curtainwall façades on all sides of the building. A four-story curtainwall set slightly in front of the tower creates a striking atrium, welcoming visitors to the courthouse in a pleasant public space as they pass through a security check point and into the building's core. The 457,416 square-foot building houses district courts, magistrate courts, bankruptcy courts and circuit courts. Because of the sheer volume of windows, natural light floods all interior spaces.

The GSA created its Center for Courthouse Programs in 1996, mandating that a United States federal courthouse should be as described, but as Solutia points out, visually translating the ideological and security goals into architecture is a tall order.

According to Solutia, the Jacksonville courthouse was one of the first courthouses constructed after 1995's deadly Oklahoma City bombing and was the first high- rise, blast resistant, architectural concept curtainwall implemented by GSA. After the bombing, the GSA instituted strict blast security requirements to protect people in federal buildings and surrounding areas against future attacks. Also in the Jacksonville Courthouse, architects specified insulating laminated glass manufactured by Viracon of Owatonna, Minnesota, that provided the necessary blast protection when installed in the custom frame designed by Masonry Arts. Solutia Inc. manufactured the Saflex polyvinyl butyral (PVB) interlayer that was sandwiched between plies of heat-strengthened glass. To create the various curtainwalls, architects used a variety of glass configurations that incorporated low-e and reflective coatings. These coatings improve energy efficiency by reducing solar heat gain, while simultaneously allowing natural daylight into the building.

The blast-resistant characteristics of laminated glass with Saflex allows for its widespread use throughout the building. According to Solutia, ordinary glass presents significant dangers to building occupants, passers-by and neighboring buildings during a blast event, as approximately 75-percent of all blast injuries are caused by flying or falling glass following an explosion. The company says that unlike ordinary glass that shatters and falls from its frame, laminated glass using Saflex in blast resistant design is intended to break at a specified pressure with shards flying only a minimal distance into the building. This controlled approach is enhanced by the properties of the glass that cause it to adhere to the interlayer within its frame when breaking under the blast load. Even if subjected to impact or cracked, the glass tends to adhere to the tough interlayer, significantly reducing or eliminating flying or falling glass following an explosion.

PROJECT FACTS Project Name: United States Federal Courthouse in Jacksonville

Architect: HLM Design, Jacksonville, Mississippi

Glass Fabricator: Viracon, Owatonna, Minnesota

Interlayer Manufacturer: Solutia Inc., St. Louis, Missouri

Unitized Curtainwall & Window Systems: Masonry Arts, Inc., Bessemer, Alabama

Curtain Wall Engineer: Heitman & Associates, St. Louis, Missouri

Erector: Masonry Arts, Inc., Bessemer, Alabama


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