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Hotel Takes Heat for ‘Death Ray’ Design

Monday, February 18, 2013

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Architectural glass facades may reduce operation costs and enhance aesthetic appeal, but their so-called "death ray" effect is proving less popular.

The Vdara Hotel & Spa in Las Vegas is among the properties that has sizzled in the national spotlight for this phenomenon.

Due to the building’s reflective surface and concave design, strong Nevada sunlight reflects off the hotel’s south side tower to create dangerously hot conditions at particular points on the pool deck below, according to various reports.

Local news reports say (and show) plastic drink cups, flip flops and shopping bags have melted due to the exposure.

Varda Hotel Vdara hotel
Images/video: ABC News.com (left and below); Kris1123 / Wikimedia Commons (right)

The desert sun's reflection off the Vdara Hotel's massive glass facade, a phenomenon called "solar convergence," has guests hot under the collar—and other places. The hotel says it has addressed the issue.

The hotel, designed by Rafael Vinoly Architects, opened in December 2009 and is LEED Gold certified. It is a part of the $8.5 billion, six-skyscraper CityCenter development.

Solar Convergence Phenomenon

The term “death ray” was one allegedly coined by resort employees, according to a report in the Las Vegas Review Journal. Other reports have used the term "heat ray."

MGM Resorts International, which owns the hotel, describes the occurrence as a “solar convergence phenomenon.”

Boston homeowner

It doesn't take a multistory wall of glass to cause problems. Homeowners in Boston say their siding has been melted by their neighbors' high-efficiency windows.

“Solar convergence phenomenon occurs anywhere the sun’s rays are reflected off a glass-walled building,” according to a spokeswoman from MGM.  

“The effect at Vdara is heightened by the concave shape of the building that curves around the hotel pool deck,” Yvette Monet, a MGM public affairs officer, told D+D News.

But other structures, including homes in the North and Northeast, have also been affected, according to a variety of news reports.

Coatings to the Rescue?

At the Vdara, the owner and developer were made aware of the issue in late 2008 and took measures to curb the issue by applying a thin, high-tech film to the glass panels on the south façade, reports say.

Vdara Hotel

Reports show that the reflected heat has crumpled cups and melted print off plastic shopping bags at the poolside base of the concave glass facade.

Critics suggest those coatings, meant to scatter some of the reflective light, did not work. Further remedies involving coatings have not been implemented.

"Coatings were not involved in any of the [hotel's] fixes," Monet said.

Instead, she said Vdara has taken a number of steps to alleviate the effect and accommodate the movement of the sun’s reflection throughout the day, including installing umbrellas and signage reminding guests of the importance of responsible sunning. The hotel also offers hats and sunscreen for purchase.

“Sun exposure in areas surrounded by glass buildings may intensify the effects of sunning,” Monet said.


Tagged categories: Architecture; Coating types; Design; Energy efficiency; Glass coatings; Hotels

Comment from Stephen Bolling, (2/18/2013, 5:02 AM)

The hotel also offers hats and sunscreen for purchase? BOYCOTT both the hotel and the architect.

Comment from Donald L Crusan, (2/18/2013, 8:15 AM)

Too consistent with most things today. Don't stop and take the time to think, just react after the fact. As you said Stephen for Purchase? And umbrellas and signs as a proactive solution!

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