As commercial glaziers, we at Giroux Glass are no strangers to working with curtain wall. Preparing and installing the large, continuous systems of aluminum and glass comprises a large portion of the work we do, whether it’s for a skyscraper, hotel, hospital, shopping center, or other facility.
While curtain wall may just look like ‘a wall of windows’ to the average person, those in the industry know how unique and varied these structures can be. Over the course of our nearly 75-year history, we’ve had the privilege to fabricate and install all sorts of unique curtain wall systems — from an undulating dynamic façade set atop a 71-story skyscraper to an intricately patterned glass enclosure set inside a large public library. Each project inevitably comes with its own distinct set of challenges, but also presents our team with the opportunity to engineer new, creative solutions — expanding our expertise and deepening our skillset in the process.
Here we highlight some curtain wall installations we consider particularly impressive due to their size, scope, technical difficulty, and/or noteworthy features. In this article, we will explore our work with the Los Angeles International Airport, the Paul Hastings Tower in Downtown Los Angeles, and the Lucky Dragon (now Ahern) Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. Read on to gain insight about these unique, challenging, and ultimately, highly rewarding curtain wall projects.
LAX Southwest Terminal-1, Los Angeles, CA
Giroux Glass was hired by GC Hensel Phelps to provide glazing for the major modernization underway at LAX’s Terminal-1. Overall, the $398M project aimed to revitalize the 431K sq. ft. concourse with more seating, larger restrooms, better retail and restaurant options, and overall enhanced comfort. Giroux Glass’ $10.8M scope included installation of an Arcadia unitized curtain wall system overlooking the tarmac, plus a number of smaller installs: doors, bathroom mirrors, storefront glass, guard rails, canopy, display cases, and more.
From a technical standpoint, the curtain wall provided the greatest challenge to our team. The panels in some areas were over 30’ tall and steel-loaded, making them incredibly heavy and unwieldy to position correctly. Our attachment team used a crane on the tarmac to transport the curtain wall units from the ground to their proper position on the side of the building, carefully aligning the J-hooks with the mullions to fit the panels perfectly into place. We also replaced the standard ½” welded Nelson studs with ¾” welded Nelson studs to support the extra weight required for the new system.
The project was also difficult from a logistical standpoint, as the terminal remained open for business throughout the duration of the project. All crews had to work around large crowds inside the terminal. Giroux Glass team had the added challenge of dealing with plane takeoffs, landings, and luggage transport on the tarmac during our curtain wall installation. Project manager Tom Molinaro details how our crew navigated the unique setting, “We put in place a pre-mobilization plan so we’d have the material ready to go prior to installation. We were assigned airport escorts to usher us through security, and worked with Hensel Phelps to cordon off work areas with caution and danger tape. We also assigned a permanent lookout person to monitor airport activity occurring around work zones. We communicated via radios and patience.”
Despite its challenges, the project was a great success. Our work was executed exactly to plan, and we credit Hensel Phelps, as well as our full team of glaziers, coordinators, and field supervisors for maintaining an efficient, professional work environment. We are so grateful to have played a role in revitalizing this terminal for the millions of travelers who pass through LAX each year.
Paul Hastings Tower, Los Angeles, CA
The Paul Hastings Tower is one of the twin 52-story skyscrapers designed by AC Martin & Associates. The historic buildings first came to grace the Downtown Los Angeles skyline in 1972.
In 2016, the Giroux Glass team was tasked with upgrading this tower at the 51st and 52nd floors to better suit the needs and aesthetics of a new, high-end tenant. Overseen by GC Pankow, our scope included replacing old pieces of bronze glass and granite blocks with a custom 12,000 sq. ft. Arcadia curtain wall system outfitted with ultra-clear, low-iron Starphire glass.
The system consisted of 140 glass panels in three sizes that wrap around the North, South, and East sides of the building’s top two floors — at a height of almost 700 feet from street level. Each panel weighed approximately 800 pounds and measured as large as 10′ x 7′. The building’s freight elevator was too small to fit these glass units, let alone bear their weight, so our team had to figure out another method of transport. Our solution? A large crane set with two thick wire cables that carried glass and other materials from the ground floor all the way to the rooftop. Any smaller equipment was transferred up via freight elevators, through an open skylight, and onto the roof, where glaziers used a swing stage for glass installation.
According to project superintendent Mike Duren, “This was one of the more challenging projects I’ve ever done.” Our team in Los Angeles worked tirelessly, putting in some long days and 80-hour work weeks, but the results were well worth the effort. The new glass-wrapped stories provide the tenants with truly astonishing unobstructed views. In fact, from far away, it looks as if there isn’t any glass installed at all.
Lucky Dragon Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, NV
The notorious Lucky Dragon Hotel has gone down in history as one of the shortest-lived venues to ever hit the Las Vegas Strip. The hotel barely lasted a year, opening in November of 2016 and closing its doors in February of 2018.
The hotel as a business enterprise wasn’t as successful as its developers had hoped, but our team at Giroux Glass remains very proud of the work we contributed to its construction, most notably, the extensive unitized curtain wall system that gave the hotel its distinctive red, glossy appearance.
Our Las Vegas team faced several challenges while executing this installation. The first was finding the appropriate glass for the curtain wall. The hotel developers knew they wanted the glass to be red, but it took many samples to find the product that matched their exact vision. We ultimately agreed upon Viracon’s Deep Red Vanceva Color System to adorn the expansive façade of the building.
The installation process also experienced its share of obstacles, as there was some miscommunication pertaining to the placement of several components on the curtain wall frames. Fortunately, our engineers were able to work with our GC, Penta, to find a workable solution. Another challenge was that the hotel was situated in a particularly windy portion of the strip. Any winds above 20 mph caused the cables of the crane to swing, making the machinery hard to control — a less than ideal situation when trying to accurately place large, heavy units of breakable curtain wall. Our solution was to monitor wind speed, and to pad installation sessions with extra time, which allowed our team to stop working when the winds became too strong. Ultimately, our team was able to overcome all of these challenges and complete installation of the beautiful and truly unique curtain wall system.
Though Lucky Dragon didn’t quite live up to its name, its brief legacy endures. A new developer purchased the structure in 2018, renovated the rooms and interiors, converted the casino into a convention space, and reopened the facility in late 2019 as “The Ahern Hotel and Convention Center.” Lucky for us, its distinctive red exterior remains.
As these diverse curtain wall projects demonstrate, there’s often much more to these major installations than meets the eye. Stay tuned for our next installment, where we’ll share the stories (pun intended) behind three of our largest installations: the Mandarin and Linq Quad hotels in Las Vegas, and the enormous Pechanga Resort in Temecula, CA.
And for more information on our unitized curtain wall, metal panel, and other commercial installation capabilities, check out our Systems Overview and shoot us an inquiry. We’re always more than happy to talk shop.