THE RIVER EAST CENTER - NO TALL ORDER   FOR PILKINGTON

04 March 2005
Opened in 2001, the River East Centre is a striking new addition to the skyline of Chicago, Illinois. The development includes a 52 storey residential complex, an extensive retail area and a seventeen-storey hotel. The use of Pilkington Architectural's tried and trusted Pilkington Planar™ glazing system has enabled the designers to achieve both the aesthetics and performance required.
Opened in 2001, the River East Centre is a striking new addition to the skyline of Chicago, Illinois. The development includes a 52 storey residential complex, an extensive retail area and a seventeen-storey hotel. The use of Pilkington Architectural's tried and trusted Pilkington Planar™ glazing system has enabled the designers to achieve both the aesthetics and performance required.


At over 21m tall, two Pilkington Planar™ glass walls form impressive entrances to both the retail area and the cinema complex. There is no doubt, however, that the most stunning structural glass assembly on this entire development is to be viewed on the south elevation of the hotel atrium. Here, the Pilkington Planar™ system has been used to create a superb, uninterrupted wall of glass that soars almost 52m into the air.

To the occupants of the hotel, this immense wall of glass brings an environment that is both light and spacious. To the architect and engineer, however, the wall is also an excellent example of what can be achieved by working in partnership with Pilkington and when technical input from the company is sought in the early stages of design development.

The Pilkington Planar™ wall in the hotel atrium rises from the sixth floor to the very top of the penthouse roof. Due to the height and exposed aspect of this particular elevation, the wind speeds increase from 177kmph at the base to well over 257kmph at the roof. By purposefully controlling the width and layout of the glass panels however, the design team have been able to accommodate all of the imposed loads using panels of Pilkington Planar™ glass, which are just 12mm thick.

The load from the glass wall panels is transferred back into a series of horizontal steel trusses that are set at 7.9m centers up the elevation. Pilkington Architectural designed and supplied the glass beams that transfer the wind load across these spans and into the steelwork. Both the 168.5m span and the size of the glass beams were set to make the system as structurally efficient as possible. To accommodate the variation in wind loading, the design strength of both the Pilkington Planar™ bolts and the glass beams was increased at various levels of the wall. Although these changes are now imperceptible, the cost savings that have been achieved are substantial.

At the top of the wall, a series of curved steel beams provide support to the penthouse roof. Spanning distances of 32m, these slender beams exhibit vertical deflections of 127mm due to the imposed wind and snow loads. To minimize the aesthetic impact of both the roof beams and the horizontal steel trusses below, the entire 38 tons of glass dead load is transferred back to one single box truss at the seventeenth floor level. By adopting this design philosophy at an early stage in the project, it was possible to provide adequate support for this massive 5.2m deep member. Having provided for the weight of the façade in this manner, the required slenderness of the roof and horizontal beams was achieved.

With more than 35 years of experience, Pilkington Architectural offers an unparalleled level of technical expertise in the design and supply of structural glass assemblies. The adaptability of the product, and also the level of design experience available, combine to make Pilkington Planar™ a market leader.

In the case of the River East Center, working in partnership with W&W Structural Glass Systems, based in New York, the quality of both the product and the design input combined to transform the design concept of a 52m tall wall of glass into a reality.

The architects for the project were DeStefano & Partners, Chicago, Illinois and the glazing contractor was Harmon Inc.