The Houston Museum of Natural Science’s Cockrell Butterfly Center underwent renovations earlier this year to make it more accessible to visitors and enhance the quality of life for the exhibit’s plants and butterflies.
Renovations on the three-story all-glass facility began in September 2022. Officials say the biggest part of the renovation included replacing 535 lites of glass.
According to Julio Fuentes, of Houston-based Lakeview Glass and Mirror Inc., the project was a unique feat of architectural ingenuity due to the structure’s unique shape. The glaziers had to install glass of various shapes and sizes to accommodate the center’s cylindrical shape and safeguard live, tropical plants that needed to be protected from the elements.
Fuentes says glaziers were tasked with “improving the glass and glazing insulation for better protection from the elements while allowing natural light to enter the three-story rainforest conservatory and butterfly exhibit.” The task was daunting because the temperature in the center needs to hover between 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit with 70-80% humidity to mimic a rainforest environment.
Fuentes states that Trulite insulating glass units were used. The glass make-up included ¼-inch clear tempered, ½-inch clear anodized spacer and 9/16-inch clear lamination. The new lites of glass are better insulated to keep the center’s temperature more regulated while allowing more light to help the plants.
Throughout the replacement process, the glaziers were tasked with:
- Pulling dimensions on existing glass and creating glass templates to ensure a proper fit for the final glass product;
- Using heavy equipment, hand power tools and removing existing glass from glass openings;
- Cleaning glass openings, preparing the opening for thermal bond tape for insulation and caulking for wet sealing; and
- Installing the new glass using heavy equipment, hand power tools and manual labor.
The Cockrell Butterfly Center features a 50-foot waterfall and is home to between 1,500 and 2,000 individual butterflies at a given time. The center opened in 1994 and was renovated in 2007 to include more interactivity. The facility reopened early this year following the most recent renovations.