Best face forward: Clients seek better exterior appearance and performance
On the Bowie State campus, crews are currently constructing a massive new signature building. Plans for the 184,000-square-foot Martin Luther King Jr. Communication Arts and Humanities Building emphasized both “remembrance through design” and “the road to the future.”
Consequently, the final design included extraordinary features such as a façade that arranges exterior materials in a pattern to show the soundwaves of Dr. King’s voice as he delivered his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech and called for “courage to face the uncertainties of the future.”
For members of the project team, led by The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company, that inspired design presents construction challenges.
“A lot of brainwork and preparation had to be done upfront,” said Charles Ulrich, Vice President of Leonard A. Kraus Co.
The company, which is nearly halfway through the installation of roughly 60,000 square feet of terra cotta cladding, started working with Avenere Cladding (a subsidiary of Swirnow Building Systems) on the project more than six months in advance in order to perfect shop drawings and leave ample time to acquire the terra cotta product from Germany.
Leonard A. Kraus workers carefully sort through and selectively package terra cotta pieces at their facility to send to the site “because there are so many different pieces and different patterns and details in the design,” Ulrich said. “We send out what is needed per elevation and we complete one elevation at a time.”
The proliferation of exterior cladding options, the desire to create stand-out designs and the need to improve the performance of exterior materials on existing buildings are shaping the nature and priorities of current construction projects.
At Towson University, new cladding has provided both striking new visuals and essential building performance improvements. Built in 1983, the four towers in TU’s Glen Dormitory Complex had suffered water infiltration issues and could not meet current energy efficiency standards.
Swirnow Building Systems and Avenere Cladding used NeaCera® terra cotta panels to reclad all four high-rises.
“NeaCera panels solved their maintenance and energy challenges while being visually elegant,“ said John Stahl, Vice President-Sales at Avenere Cladding. The panels’ lighter weight allowed the product to tie directly into the existing concrete panels and made the product a cost-effective solution.
Built in 1924, Colgate Elementary School also used NeaCera to not only improve the performance of an aging building but achieve LEED Silver certification.
Furthermore, “the school utilized three different colored NeaCera panels in Rustic Canyon, Burnt Sienna and Brick Red to create a visually unique façade that stands in a class of its own,” Stahl said.
Heightened use of terra cotta, composite and hardy plank materials – along with rain screens and improved weather barriers – have expanded owners’ opportunities to create both interesting aesthetics and more resilient buildings, Ulrich said.
“There is a variety of new, thin, stone and brick material which is used more because it is very attractive and it can save 40 percent on cost, compared to some other materials,” said Taylor Classen, COO and Partner at Delbert Adams Construction Group (DACG).
At the Gibson Island Club, the availability of interesting cladding materials combined with an inspired design helped turn “a dilapidated, old, block building into an architectural gem,” Classen said.
A rectangular, concrete-block building, the club’s small hotel seemed out of place, especially following the construction of a beautiful new clubhouse onsite. Architects developed plans to renovate the building, replace the flat roof with a pitched and hipped roof, and completely reskin the building in Hardie panel “with lot of nice Azek and Boral trim features,” Classen said. “It had an unbelievably beautiful impact on the look of the building.”
And the interest in creating striking exteriors stretches well beyond institutions of higher education and social clubs.
In Jacksonville, Fla., Petrie Construction created an exceptional exterior for a liquor store. Although the building was a typical concrete-block box store, the owner of Shores Liquor wanted to create “a really nice-looking exterior that you would more expect in a higher-end residential setting,” said Eric Petrie, Project Manager.
The project team clad the building with a large amount of exterior insulation and finish system (EIFS) to create the look of stucco and added a “wainscoting” of stone “that created a nice band around the base of the building,” Petrie said “The project also included sculpted trim work that resembled crown molding.”
Those design choices, Petrie said, made the store “look more expensive” and satisfied a “new norm that retailers want shoppers to feel more comfortable in their stores.”