Metal Architecture
Tuesday | 15 August, 2017 | 10:13 am

Inspired innovations

By Gretchen Salois

10th annual contest proves copper architectural features are stunning yet sustainable

August 2017 - A panel of industry experts vetted dozens of entries from architecture projects across North America for the 10th annual North American Copper in Architecture (NACIA) awards program. “It was difficult this year, in particular, to select the top projects as our number of building submissions nearly doubled,” says Thomas S. Passek, president of the Copper Development Association (CDA). “It has been inspiring seeing the innovative design trends throughout the last decade.”

The use of copper for wall cladding applications jumped in 2017 with entries split between wall cladding and roofing project submissions, Passek says.

A panel of industry experts judged each entry by copper system design, integration of copper alloys with overall building design, craftsmanship of installation, and excellence in innovation or restoration. Awards are given in three categories: New Construction, Restoration/Renovation and Interior Ornamental.

[ new construction ] Staten Island Courthouse

Location: St. George, Staten Island, New York
Architect: Ennead Architects LLC, New York
Curtainwall consultant: Heintges & Associates, New York
Housing the New York State Supreme Civil and Criminal Courts, lower Criminal Court and related agencies, the modern facility in the civic center of St. George is anchored by four copper-clad “towers of justice.” 
Photos: Jeff Goldberg

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Four copper-clad “towers of justice” catch the morning light—a sight for commuters arriving by ferry.

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Sustainability was an important consideration: Copper used in the submitted projects had to be recycled and recyclable for the LEED silver project. As in the case of the biomedical building in Arizona, copper served as a sort of sunscreen for the structure. “CO Architects stress their commitment to sustainability throughout the project, noting that of 295,000 pounds of copper was used to make the exterior panels, 95 to 99 percent was made from recycled material,” explains Stephen Knapp, director of strip, sheet and plate for New York City-based CDA. “They reduced energy costs by 16 percent due to a combination of the mechanical system efficiency and the building’s copper exterior.”

In a pool of standout applicants, projects like the Wellington Building in Ottawa, Ontario—designed by NORR Limited Architects and installed by Mometal Structures—stood out, says Knapp. The project called for 13,000 square feet of aged copper to be cut from the existing roof from the Parliament Building, which were then crated, sorted, flattened, perforated and then bent on a press brake to provide the sound attenuation and sculptural finish for the walls of the Parliamentary Library in the building.

[ ornamental ] The Wellington Building

Location: Toronto, Ontario
Architect: NORR Limited Architects, Engineers & Planners, Toronto, Ontario
Roofing contractor: Raymond and Associates Roofing Inc., Gatineau, Quebec
Thirteen thousand square feet of aged copper was salvaged from a 60-year-old roof, sorted, flattened, perforated, bent and installed in the Parliamentary Library. Photos: Doublespace Photography

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Recycled roofing provides sound attenuation and a sculptural finish for the walls of the Parliamentary Library.

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Maintainable methods

The domes fabricated for some of the projects entered in the contest may look complex, but many of the rounded shapes and smooth finishes are achieved by using traditional flat lock connection, manufactured using precisely installed tapered triangular copper panels that went onto the convex surfaces, says Knapp.

“Many of the ornamental ribboning and accents are also hand-formed out of 32-ounce copper sheet,” he adds.

Challenges varied from project to project. The entry for 210 Pacific Street in Brooklyn, New York, completed by Fine Metal Roof Tech of Murray, Utah, is clad with 15,000 individual pieces of pressed tiles made from 0.02-inch-thick grade C24000 brass. Each individual tile, which were fabricated in two sizes, cover the entire exterior of the structure, except for windows.

[ new construction ] Biomedical Sciences Partnership Building

Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Architect: CO Architects, Los Angeles
Sheet metal contractor: Kovach Building Enclosures, Chandler, Arizona
The building's exterior has a striated texture using 4,800 formed, bent and perforated copper panels to reflect light and cast shadows. The effect mimics canyon walls in Arizona’s mountains. Durable yet malleable, copper can be formed and stretched into desired shapes without breaking. Photos: Bill Timmerman, Timmerman Photography

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“The use of a copper alloy allowed for the forming of detailed thin panels and provided a great natural finish, which will patina over time to a dark brown,” Knapp says, claiming that  “no other material offers the range of choices that copper and copper alloys do for architectural applications.”

Restoration projects often require years to complete and become very complex because architects are usually charged with preserving more features than replacing them. “Copper lends itself to this type of work as it is often the original material used for the projects, which makes it required for historical accuracy,” Knapp says. “But its natural attributes, such as longevity, ease of fabrication, and the fact that it ages beautifully, are what make copper a preferred restoration material.”

[ new construction ] 210 Pacific St., Brooklyn

Location: Brooklyn, New York
Builder/developer: NAVA, New York
Sheet metal contractor: Fine Metal Roof Tech, Murray, Utah
Fifteen thousand individual brass tiles cover the exterior of the 120-foot-tall apartment building in Brooklyn. The pressed brass pieces are fastened to 8,000 linear feet of stainless steel supports that wrap around the facade. Photos: NAVA Companies

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Two of this year’s winners involved in the complicated restorations contest were the Centre Block of the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa, completed by EVOQ Architecture; and 31 E. 7th St. in New York, by architectural firm Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners LLP, which worked with sheet metal contractor B&B Sheet Metal Inc.

Entries will soon be accepted for the 2018 North American Copper in Architecture awards program, says Passek. “If you’re working on a copper building project—whether it is a residential structure, government building, religious cathedral or temple, or even a small garage—we want to know about it.”

The CDA’s website is a resource and staff experts can answer questions regarding copper building applications and can provide architectural seminars or other education efforts.

“We are happy to [offer assistance to anyone] with technical questions or design assistance you may be having with your existing or future projects,” Passek says.  Submissions are being accepted for the 2018 competition from September 2017 through January 2018. MM

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