Metal Architecture
Monday | 17 September, 2018 | 11:10 am

Materials, textures, color schemes and thoughtful designs blend to become winners of the North American Copper in Architecture competition

Written by By Corinna Petry

Materials, textures, color schemes and thoughtful designs blend to become winners

September 2018 - Fifteen projects were recognized in the 2018 North American Copper in Architecture (NACIA) awards program, including educational facilities, residential dwellings, government buildings and religious structures.

Established in 2008 by the Copper Development Association (CDA) and the Canadian Copper & Brass Development Association (CCBDA), the annual contest recognizes and promotes copper buildings in the United States and Canada selected from three categories: New Construction, Renovation/Restoration and Ornamental Applications.

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Wall cladding in two colors differentiates 325 Kent Ave., Brooklyn.

Direct benefits that result from the competition include inspiring a greater number of architects to specify copper alloys in their work, which creates additional demand from the building and construction community, says Stephen Knapp, CDA’s market development director for strip, sheet and plate.

Thousands of pounds of copper were used by the award-winning projects to clad and roof structures such as the Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral in Raleigh, North Carolina; the West Block Rehabilitation Project at Parliamentary Hill in Ottawa, Ontario; The American Copper Buildings in New York City; and the Local 130 Plumbers Training Facility in Chicago.

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A Gensler design in Chicago won for new construction.

Contestants are judged by a panel of copper industry and architecture experts based on overall building design, integration of copper, craft of copper installation and excellence in innovation or historic renovation.

Modern Metals quizzed Knapp on what features or functions make these projects special (hint: there’s typically a wow factor), which innovations stand out, and how architects advance the application of copper in new ways.

“Most of the projects use copper as their cladding material but a number of them used brass, like the Shane Homes YMCA [Calgary, Alberta], which used brass shingles to create an undulating facade. That is quite a bit different from most cladding systems, which often use standing seam and batten seam [methods]. We have seen those being transformed from roofing systems to experimentation with different alloys and configurations, like diamond patterns.”

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A New York high-rise dwelling takes a twist.

Today, in fact, the use of copper in building construction and renovation went from predominantly roofing to a 50/50 split between roofing and wall cladding. That trend, says Knapp, “does create more demand. A roof is one fifth of the building envelope. When expanding into wall sections for architectural metal, that means more potential for our products.”

The Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., won an award in the ornamental category. Forty-foot-tall bronze “gates” are used at the entrance, into which are inscribed the first 80 lines of Genesis in Latin, as originally printed in the Gutenberg Bible.

“Bronze is a historical material, but it wasn’t used much in the past 50 years in this manner. This [project] is high profile and it’s a stunning result,” Knapp says.

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Shane Homes YMCA, Rocky Ridge, Calgary.

Color wheel

“One of the things we do is outreach to architects with seminars. Many identify copper as a family of alloys, but don’t know that there are 18 to 20 different architectural alloys from brass, bronze, nickel silver and patinated green copper, and many finishes,” says Knapp.

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Restored ornament at the Hadrian, New York.

Colors will range from a yellow to a shiny copper, a more reddish material “or even something that is stainless steel in appearance and patinas to a pewter color. There are many colors and textures that you can use. In fact, commercial bronze, red brass and nickel silver are becoming more popular. Our NACIA program opens the door for discussion about these various finish, colors and designs,” he says.

CDA conducts installer training programs and gives educational talks to distributors and wholesalers. “We have 140 instructional programs per year for the building construction community.” For most projects in the awards program, the raw material is sourced from North American suppliers, while some engineered materials are imported.

High profile

Knapp says that the competition highlights a great variety of creativity in the designs, both in restoration and new construction. “We are continually amazed at how architects use the material in new ways and take advantage of the weathering characteristics.”

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St. Elias Ukrainian Catholic Church, Brampton, Ontario.

Copper alloys can  easily be shaped and bent to create curved wall cladding and roofing systems. “Six of the awards were for wall cladding,” he notes.

Overall, “We see a lot of experimentation among the projects that are recognized—which stands to reason [as] these projects are naturally more high profile than a strip mall. But that bodes well for thoughtfulness and creativity because the goal of the competition is to inspire others. We see architects reference projects [that won the prize] in previous years. Other architects see it, notice it and emulate the ideas.”

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Restored Colorado State Capitol.

Besides the seminars, the CDA and CCBDA offer free phone consults. “If anyone has a question about architectural copper—technical, quality, specifying, installing—they can call me or one of our field specialists. We will look at your drawings. Tell you how to install a dormer, how a roofing system goes together, how the material weathers.”

The team fields 1,500-plus calls each year regarding architectural copper projects across North America. “That is a core competence,” says Knapp.

Trend watch

Whereas standing seam roofing was the most traditional system to use copper, there is now “a real migration to diamond panel systems, engineered cassette-type cladding, perforated or raised [features],” says Knapp. “Some of these are heavier gauges,” as measured by weight per square foot. Work that once specified 16- or 20-ounce sheets now specify up to 32- or 48-ounce sheets. An example of this would be a perforated panel that stands away from a building facade and acts as rain screen. “That is a big change from 10 years ago.”

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The Museum of the Bible, Washington, D.C., features 40-foot bronze gates engraved with the first 80 lines of Genesis in Latin.

Environmental sustainability also drives choices for many architects, engineers and construction contractors. “Copper is considered a very helpful for someone looking to specify green materials because it’s recyclable. In terms of programs like LEED, there are 224 instances where architectural applications can be included across 143 credits for meeting green building standards.”

As for maintenance, “Copper is a natural material. You don’t need to treat it or anything else. Our recommendation is to install it and leave it alone,” says Knapp. “It has a long lifespan.”

Although NACIA award recipients gather on a single day each year, “we work on the program and with architects all year round. We are always looking for new projects. If any readers are involved in projects right now or are seeking partners for new work, they should visit the architecture section of” MM


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