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Bright colors install historic connection

When designing Philadelphia's Penn Medicine Washington Square outpatient medical facility, Ballinger, Philadelphia, was charged with maintaining the historic integrity of the Washington Square neighborhood and the originally planned walls of glass and terra cotta-colored metal.

When designing Philadelphia's Penn Medicine Washington Square outpatient medical facility, Ballinger, Philadelphia, was charged with maintaining the historic integrity of the Washington Square neighborhood and the originally planned walls of glass and terra cotta-colored metal. Outpatient care is provided for patients of Pennsylvania Hospital, co-founded by Benjamin Franklin and the country's first hospital, at the medial office tower, which also had to blend with the area's 19th century brick townhouses and 20th century multistory apartment buildings.

Thomas Lehman, AIA, project manager at Ballinger, says his firm wanted to push the envelope with custom colors and finishes so the western façade would break up because it had few windows. They wanted to make the high-rise pop on the city's architectural landscape and incorporated reddishbrick hues in the 153,242-square-foot, 12-story tower's cladding. "We wanted to break down the mass of the building with color and reflectivity," he says. "The characteristics of these panels change as environmental conditions change from sunlight to rain."

The medical building's façade was clad with 90,000 square feet of Alucobond Plus aluminum composite material by Statesville, N.C.-based 3A Composites USA Inc. in three custom colors, 15,000 square feet in custom Spice Hue, 30,000 square feet in custom Fireweed and 45,000 square feet in custom Fired Brick, and three finishes installed in an alternating color pattern generated from an algorithm. Each custom color was produced in three finishes including matte, low gloss and mica, for a total of nine color and finish combinations.

Lehman says the algorithm program was used to generate a non-repeating facade color pattern in which the colors and finishes were evenly distributed across the building. "While this was not the original color of the building, the client was much more excited about the oranges and reds that offer a pop of color in the landscape," he says.

Bill Fisher, AIA, LEED AP, senior project manager at Liberty Property Trust, Philadelphia, says his company originally thought it would use a terra cotta-colored metal panel to match the area's historic brick architecture. "Not every brick is the same color, so they came up with a tri-color approach for the metal panels," he says.

Fisher says Alucobond panels were multicolored, lightweight and could maintain the architectural context of the neighborhood. He says the design team reviewed 10 to 12 color schemes with 3A Composites' Alucobond custom color-matching service before making a final cladding decision.

"In the end, after completing the extensive color selection process, the building not only looks good by itself, it looks good when you step back and view it in the context of the entire neighborhood," Fisher says.

Penn Medicine Washington Square outpatient medical facility, which opened in September 2013 in the Walnut Towers property at the corner of 8th Street and Walnut Street in Philadelphia's Center City, was built over an existing seven-story garage with 600 parking spaces. Original air rights in this highly congested urban area designated that an apartment building be erected above the parking garage.

Fisher says to accommodate Pennsylvania Medicine medical offices the footprint of the existing structure needed a larger floor plate. This required the building to be extended over the garage and the panels be installed in a rainscreen system.

Pittsburgh-based Wyatt Inc. built the Alucobond cladding into a prefabricated stud-framed system that included super panels 10 1/2 feet wide by 42 feet tall. The 8,000-pound, prefabricated super panels were manufactured in Wyatt's Monessen, Pa., facility, transported to Philadelphia, raised to the building floors with the crane used to erect its steel beams and installed with Wyatt's hook-and-pin rainscreen system. Wyatt attached the panels from inside the building.

LF Driscoll Co. LLC, Bala Cynwyd, Pa., general contractor, and Wyatt enclosed the building by coordinating installation of the panels as concrete was poured and set on each building floor.

Fred Episcopo, president at Wyatt, says his company liked the fact that Alucobond was made in the U.S., was available for pickup and the color coilcoating process was completed by 3A Composites in Benton, Ky., where it could be better controlled. "These panels were fabricated and installed without a hitch; our tight construction timeframe was met," he says.

Penn Medicine Washington Square tower has a green roof with sustainable sedums and metal screening designed to cover rooftop mechanical units. Both features were incorporated into the design in response to concerns of nearby apartment dwellers, Lehman says. "Residents in The St. James apartments are very happy with what they see out of their windows," he says.

Liberty Property Trust developed the property in joint partnership with Philadelphia-based Parkway Corp., which owned the garage complex and air rights. Liberty Property Trust invested $45.8 million to construct Penn Medicine Washington Square. Pennsylvania Medicine managed the interior fit-out as medical offices for more than 100 providers.

Lehman says the owners were happy with the facade design and his company created something interesting to see. "This building's unique design feature is the Alucobond material and what it offered in terms of colors and finishes," he says. "We painted with Alucobond."

3A Composites USA Inc., www.alucobondusa.com