The Miami International Airport

Miami, Florida

Located just a few short miles from the coastline, Miami International Airport is a prime target for hurricanes. And, since its construction in 1928, has seen its fair share of close calls from Mother Nature. So when American Airlines officials announced plans for their new commuter terminal expansion, Pittsburgh Corning knew this project was a great opportunity to showcase their innovative products and their ability to effectively take the brunt of Mother Nature’s fury.

To spearhead the operation, Pittsburgh Corning’s North American Sales Manager, Bill Vaughan met with members of Alan W. Smith Masonry and the Russell Partnership, Inc., the project architect and Beauchamp Construction Company, the general contractor, to discuss how glass block might fit into the eventual design. As it turned out, project goals not only required a product durable enough to stand up to hurricane season but one that would also easily allow an inflow of light into the terminal. It seemed like a match made in heaven for Pittsburgh Corning’s LightWise® Architectural Systems.

“When we found out about this project we immediately thought of our LightWise® Architectural Systems, specifically our hurricane resistant windows,” said Bill Vaughan. “Unlike the traditional method of laying block, which will not comply with the hurricane codes, we knew that choosing one of our prefabricated systems would not only give the design the desired look and feel but also the safety and security needed for such a high-profile application.”

After careful consideration, Pittsburgh Corning’s LightWise® Architectural Systems Hurricane Resistant Windows were selected for the façade. While the panels presented an opportunity for Pittsburgh Corning they presented somewhat of a perceived challenge for the installers, Alan W. Smith Masonry, as this would be their first time that the traditional mason contractor would be working with prefabricated glass block panels. Suffice to say, the crew had some reservations when first introduced to the panels.

To help prepare for this large project and to ease some of the stresses presented by this brand-new product, the Alan W. Smith team set-up a trial run at their facility to get a feel for the installation. As workers cautiously approached the panel – many wearing long gloves - all expected this brittle looking panel to shatter as it was lifted into place. However, once the team lifted the panel, witnessed its strength and ability to absorb shock, they immediately felt comfortable with the product and knew that installation would be trouble free.

“The panels were very easy to work with,” said Antonio Obregon, vice president of operations for Alan W. Smith Masonry. “And, although this was our first experience with glass block systems, we really didn’t have any hiccups. It’s a simple system so there isn’t a whole lot to dislike. After seeing how easy this was to work with I wouldn’t complain if all our work shifted from loose block to panels.”

After installing the first of several panels, the mason contractor’s team immediately felt comfortable with both the product and its installation method. Frames were set in place, panels were shipped and in almost no-time, windows were installed. This seamless process not only helped the project stay on pace but also helped keep the overall cost down as only three workers were needed instead of the original estimate of many more.

Altogether, the new American Airlines Commuter Terminal at the Miami International Airport features 547 of Pittsburgh Corning’s LightWise® Hurricane Resistant Windows. Using a random pattern of six different sizes of windows, the design offers ample light while also providing an increased circulation of airflow. Unlike other windows that feature traditional sheet glass or curtain walls, Miami International Airport was able to keep true to its heritage maintaining the unique look and feel of Miami and its Miami Vice era glass block roots.

“The windows are a great addition to the airport and really combine aesthetics, light transmission and high performance,” said Vaughan. “We’re very proud to have our product front and center of many visitors first stop in town.”