Glass Innovations: More than Just a Pretty Face
Lady Liberty’s renovation was bolstered by fire-rated glass.
The Statue of Liberty National Monument reopened to the public featuring two new fire stairwells and an elevator that will allow visitors with reduced mobility (including—for the first time—those in wheelchairs) to look into the statue’s interior structure.
Clear fire-rated glass specialist Vetrotech Saint-Gobain North America, a Saint-Gobain company, provided its highest-performing fire-resistant glass products, CONTRAFLAM® 90 and CONTRAFLAM 120, for all exits on floors one through five in the Monument, allowing the safe egress of building occupants in the event of fire. Most notable to the renovation is the addition of a glass oculus between the third and fourth floors, providing a translucent experience that allows all visitors to enjoy the landmark’s iconic interior architectural qualities. The clear glass is the largest and heaviest circular piece of glass ever manufactured by Vetrotech Saint-Gobain North America.
The Statue of Liberty National Monument originally reopened to the public on October 28, 2012, after a year-long, $27.25-million renovation to make the landmark safer and more accessible. The monument had to close the next day due to Hurricane Sandy and remained closed for repairs to the island until its celebratory reopening on July 4.
It is estimated that the renovations will allow about 30% more people to visit the inside of the monument each year. Most importantly, the life safety renovations will allow those visitors to safely and comfortably experience it. Updating fire suppression systems was a critical safety component of the renovation, and it required Vetrotech Saint-Gobain to manufacture fire-resistant safety glass for the monument’s floors, doors, and stairwells. Over 425 ft2 of clear multilayer fire-resistant safety glass (listed and tested with UL in accordance to UL263, UL10c and UL9 standards) was manufactured for the monument, delivering two hours of fire resistance in the staircase partitions and 90 minutes in doorways.
“Saint-Gobain products are found in some of the most iconic landmarks around the world, but we are especially proud to have our U.S.-manufactured fire-rated glass featured in the Statue of Liberty National Monument, a world heritage site and national landmark that is truly the symbol of liberty and international friendship,” said John Crowe, president and CEO of Saint-Gobain in North America. “The people of France gave the Statue to the U.S. over 100 years ago, and this international connection continues as the fire-rated glass, critical to the renovation of this icon, was manufactured in the U.S., in Washington State by Saint-Gobain, a company originally founded in France to make the glass for another of the world’s iconic landmarks, the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.”
Prominent French architect and structural engineer Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel designed a 92-ft-tall pylon to be the primary support structure of the statue’s interior. The “Eiffel beams” create an exposed flexible suspension system, and the renovation team was strictly prohibited from altering it. The new enclosed fire stairwell had to be delicately installed between the crisscrossing beams without imposing on them, and a new oculus was installed to provide additional light transmittance.
“The main goal of the renovation was safety, but it was critical that we accomplish it without harming the historical qualities of the building so that the amazing visitor experience of traversing Lady Liberty was preserved,” said project architect Michael J. Mills, FAIA, partner, Mills ± Schnoering Architects. “Enclosing one stairwell in fire-rated glass was crucial to our safety goal, and with Vetrotech we found a clear fire-rated glass solution that would deliver the safety we needed while still allowing visitors to enjoy the historic fabric of the monument.”
The renovation’s project team also included general contractor Joseph A. Natoli Construction Corp. and glass contractor Smith Glass (responsible for specifying Vetrotech’s product).