Designing with Metal Wall Panel Systems
Architects looking to make a statement
with their new or retrofit commercial design should consider metal
wall panel systems. These systems help maximize the efficiency and
performance of commercial buildings while also bringing aesthetics,
structural capacity and sustainability benefits to the drawing
table. All of these attributes are appealing to architects, but
arguably, the adaptability of metal wall panel systems could be
seen as the prime characteristic that appeals to building
professionals who want to bring a highly unique, complex design to
Diversity of Metal Composite Materials
Of metal wall panel system options, metal composite materials
(MCM) exhibit the flexibility needed to meet the needs of complex
and unique designs. MCMs are highly flexible-they can be bent,
curved or joined together-and come in a variety of panel profiles,
materials, colors and finishes allowing for a nearly infinite
number of design options.
MCMs come in traditional aluminum and can incorporate more
exotic materials such as zinc, copper, stainless steel and
MCMs also offer architects uniformity of flatness and finish.
Aluminum and steel MCMs can be finished in various colors, which
lends to aesthetics. The flatness of the material helps guarantee
the paint finish remains consistent from one panel to the next.
Materials like zinc, copper and titanium tend to be left unfinished
to give a more natural look.
Metal wall panel systems are a popular option for architects
from a structural perspective for two reasons. First, they are
lightweight, which helps to lower the structural load of a building
and extend the life of the structure. Second, metal wall panel
systems are durable and can withstand severe weather elements.
A building's façade needs to be able to withstand live loads.
This is especially true for skyscrapers or structures located in
areas prone to severe weather such as hurricanes and earthquakes.
For example, if a facility is located in a hurricane zone- or an
area with high winds such as on an ocean- wind loads should be a
prime architectural design consideration.
If an architect wants to incorporate sustainable products into
new or retrofit buildings, metal wall panel systems fit that
requirement. Metal wall panel systems are made up of a high
recycled material content, are recyclable at the end of useful life
and increase the energy efficiency of the building. In fact, the
recyclable material content of metal wall panel systems can earn
points towards LEED. From universities to hotels, religious
institutions to office buildings; metal wall panel systems help
meet a variety of building design and performance needs.
Real World Example
To help illustrate the flexibility of metal wall systems, let's
look at the iconic new 20,000-squarefoot Port Canaveral Welcome
Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Port Canaveral is one of the
nation's premier gateways to travel and leisure destinations.
Located on the east coast of central Florida, businesses and
vacationers alike use the port to access cruise lines, cargo ships,
beaches, parks, fishing spots and restaurants. GWWO Architects
Inc., Baltimore, set-out to design the new Port Canaveral Welcome
Center to express the following characteristics-transience,
function and imagery of the area-which is synonymous with cruising,
the space coast, the military, nature and beaches.
The Port Canaveral Welcome Center was no easy undertaking and
required a highly experienced team of experts to help design and
construct the building which has a unique and highly complex
geometry specifically on the structure's sail. Indianapolis-based
Firestone Building Products used building information modeling
(BIM) to generate digital representations of the physical and
functional characteristics of the building. Those digital models
were then used in conjunction with the models of the structural
steel and the curved steel stud supplier. By using the three
digital designs together, this eliminated field dimensions and
allowed the project to finish on a tight schedule.
While metal wall panel systems can come standard, almost no two
projects are alike, so often systems are custom designed and
engineered in order to meet the needs of an architect's signature
project. This project was no exception. To handle the complicated
area, Firestone Building Products manufactured a custom plate
product on the sail. Once the sail was constructed, it was finished
in the color shifting paint to create an interesting visual for
visitors and onlookers.
On the back side of the sail, the architects used Firestone's
Series 1000 Aluminum Composite Material System with a fluorocarbon
paint finish in bone white. This system was ideal because it is
made to achieve bent and radiused shapes. Additionally, it can be
applied without disturbing other panels, and has a narrow dimension
of 60 inches. Firestone's Series 1000 Panels are tested to ASTM E
283 with less than 0.12 cfm/sf.
Not only was the building's geometry and design complex, but it
needed to withstand harsh environmental elements like high winds
and corrosion from salt due to its location on the Atlantic Ocean.
The strength and durability of metal wall panels helped to meet
this structural requirement.
Rick Kruger is the director of technical
support services and product development at Indianapolisbased
Firestone Building Products, a leading manufacturer and supplier of
a comprehensive "Roots to Rooftops" portfolio of products for
commercial building performance solutions. To learn more, visit