Community construction

Trades come together to overcome challenges at Fort Zumwalt East High School
Christina Lewellen
April 20, 2009

Hilboldt Curtainwall Inc., St. Louis, #38

Schools are community projects, driven by community demand and available funding. They also require a community of project participants—a blend of contractors working together to bring a vision to reality safely, on time and within budget. For Hilboldt Curtainwall Inc., a St. Louis, glazier, a construction community effort went into the Fort Zumwalt East High School project in St. Peters, Mo.

The biggest challenge Hilboldt’s project managers faced on the $28.8 million school site was coordinating its curtain wall systems with systems installed by other companies, says Jane Hilboldt, CEO, Hilboldt Curtainwall. “The credit has to go to the general contractor,” she says. “McCarthy excels in coordination and communication to overcome and minimize these challenges.”

McCarthy Building Cos., the St. Louis-based general contractor involved with the Fort Zumwalt project, was the reason Hilboldt Curtainwall got involved. “We have a great working relationship with the general contractor … and they requested our involvement.”

The school, designed by architectural firm Cannon Design, New York, features several types of glazing systems, all with glass fabricated by Viracon, Owatonna, Minn. Other players involved include window wall/curtain wall and door and hardware supplier supplier Tubelite, Walker, Mich.; curtain wall consultants Heitmann & Associates, Chesterfield, Mo.; and performance testing by Mid-America Testing Laboratory, Catawissa, Mo.

Working in the educational arena means meeting several objectives with a single product or system, Hilboldt says. “For grade schools, [you have to] provide a door which can be operated by a 6-year-old, but are strong enough to resist break-ins. For high schools, provide a door that can withstand the abusive teenagers, within a limited budget,” she says. “The challenge is to provide a quality system within a tight budget.”

About 10 percent of Hilboldt’s business consists of educational projects, a number that may flounder a bit in the future given the current economic environment. “In this tough economy, more companies are bidding on each job, resulting in crazy numbers,” she says. “Although we are seeing activity in education, most of the projects we have looked at are not utilizing curtain walls and are, therefore, not within our niche of pre-fabricated curtain walls.”

Still, “construction activity at the university level is relatively strong,” Hilboldt notes.

Hilboldt Curtainwall has a 55,000-square-foot office, fabrication and warehouse site, giving the glazier the capacity to fabricate and store custom panels for every project size. The company specializes in prefabrication and looks for ways to maximize the pre-fabrication stage when it bids a job.

The company moved up in the 50 glaziers ranks from 42 to 38 this year, and posted 2008 gross sales of more than $15 million.

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  • The project: Fort Zumwalt East High School, St. Peters, Mo.

    The players: Contract glazier, Hilboldt Curtainwall Inc., St. Louis; architect, Cannon Design, New York; general contractor, McCarthy Building Companies Inc., St. Louis; window wall/curtain wall, and door and hardware supplier supplier, Tubelite, Walker, Mich.; curtain wall consultant, Heitmann & Associates, Chesterfield, Mo.; performance testing provider, Mid-America Testing Laboratory, Catawissa, Mo.

    The glass: 1-inch insulating units with a ¼-inch clear annealed exterior lite with a VE-2M low-emissivity coating on the No. 2 surface; 1-inch insulating typical spandrel units with a ¼-inch clear, heat-strengthened exterior lite with a VE-2M coating on the No. 2 surface and a ¼-inch, heat strengthened interior lite with V-175 Viraspan ceramic frit; 1-inch insulating vision silkscreen units with ¼-inch tempered exterior lite with a silkscreen line pattern and a ¼-inch heat-strengthened interior lite with V-175.