Viñoly's Vdara Hotel Accused of Scorching Sunbathers

October 15, 2010

By Tony Illia in Las Vegas
This article originally appeared in Engineering Record

Photo courtesy of CityCenter Land LLC

Scorcher Hotel owner says it is trying again to fix the alleged ‘death ray’ problem after a 2008 attempt.

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Las Vegas Strip resorts vie to be the hottest place in town, but Vdara, a recently opened hotel, literally can scorch those visiting the pool deck during certain times of the day. The 57-story, 1,495-room hotel is one of six towers at the $8.5-billion, 67-acre CityCenter complex, which opened last December.

On Sept. 16, Vdara condominium owner and personal injury lawyer William G. Pintas complained to local media that the hotel’s south facade concentrated noon sunlight into a “death ray” onto the 40,000-sq-ft pool deck at the tower’s base. The 578-ft-tall crescent-shaped building’s concave surface acts a parabola resulting in solar convergence, Pintas says, transforming daylight into a hot ray across a 10-ft to 15-ft area.

Pintas, a principal with Chicago-based Pintas & Mullins Ltd., claims the intense heat burned his scalp within 30 seconds and melted a plastic shopping bag. The phenomenon can occur for roughly 1.5 hours a day, depending upon the season.

Vdara owner MGM Mirage Inc., Las Vegas, knew of the issue in 2008 and hired Alameda, Calif.-based consultant Loisos + Ubbelohde to study the problem. The firm’s recommendations led to the application of a thin, high-tech glazing film meant to dissipate reflection by 70%.

MGM plans to continually monitor pool-deck temperatures until a better remedy can be found. “We are working with designers on several new options at the pool, which may include shade structure, greenery and foliage to provide additional shade, and more umbrellas,” says Alan M. Feldman, an MGM spokesman.

Design architect Rafael Viñoly Architects LLC, New York City, did not respond to requests for comment. Leo A Daly, Omaha, Neb., is architect-of-record and San Francisco-based Gensler is executive architect. Benson Industries Inc., Portland, was the curtain-wall installer.

The 1.5-million-sq-ft building on the northwest edge of CityCenter consists of three curved vertical volumes, offset from each other like slender books not aligned on a shelf. The building is sheathed in 3,000 double-pane acid-etched spandrel glass panels for energy-efficient heating and cooling. Viracon is the supplier of the glazing system, which has 44% exterior visible light reflectance and 46% solar energy reflectance.

Las Vegas has on average 336 hours of sunlight a month, with ambient temperatures that can reach 113° F in September, Clark County reports. The “ray” area can add 20° F, says one hotel employee.

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