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Tubelite Curtainwall Used in New Ferris State University High-Tech Building

Center for Virtual Learning

The newly constructed, LEED-certified Center for Virtual Learning at Ferris State University’s Big Rapids campus showcases technologically advanced classrooms, 24-hour labs and a purpose-built esports arena in Michigan. Opened in August 2023, the CVL offers an innovative, physical learning environment to envision and realize an interconnected virtual world.

Tubelite products used

Designed by Stantec, the architectural team specified Tubelite 400TU Therml=Block High Performance Thermal Curtainwall as the basis of design for the CVL’s three-story, 64,000-square-foot facility. Along with thermal performance, Tubelite’s curtainwall met all the project’s requirements for sustainability, air, water, firestopping, acoustic, condensation resistance and structural criteria. 

Vos Glass installed the Tubelite curtainwall’s 2.5-inch-wide by 6-inch-deep extruded aluminum framing to create the CVL’s rectangular openings in varied heights and spans. The vertical and horizontal framing joints are aligned with the minimum tolerance to accommodate expansion and contraction while presenting a clean, modern appearance. The curtainwall provides outdoor views that keep students connected to the larger campus, as well as brings daylight into the collaborative learning spaces.

Enhancing the project’s distinctive appearance, Linetec finished Tubelite’s aluminum framing members in two colors–arctic ice and grayish. Arctic ice was selected for the majority of Tubelite curtainwall frames, such as for the first-floor main entry and the third-floor balcony enclosure. The grayish color finish differentiates the curtainwall framing on the wall projections defining the second and third floors’ exteriors and adds visual interest within the overall glass and metal façade.

“Beginning on the exterior of the building and transcending through the doors are common themes, including the use of a binary materials language creating a pixelated, digital look and feel harkening to the movement and manipulation of data,” says Stantec. “Primarily consisting of black and white fixtures, pops of color are artfully displayed through classroom carpet, signage and breakout spaces, representing moments of discovery that will be realized throughout the future of this new facility.”

Supporting the building’s LEED certification, energy efficiency and campus-wide sustainability goals, Tubelite 400TU Therml=Block curtainwall is designed to meet or exceed International Energy Conservation Codes, state building codes and other performance test standards. For the CVL, Tubelite’s system features 1-inch insulating glass units, dual thermal strut framing and four-side pressure cap construction. To minimize unwanted heat transfer, the framing members’ interior and exterior surfaces are separated and insulated, helping maximize occupants’ comfort and minimize energy use.

Tubelite and Linetec working together

Tubelite relies on Linetec as its single source solution for its finishing, thermal breaks and other value-added services–all under quality-assurance, factory-controlled conditions. For the CVL, Linetec applied durable two-coat, 70% PVDF resin-based architectural painted finishes. 

Linetec uses a 100% air capture system and a regenerative thermal oxidizer to safely contain and eliminate volatile organic compounds associated with solvents in liquid paint. This process is managed in the Linetec facility. This prevents adverse environmental impact and alleviates concerns about VOCs at the jobsite and after the finished material is installed on the building.

Prior to installation on the CVL, Tubelite’s finished curtainwall system underwent field and preconstruction testing. This allowed Tubelite and Vos Glass to confirm installation methods and performance as specified in collaboration with the building team. General contractor Triangle Associates’ on-site work began earlier, in 2021, with the planned demolition of Vandercook Hall. Construction on the CVL progressed in phases through its substantial completion in February 2023.

Facility success

A grand opening celebration was held in August 2023 where Ferris State University’s president, Bill Pink, recognized the contributions of Stantec, Triangle and other building team members. He described the CVL as “a building that was carefully and strategically constructed” and “focused on not only students and their advancement, but how our students advance our state and even our country.”

“The Center for Virtual Learning is designed to support building a community, economy and society that invites everyone to maximize their potential toward our collective future,” says LaShanda Thomas, chair, Ferris State University’s Board of Trustees.

“Realizing it is everything we hoped it would be and actually more in terms of the beauty of the space and the functionality of the space, it’s very gratifying,” says Glen Okonoski, director, Ferris State University’s School of Digital Media.

Programs within the facility include artificial intelligence, data science and analytics, digital animation and game design, information security and intelligence, professional esports production, project management, software engineering, the school of education, and television and digital media production. As Ferris State’s learning metaverse, it also serves as a home for university-wide online, digital content creation and instruction.