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Ribbed panels accelerate North Carolina car showroom


Photo: G. Frank Hart Photography

Audi Cape Fear is a 21,800-square-foot automotive dealership located in Wilmington, N.C. The owner group already owned a nearby Land Rover dealership but wanted one that sold high-end European cars. The group got that and an equally matching high-end-look dealership thanks to ribbed metal walls and collaborative design. Once green lighted, the project started with New York City-based CDR Studio Architects PC, Audi of America's design architect since 2006. CDR's role includes the adaption and implementation of the architectural master plan for Audi's United States dealership network. The Wilmington, N.C., office of Becker Morgan Group Inc., provided consultation as the owner's architect during schematic design exercises led by CDR.

A triangular site forced the building footprint between its showroom, sales offices and service garage. Surrounded by connecting streets on three sides, the dealership required a design that achieved appropriate street elevations and eliminated the typical backdoor.

"It's on one of the busiest intersection in town on a road that takes out-of-town visitors right to the beach; a desirable sight for the owners," says Mark Loudermilk, AIA, project manager at Becker Morgan Group. "Its triangular shape added to the dynamics of the building. It shaped the building; even the driveway around the building is triangular. You are maximizing every square foot because it is so tight. I think one building corner is 90 degrees, everything else is at an odd angle."


Photo: G. Frank Hart Photography

"A standard design was not going to fit the site; most sites are either only front facing, or a corner, or even perhaps a whole block in some cases," says Victoria A. Rospond, AIA, partner at CDR. "Here we needed to address three potential ways to view the building. All these things factored in to make the building a wedge. We wanted to have car displays at the north and south ends of the site. So, we made the enclosed showroom on one end and an open display of cars at the other end. We use the proprietary corrugated perforated aluminum material on the showroom, with the regular corrugated aluminum material continuing around to the shop, car display and service drive. The façade is layered to bring this proprietary textured façade to all Audi terminal designs; in this case since it is one volume, the skin becomes even more layered with the corrugated material slipping back from the perforated skin."

The showroom cladding system consists of a unique two-layer, one-piece system. The back solid piece is made of Holland, Mich.-based Dri-Design's patented metal wall panel system, which is the base of the system for attachment, structure and water management.

Aluminum is a main material for Audi buildings worldwide. "The top layer consists of an aluminum standoff and a decorative, perforated corrugated honeycomb element," says Jason Zeeff, vice president of sales at Dri-Design. "Dri-Design delivered the majority of the two parts of the system fully assembled, which provided accurate placement and an extremely durable anodized finish. This is particularly important for longevity of a system when exposed to elements that are present in an environment such as this."

Meeting the high 130-mph wind load requirements was a necessity for the cladding system on Audi Cape Fear. The Dri-Design cladding system is not only engineered to meet structural wind load specifications, but physical testing was also performed on the assembly.

Dri-Design panels were used on half the building, and wall panels from Englert Inc., Perth Amboy, N.J., complete the look. Englert supplied a material and profile that would serve the original performance characteristics and aesthetic requirements of the architect while staying within the project's budget.


Photo: G. Frank Hart Photography

"Initially, we offered specifications for three different panel options-two concealed fastener systems and one exposed fastener system-all noted for architectural applications demanding a bolder surface appearance characteristic of Audi building designs," says Charitie Barnes, manager of client relations at Englert. "The greatest interest was shown in the H16-4 configuration, a 16-inch coverage panel, 7/8 inches deep with four ribs uniformly spaced that is often chosen to create a dramatic surface appearance for architectural/commercial applications. The wall panel selected meets North Carolina wind zone testing requirements including UL 580, Class 90 and ASTM E-1592, as well as the stringent Florida Building Code and Dade County wind uplift testing. The product is also ASTM water and air tested and ASTM E-84 tested (Class A Fire rating)."

Putting all this together was a surprisingly simple installation for metal installer Highland Roofing Co., Wilmington, N.C. "There was some coordination with other trades required, especially the Dri-Design wall panel installers, but communication was effective," says Iain Fergusson, Highland Roofing president. "The general contractor was competent, so it was a smooth process." Sears Contract Inc., Raleigh, N.C., also acted as metal installer, and the general contractor was Sexton Construction Co., Winston-Salem, N.C.

The building is a hit with the Wilmington locals. "Everybody who drives by it comments about how great a building it is," Loudermilk says. "It's immense, beautiful and gorgeous." The 2015 Metal Architecture Award judges admired it, saying it showed "tremendous use of the ribbed panel," and liked the way it curved around the other building areas.

Sidebar: Audi Cape Fear, Wilmington, N.C.

Completed: March 2014
Total square footage: 21,800 square feet
Building owner: CLOS Properties, Greensboro, N.C.
Architect: Becker Morgan Group Inc., Wilmington, N.C.,
Design architect: CDR Studio Architects PC, New York City,
General contractor: Sexton Construction Co., Winston-Salem, N.C.,
Metal installer: Sears Contract Inc., Raleigh, N.C.,, and Highland Roofing Co.,
Metal wall panels: Dri-Design, Holland, Mich.,, and Englert Inc., Perth Amboy, N.J.,