Volume 36, Issue 4, April 2001

Eye-Catching Structures

Using Ornamental Aluminum and Custom Finishes to Attract Attention
by Heather West

Whether trying to stand out from the crowd or blend with existing styles, architects want to create an eye-catching structure. Custom finishes and ornamental aluminum easily mold to an architect’s aesthetic signature.
Why Aluminum?
Aluminum is a versatile material for engineering and constructing building products. It has a smooth surface and excellent resistance to corrosion. Aluminum is not susceptible to the instability and deterioration caused by shrinking and swelling. A workable rule-of-thumb for aluminum is that its thermal expansion will equal 1/8-inch in 10-feet for a 100-degree temperature range. Also, aluminum is 23.2 times stiffer than vinyl and 7.2 times stiffer than wood.

Other benefits include the fact that aluminum is recyclable and environmentally-safe. It is extremely lightweight and therefore has lower shipping and handling expenses. This material also is quick and simple to extrude, machine and fabricate into virtually any form.

Integrated Engineering
As part of its engineering and manufacturing expertise, our company works closely with its customers to incorporate ornamental aluminum elements into the overall curtainwall system’s design.

For the architectural award-winning Austin-Bergstrom International Air-port, Wausau precision-engineered a 200,000-square-foot curtainwall system. As part of its contribution to the project, we also manufactured the steel brackets for the exceptionally heavy, 6-foot-deep sunshades and provided several interior components including five self-supporting units for the retail areas and the overhead gridwork.

“The plans called for an open-air building with a huge expanse of glazing throughout,” said Art Arredondo, project resident architect for PSP. “Initially, we considered a totally custom application, but it didn’t work within the budget. During a re-bid, we demonstrated a semi-custom system that met not only our functional and aesthetic requirements, but also the budget.”

The Right Match
In addition to its aesthetics and functionality, aluminum makes an excellent base for high-quality coatings that ensure a long-lasting, easy-to-maintain appearance. It accepts a wide range of surface finishes and protective coatings.

As director of capital projects for Carnegie Mellon University, Tom Murphy has supervised more than $300 million of university building projects for the past 15 years. Since the mid-1980s, he has worked with architect Michael Dennis to help shape the campus at Carnegie Mellon.

As the symbol for the university’s world-renowned theater arts program, the Purnell Center needed to match its sister building, the University Center. The center’s window system was installed several years earlier and used a custom, dual finish. The window system’s exterior was finished with a custom green, now called Carnegie Green, while a standard white was used for the windows’ interior. Returning to the same building team and manufacturers, Carnegie Mellon was able to use the identical finish on its new performing arts center.

Finishing Touches
Choosing the right type of organic spray-applied finish used on an aluminum window or curtainwall system is a complex and important decision. Fluropon, Duranar, Fluoroceram, Trinar and Nubular are all brand names for 70 percent PVDF resin systems. They are also often referred to as Kynar 500 or Hylar 5000. These coatings demonstrate superior resistance against color fade, chalking, airborne chemicals, acid rain and cleaning solvents. They are well-suited for high-rise, institutional and monumental buildings.

Fifty percent PVDF coatings such as Valspar Fluropon also withstand intense sunlight, extreme temperatures and air pollutants while maintaining their vibrant appearance and are appropriate for today’s low-rise, storefront and light commercial projects.

Anodic coatings are more abrasion resistant than paint, and are available in shades of bronze and black, as well as clear anodized. The coatings are an integral part of the aluminum surface and withstand the wear and tear of high-traffic areas.

The bolder the color and the more aggressive the environment, the more likely a PVDF finish will be needed to meet the performance requirements of AAMA 605. Usually, a clear coat is only required if the finish selected uses a metallic flake or an exotic pigment.

Regardless of the final selection, the architect’s vision and the building owner’s dream will only be brought to life through the close teamwork of contractors, manufacturers and finishers.

Heather West manages public relations for Wausau Window and Wall Systems in Wausau, Wis.