Volume 48, Issue 8- August 2013


Metal Suppliers Keep Up with Product, Finishing and Installation Trends

Once the curtainwall goes in, glass and metal fabricators continue to add value to projects with additional metal items, from sunshades to louvers and more. How that value is added continues to evolve.

According to Donnie Hunter, manager, architectural promotion, for Kawneer Co. Inc. in Norcross, Ga., “The interest in sunshades is still there and growing. Originally sunshades were more of an aesthetic statement rather than a true contributor to the functionality of the building, so it was very common for them to be value-engineered out of the project. Today functionality seems to drive specification, but aesthetics are still critical to many designers. Incorporating interior light shelves for enhancing natural daylighting is on the uptick as many studies over the years have indicated natural daylight stimulates the brain more than manmade light.” Hunter adds that there are several energy and solar estimating tools on the market today that can help determine the performance of a façade and determine when these products can help boost a project’s energy efficiency.

“Sunshades are still very popular and we are seeing the architects and owners wanting something custom, and not just a standard 3-foot sunshade that they see on most buildings,” Tom O’Malley, vice president of Doralco Architectural Metal Solutions in Alsip, Ill., agrees. He adds, “We have been doing a lot of custom dies, especially for the end fascia piece, as that is what really sticks out. We also have been doing more perforated sunshades.”

In addition, O’Malley says his company is seeing an increase in the cladding of storefront and doors. “People still do not necessarily want to pay for a solid stainless door but they will upgrade to a cladded one to enhance the visual appeal of the entrance to their building,” he says.

When it comes to the finishes on these metal products, the natural look of painted wood grain finishes have been popular both for sunshades and for composite and plate panels. “It is more readily available and offers a stronger product than real wood,” O’Malley says. “People are staying away from anodized as much as possible because of the finish quality and the warranty. The Kynar paint option is a much better product and offers a 20-year warranty. Pricing on this is much closer to anodizing than ever before which helps,” he adds.

However, Hunter finds that anodized finishes, particularly clear, continue to be prevalent. And according to what Hunter sees, “As a result of the green movement and more recently, the overall sustainability movement, painted finishes are becoming less popular due to the off-gassing, or more harmful byproducts, during the application process.”

Owners aren’t just looking for a sustainable, efficient product, these experts find. They’re also looking for a product that will do precisely what the manufacturer says it will. “More and more architects and building owners want to see test reports for their specific project or application,” Hunter says.

Mike Wallace, president of Quality Metalcrafts LLC in Rogers, Minn., agrees. “There seems to be a stronger push for having the necessary testing for architectural metal products and panels to support the project. In thpast, this was not always a requirement and the reputable manufacturers are investing in the proper testing to support their product lines.”

In addition to this increasing need for appropriate testing, Wallace sees a need for more metal suppliers to get involved early in the design process in order to help inform designers as to the most appropriate products available. According to Wallace, “Architectural drawing quality has been slowly deteriorating, resulting in poorly drawn, conceptual or partially drawn buildings. As a result, contract glaziers need to be more proactive in assisting in the design development early on and during the bidding process.” Wallace suggests assisting in choosing the right product for the application and value-engineering the project to assist in meeting budgets. “We often see the wrong product specified for an application where the architectural community needs solid resources that are truly offering the right product. Sometimes that means suggesting a product that you do not offer, but being a resource to the architect,” Wallace says.

Getting involved early also can help work out budget and trade-interface issues. As O’Malley points out, “People always like to see photovoltaics or moveable sunshades but the owner never wants to pay for it. This side of the market is still kind of a pipedream as there seems to be too many issues interfacing with the other trades needed. It leaves the general contractor worried that something is missing scope-wise and they usually push to get it removed to a standard sunshade or even still custom but not automated or using photovoltaics.” Early involvement can not only ensure that the appropriate product is selected, but the project runs on schedule.

Of course, suppliers don’t have to go directly to the architect necessarily, but can find a number of benefits in working with a design-assist glazing contractor to meet these needs. “This past year we have found that we have seen requirements for more single-sourced responsibility,” Wallace says, “not only supplying the drafting, engineering and product, but including multiple products from a single manufacturer. We recently worked closely with a glazing contractor where they teamed up with us to promote their package as a single source for seven different products on a given project. Due to the fact that we were able to fit the bill, we were successful in closing the project. We are seeing this more and more moving forward.”

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