Making history

Glazing the custom-designed Tampa Bay History Museum
Katy Devlin
July 14, 2009

Tampa Bay History Center

E. Verner Johnson & Associates, Boston
Owner: Board of County Commissioners of Hillsborough County, Tampa, Fla.
Glazing contractor: West Tampa Glass, Tampa
Glass fabricator: Viracon, Owatonna, Minn.
Curtain wall system manufacturer: Kawneer Co., Norcross, Ga.
General contractor: Walbridge Aldinger Co., Tampa
Sunshade supplier: C/S Construction Specialties, Cranford, N.J.

The January completion of the Tampa Bay (Fla.) History Center represents a feat for Hillsborough County, which has dedicated more than 20 years to making the $52-million museum a reality. The 60,000-square-foot building stands as a glass jewel overlooking the Hillsborough River and is part of the Tampa Riverwalk, a 2.2-mile stretch that will contain seven parks, 11 bridges and five museums when the project is complete.

The project also represents a major accomplishment for glaziers from West Tampa Glass, says Alvaro Correa, project manager.

“While the size and contract amount for this job is about average for us, the design was very challenging and made it a very special project for us,” Correa says.

West Tampa Glass stood out among the bidders because they could offer the “complete package” of curtain wall and sunshades, Correa says. The architect specified a 1600 curtain wall from Kawneer Co., Norcross, Ga., and wanted custom sunshades that West Tampa Glass found through Construction Specialties Inc. in Cranford, N.J.

The sunshades on the project feature a perforated sheet, says Bob Vogel, project manager, Construction Specialties Inc. “I would imagine the architect was looking for natural light through the perforation, along with a light, clean design that would also shade the structure, keeping it cool,” he says.

However, West Tampa Glass engineers discovered through their calculations early in the process that the curtain wall—though designed to be used with sunshades—would not be able to meeting Florida’s stringent hurricane codes with the sunshades. They needed steel support. The team was able to use thick steel in the moldings to provide the required support, Correa says.

The team made additional adjustments to the curtain wall to improve water performance for the hurricane-rated project. After testing, the West Tampa Glass team decided to provide some additional water testing measures, including a pressure plate every 4 inches on the wall instead of the required 12 inches.

The general contractor mandated that the subcontractors stick to a very strict schedule. The longer lead times on the glass and glazing products forced the West Tampa Glass team to finalize the specifications on all the products early. “We told the GC that we could guarantee the schedule as long as they could guarantee the opening sizes,” Correa says. The project features more than 50 different sizes of glass panels in three different shades, he says. “We flew to Boston to have a meeting with the architect to approve the sizes.”

Officials from Construction Specialties kept in close contact with the West Tampa Glass team to ensure a smooth installation. “We shipped this entire project in partials, starting with the mounting brackets attaching to the curtain wall,” Vogel says. “After the brackets were installed, field measurements were taken by Alvaro and his group and forwarded to us for fabrication. We always try to stress to our customers that this is the sequence that will ensure a proper fit.”

The product was fabricated, crated, tagged and shipped by elevation to accommodate the customer’s installation sequence. All material was supplied in aluminum and finished in a Kynar 500 Mica pearlescent finish, bright silver.

Viracon supplied the 1 5/16-inch large and small missile impact glass for the project. The glass is green on the north side, bronze in the middle and blue on the south side. All glass features a low-emissivity coating and is reflective to improve thermal performance.

West Tampa Glass pre-assembled the system to ease on-site installation. “To make everything better for the GC, we hired a big crane to put the ladders in place, and level, anchor and install the system,” Correa says. Pre-fabrication also allowed for fewer glaziers on site, a huge benefit considering the small construction site.

West Tampa Glass was on the jobsite for about five months, from the time they started with the cranes, through the curtain wall and sunshade installation, to the final touch-ups.

The hurricane-rated building is awaiting accreditation from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, boosted by the sunshades and high-performance glazing.

Katy Devlin is editor for Glass Magazine. E-mail Katy at