About All That Glass

If you walk past the new 13-story Sutter Health-CPMC campus at Van Ness and Geary, you may note all the glass surrounding the building. The design provides a clean, modern aesthetic that reflects San Francisco’s beautiful landscape and is fit for a world-class city. But what happens in an earthquake?

Officials at Sutter Health, working closely with their design, architecture and construction partners, decided to use a four-sided structurally glazed exterior attached to an interior aluminum frame with a strong silicone sealant. This four-sided structurally glazed exterior benefits the project in several ways:

  • Reduces the need for expensive building materials like aluminum window frames and mullions
  • Provides floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall windows for flexible interior planning
  • Offers the uniform look of an entire glazed wall from the outside

In order to demonstrate this technology would be safe in an earthquake, the teams collaborated with specialists to test the system. Testing began in 2014. Then, in September of that year, disaster struck Santiago, Chile. An 8.3-magnitude earthquake struck, leading to the evacuation of one million people and causing widespread damage to the city. One beacon of hope stood tall: a high-rise covered in the same four-sided structural glazing with silicone “glue” façade. It remained fully operational, with just one glass panel cracked.

The teams then set up an actual two-story mock-up of the constructed façade at a state of the art testing facility in Sacramento and put it through several tests for state and local officials. The strength and waterproofing stood up to the tests, and the officials approved its use.

Sutter Health’s new hospital at Van Ness will be the first hospital in California to use these structurally glazed panels with integral LED light fixtures installed. During the day, the sun’s reflection creates a collage of varying opacity and shadow in the glass, while at night a series of high-efficiency uplights brighten the windows, giving a dramatic and artistic quality to the building.