Climate Curtain Protects U.S. Glass Block Manufacturer
Pittsburgh CorningTM is a world leader in innovative glass block products for commercial, institutional, government and residential building applications. The company is the only U.S.-based manufacturer of glass block.
In 2011, Pittsburgh Corning began assembly of its glass block systems in an under-utilized warehouse at its Port Allegany, Penn., manufacturing location. To prepare the warehouse for assembly operations, the company needed to create a climate-controlled, low-dust environment. Further, the warehouse measured 100 feet wide by 400 feet long—but assembly operations required only a portion of the total area.
Eric Swartwout, the Senior Engineer whose responsibilities include the mechanical, electrical and environmental activities at the facility, determined that Climate Curtains from Goff’s Curtain WallsTM would help address all three assembly area requirements.
“I looked at the information on the website, and what impressed me was the application information and the fact that the Climate Curtains used Thinsulateä Ultra Insulation from 3Mä,” says Swartwout. “Our assembly personnel can work in T-shirts. When its cold and they move from the assembly side to the warehouse side to pick up supplies, they put on a jacket first. They say that the temperature difference is remarkable.”
Controlling The Climate
Producing Pittsburgh Corning’s multiple block systems requires a room temperature of 60 to 70 degrees F so that the assembly cures properly, as well as a low-dust environment, largely so that Pittsburgh Corning’s products retain their high aesthetic appeal and quality standards. To control dust, a multi-layer, 1/2-inch thick epoxy coating was applied over the assembly area’s floor. The remaining floor area of the warehouse would remain concrete. To prevent dust from migrating between the clean and uncontrolled sides of the warehouse, Swartwout knew he wanted a flexible rather than a fixed wall.
“Sometimes we manufacture very large assemblies, or we may have to move equipment from one side to the other,” he says. “We wanted the ability to move an item that would be much too large to fit through a standard door. Also, we wanted the option to re-size the assembly area if necessary.”
With the need for a flexible wall clearly identified, Swartwout conducted an Internet search and landed at www.goffscurtainwalls.com. The Climate Curtains appealed to him for a variety of reasons. In addition to the Thinsulate Ultra Insulation, the Climate Curtains also feature a unique overlapping panel design that enables the curtains to maintain an insulation factor of R-5 throughout the curtain, not just “non seam” areas (and if needed, an R-20+ factor can be achieved by installing multiple layers).
Constructed with 18 ounce coated vinyl and meeting NFPA 701 standards for fire resistance, Climate Curtains come in 60-inch-wide panels that are custom made to fit each application, which was 30 feet high for Pittsburgh Corning. To provide easy access between the two sides of the warehouse, Pittsburgh Corning uses the optional galvanized steel track and roller system, and they integrated a 9-foot-wide strip door in the middle.
To suspend the curtains, Swartwout decided to weld the 16-gauge galvanized steel tracks to a steel girder, leaving a gap for the curtain’s nylon roller hooks.
“We had a welder working for one day to install the tracks, and then we had a single person working with a lift truck spend about eight days installing the curtain,” he says. The worker put the strips up independently. Once evenly spread, he then used the supplied Velcro to secure the panels to each other, as well as to the floor.
“I also liked the fact the curtains were light enough that our own people could install it without having to hire contractors,” adds Swartwout. “There was a lot of good information from the website on installation. We really had no questions or problems at all.”
Energy, Light Benefits
Eight gas heaters originally heated the entire warehouse area. More than 30 years old and destined to be replaced with an energy efficient system, five of these heaters now stand idle. After installing Goff’s Climate Curtains, Pittsburgh Corning now only operates the three heaters on the assembly side of the warehouse.
“We never had a baseline to calculate the energy savings, but the fact that we’re running three versus eight heaters is a 60-plus percent savings in itself,” says Swartwout.
While Swartwout hasn’t monitored the temperature variations inside the renovated facility, he inadvertently discovered noticeable difference on the outside walls.
“We know we have infiltration of birds, and it was hard to tell where the holes were so we could fill them,” he says. “I waited until we had a cold day, then had a technician take our thermal camera and look at the eves all the way around the building so we could identify trouble spots. That’s when we recognized that we can easily find where the curtain wall is by looking at the thermal scan.”
Taken on November 14, the thermal scan of the outside wall on the uncontrolled side of the building registered 35.8 degrees F—while the controlled side registered 44.4 degrees F. On the inside, the difference means working comfortably in a shirt on the assembly side and putting on jacket for working in the warehouse side of the building.
“Another byproduct of the curtain wall that is that it reflects all the light back into the assembly area. We actually gained a lot of light in that side of the warehouse just because of the curtain being white,” adds Swartwout.
In a second phase of Climate Curtain installation, Pittsburgh Corning plans to install a valence in the gap between the girder and the roof.
“We realize we’re going to have to cut a lot of slits to put the curtain in place, but sealing off even more of the area came up in our audit, so we’re doing it,” says Swartwout. “I sent a technician up on lift to see if they feel the hot air move. They could tell there was a temperature difference, but they didn’t feel a blast of hot air coming across. They reported that the Climate Curtain itself really limits the air circulation between the two sides. It does an excellent job at controlling the temperature differences between one side and the other. Goff’s Climate Curtains work as well as advertised, and sometimes even better.”