Restoring Glass Block in Youngstown
Some of our favorite ventures are renovating projects in our local area. Being a company located in the Cleveland/Akron area, we were thrilled to be chosen for an assignment in Youngstown, Ohio, only 65 miles from our office.
GBA was awarded the assignment of renovating the glass block at the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor. The museum focuses on honoring and displaying the history of the manufacturing industry in the Ohio area. Ranging from the iron industries of the 1800s, to the steel industries taking power starting in the 1890s, to the significant decline throughout the 1970s. The city is still working hard to overcome the decline; Youngstown was and still is a central point in the manufacturing industry. This museum proudly preserves that.
The people that worked in the steel mills are the same breed of blue-collar workers that we have working tirelessly for GBA Architectural Products + Services today. Being a manufacturing company, we appreciate the work the museum does, and are immensely honored to have been selected.
This museum was opened in 1990, designed by architectural firm Michael Graves Architecture & Design, a long-time company that still produces amazing work. The design of the building is to replicate a steel mill built with smoke stacks. The layout of the entire building is intended to have a classic style that coincides with the time period, which conveniently ties in with glass block.
A great resource for factories, the glass block in the early 20th century was very useful for its prism effect that transferred the dispersion of light throughout the inside of buildings. It became especially prevalent in the 1930s during the Great Depression, for its low cost and modern style. Setting glass block in steel mountings was especially fruitful as it allowed areas below to be illuminated without the need for artificial lighting.
Renovating the Museum
The architect for the renovation was Meta von Rabenau, Senior Architect at Ohio History Connection, the organization that owns the museum. They are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that focuses on preserving and sharing the state’s history to the public.
After 30 years, the glass block was in need of replacement. Rabenau helped describe the situation, “Some of the glass blocks were cracked and moisture was coming in. There was mildew and disintegration. Glass and steel have different expansion factors. With the south and eastern portions, the outer and under rim were falling apart. They were getting bad.”
A major benefit cited for the renovation is that glass block today is built with higher quality than it was 30 years ago.
Our team agrees, today there is more of a selection of products. They’re being manufactured from a modernized plant, which minimizes the intolerances and slight imperfections. Today’s manufacturers are using more modern equipment and pride themselves on maintaining quality control.
Anton E. Kava, Seves Glass Block President and CEO, adds, “This technology consists of ‘optical scanners’ that scans the blocks during the production process to find small imperfections, and removes the products from the production line that do not meet quality control standards set forth by the company.”
The glass block structure that we renovated is shaped like an octagon. The glass block framing surrounds a curved stairway, leading from an outdoor entrance to the top of the stairwell. 12”x12”x4” Nubio Glass Block, as well as 8”x8”x4” Nubio Glass Block was used in this renovation.
Not all of the glass block needed replaced, actually just 10% of it. The caulk was replaced with a more modern type that uses better technology. The entire upside was sealed which reduces the water penetration to the mortar. We also remediated any steel that was damaged.
This project did not come without its’ fair share of challenges. The biggest being that it’s on stairs, and doesn’t have even footing for scaffold. You also need glass block that properly matches with the original, as well as matching mortar. Both of these require preparation.
The process is always the same for every project:
- Determining what needs done in the project.
- It’s as important as doing it. The detailing and dimensioning process, as well as determining the glass block required for the project. How much is needed. What supplies and mortar are needed. The man-power required, etc.
- Executing what needs to be done in the project.
- Physically bringing the supplies, which is not as simple as it might sound. This one has the convenience of being local. Much of the time our crews travel across the country so you have to be sure all equipment and materials required to complete the project are loaded on our trucks. Then, mobilizing on site, unloading the trucks, setting up scaffold and performing the work in an efficient and professional process so as not to be disruptive to any other trades, building owner or visitors.
When contracting GBA Architectural Products + Services to be the installer for the project, Rabenau states, “We needed somebody that had experience and knew what they were doing […] GBA was best qualified. Known to be specialized.”
The final outcome of this project is stunning and timeless. Head to our project inspiration page to learn more about the project and see photos of the completed project.
We highly recommend visiting the museum. They have amazing exhibits. You can expect it to take about an hour to visit the whole thing.
“We have approximately 5,100 visitors per year and do outreach to various schools, organizations and facilities,” states Site Manager Marcelle Wilson, “The most popular exhibits are the company house, locker room and overlook of the blooming pulpit.”
Contact GBA Architectural Products + Services
GBA Architectural Products & Services is a North American supplier of world-class glass block materials for interior and exterior applications. For over 30 years, the company has collaborated with professional builders and homeowners with many unique structural glass products that render beautiful and economical functionality in a broad range of scenarios.
GBA glass block products have been used in office designs, exterior claddings, walkways, and stairways throughout North America to admit natural light while optimizing the use of interior space.
For more information about glass block architecture for offices or other applications, contact GBA Architectural Products & Services.
Visit theGBA website or phone:
East Coast -(212)-255-5787
West Coast -(213)-634-7450
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