Suspended 120 feet in the air at Boyne Mountain Resort in Northern Michigan, the world's longest timber-towered suspension bridge recently opened to the public. Though part of this beautiful ski and golf retreat, SkyBridge Michigan is a destination worth visiting in its own right. This thrilling footbridge spans 1,200 feet–the length of four football fields–and offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Boyne Valley and surrounding hills. Halfway across SkyBridge is its most dramatic feature as the decking underfoot disappears and gives way to a 36' x 5' span of walkable glass. The transparent surface offers a stunning view of the valley floor, and ski run 118' below.
The GlassWalk™ glass floor was designed and manufactured by GBA Architectural Products + Services, a glass block and glass flooring manufacturer, distributor, and installer based in Medina, Ohio.
"All of the elements of this project tied together perfectly. SkyBridge is an incredible way to experience nature's beauty and the open space's vastness. The transparency of the glass lends a sense of weightlessness to this truly unique experience," stated James Boesch, Senior Estimator at GBA Architectural Products + Services.
SkyBridge Michigan features an open-air design with mesh sides for views that are virtually unobscured yet safe. The bridge's profile is an elongated version of the state's Pure Michigan "M" logo. SkyBridge is linked to the Boyne Mountain trail system or can be accessed by chairlift.
The project, led by Experiential Resources (ERi) of Lahaina, Hawaii, an innovator in experiential pedestrian bridges, took about a year to complete. A nine-member team of GBA professionals, including a project manager, designers, engineers, and fabricators, worked with ERi to create a design that met the project's specifications and technical requirements. To create a safe and durable walking surface, GBA had to consider not only the weight of the massive bridge and its visitors but northern Michigan's weather, including freezing temperatures. Mindful of this, GBA created a three-ply, 1-¼:-inch-thick, laminated structural glass flooring system and set it into a custom-colored, powder-coated steel framework. "We knew from testing and experience that this solution would be strong enough to endure Michigan's harshest winters," said Boesch.
Wind was another consideration. By their nature, suspension bridges must be somewhat flexible under windy conditions, or the combination of weight and wind can weaken the support cables. The GBA designers divided the 36-foot span into (6) six-foot pieces to mitigate this effect. Each piece weighs about 550 lbs. and can move independently of the other. "Dividing the surface into separate sections provides the bridge with the 'sway,' that is critical from an engineering standpoint," said Boesch.
GBA's portion of the project took eight weeks to complete, from design through manufacturing, lamination, and glazing. Boesch described the process of completing a large and challenging project like SkyBridge Michigan: "First, we try to understand the design intent and send samples of the materials to the client to learn exactly what is required from us. Then we can produce fabrication drawings and fabricate the materials in our plant." Boesch added, "we could maintain the fabrication and shipping schedules, so much so that the glass was delivered early."
"This is the kind of service we provide to all our clients," Boesch explained. "We deliver exceptional products in a timely fashion that functions exactly how they were designed."
Kennerly de Forest, Experiential Resources' Project Manager, had this to say about the relationship with GBA, "From initial contact to product delivery and ongoing support, GBA was a pleasure to work with. They made this aspect of the job easy to execute." Mandy Stewart, CEO & Co-Owner of Experiential Resources, added, "tens of thousands of people have been able to experience GBA's fantastic work on SkyBridge Michigan since it opened, and ERi is already working with GBA to design some pretty exciting upcoming projects. Stay tuned!" For more information on GlassWalk glass flooring from GBA Architectural Products + Services, visit their website at http://www.gbaproducts.com or contact them at (877) 280-7700.
About GBA Architectural Products
Since 1985, GBA Architectural Products + Services has grown from installing residential glass block window projects in Northeastern Ohio to a national presence. Today, they are the largest commercial installer of glass blocks in the country. GBA works with the top architects, engineers, designers, and contractors on simple projects to the most complex ones, including landmark projects requiring structural glass, glass flooring, glass pavers, and glass block.
GBA has a national distribution network of wholesalers for their glass block materials and ready-to-install residential window panels. In 2020, they acquired IBP's GlassWalk product line of glass panels, glass flooring, glass stairs, and glass pavers.