Glass Action

A New York sign company shines in this epic privacy-window project.
Goforth Sign + Design (New York) installed more than 4,500 sq. ft. of printed privacy film for an insurance provider's newly constructed offices.

When one of my largest client’s designers came to me and said, “We need a custom job, and it’s big,” a host of questions lined up in my mind. What would they have in store for me this time? I scheduled a meeting, to be followed by a building walk-through, and were they ever right. This project would span 76,000 sq. ft. of new office space – an entire New York City block. But what they wanted wasn’t something completely out of the box: printed privacy film to meet HIPAA regulations for a health insurance provider.

Simple enough, right? We just needed to find some vinyl they liked and install it. But in addition to the designer, we had to satisfy three project managers and the end client on this job – no small task considering all were busy. Plus, we had an extremely tight deadline of seven weeks, including sample approval, production and installation. To compound the challenge, once I did the walk-through, I realized I was being asked to cover a massive amount of glass – glass that wasn’t even installed yet. I couldn’t even guess the amount, width, or square footage of panels because tracks weren’t laid out yet – just open cavities where offices and conference rooms would soon be constructed.

HALF EMPTY

I immediately began looking at the options the designer was thinking of, and was relieved the choice was an existing print from a wholesale manufacturer, which meant that my shop would not be on the hook for printing this immense amount of material. I ordered a sample, scheduled an installation date for approval and thought, “We’re good to go!” 

But we all know that in our industry, this is not how projects move along. My designer loved the material but realized we needed to go floor to ceiling with it, so we would need a custom print. With just six weeks left until the deadline, we were pushing it. Luckily, I decided to check back with a project manager, who said that tracking for the glass had just been laid down, so I could at least determine the height of the panels. We thought we’d have to install samples at the designer’s office for the client to approve, which is less than ideal. Plus, the project still had so many loose ends: How many panels? What about the widths? Was this even possible in their time-frame? How could I estimate a job that didn’t really exist yet?

The techniques required for the job were basic, but the scale required adaptability during construction, then speed to meet the deadline.
The techniques required for the job were basic, but the scale required adaptability during construction, then speed to meet the deadline.

I contacted the manufacturer and had three new samples printed that would run top to bottom for these panels. I crossed my fingers that one of them would get approved, and that we could meet the deadline with the custom prints. By the time the samples arrived, most of the glass panels had been installed, so we were able to have the client approve in their own space after all. 

Now we were finally able to make some headway; the glazer was also on site and I was able to look at his inventory sheet to double-check that I had a handle on this situation at long last. I measured the panels that were installed, cross referenced his list, and took a deep breath. We ended up with more than 150 panels ranging from 8 to 64 in. wide, totaling over 4,500 sq. ft. 

ALL FULL

Being in the sign industry for 12 years, I have installed my fair share of distraction dots, privacy panels, murals and miscellaneous vinyl jobs, but never had I coordinated custom prints for 4,500 sq. ft. of glass in under five weeks, with some glass panels missing and no joint-glazing installed. I realized I was at the mercy of the glazer and my print wholesaler. When the sample and estimate finally were approved, and the glass inventory on hand, it was finally time to order the material, a nerve-racking task considering the sheer volume. What if we missed something? What if the prints came out wrong or, or, or? All I could do was check everything three times, trust in myself and my processes, and pull the trigger.

Finally, just under the deadline for the installation date, my crew and I arrived on-site to begin, but there was another issue to contend with: the glass was filthy. The client had chosen butt-joint glazing and silicone was everywhere, in streaks and ribbons, all dried and bonded to the glass panels. Cleaning the glass ended up taking 40 man hours, something we hadn’t built into the time allotment for this project.

Installation of these privacy-film panels is much like any normal print or solid vinyl, though the material is so thick that any small nick in the glass, inconsistency, or fleck of dust shows up inside a very large, white circle you can spot from ten feet away. Thus, after each glass panel was thoroughly scraped clean, we sprayed the panel down with soapy water using two-gallon portable sprayers, peeled the backing off the vinyl while spraying the adhesive side of the panel as we went, and then slid the vinyl into place on the glass. This material works best with two rounds of application, so once we did a quick squeegee to set it down, we then went through a second time, much slower and with considerably more pressure to really make sure we got out as much moisture as we could, to help with curing.

So, how did we wrap up this large job with a designer, three project managers and a necessarily picky client with an extraordinary amount of glass and tedious work? We crushed it! Looking at it, you’d think that putting some vinyl up on glass panels wouldn’t be complicated, and truly it is not. You just have to wrap your mind around the sheer volume, the number of people involved, the myriad moving parts and unforeseen hiccups along the way. Thankfully, with this job everyone was thrilled, compliancy was met, and we’re looking forward to the next floor!


EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES

Vinyl: Decorative Films Dual Feather Gradient window film, decorativefilm.com
Tools: 3M Gold squeegees, 3m.com; Triumph scraper, jbf.dk; two-gallon portable sprayer, razor blades
Cleaning: Dawn dish soap, microfiber towels
 

See more of Goforth Sign + Design's work at goforthsigns.com.

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