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Piercing Reflections

Manufacturing facility mirrors surroundings and represents drilling devices

Dyna Energetics Aug20 2

Photo courtesy of Kingspan Insulated Panels

Manufacturing facility mirrors surroundings and represents drilling devices

Rural grasslands are reflected in sections of a large manufacturing facility. From some vantage points on the exterior of DynaEnergetics US Inc.’s plant in Blum, Texas, reflective components look like openings instead of a building. The illusion is produced by polished stainless steel panels and glazing. The reflective components are incorporated in a pattern of horizontal bands that also have corrugated metal cladding and sunshades, and wrap around the facility.

Expression of Place and Purpose

Part of the purpose of the reflective sections was to emphasize the importance of the environment and blend the 57,000-square-foot building into it, says E.J. Meade, AIA, principal at Arch11 Inc. in Boulder, Colo. “From the experience point of view, our goal was something that would be quiet on the landscape. The best architecture we do is when the building disappears and the landscape has presence. The landscape is kind of more important than the building. And so that reflective quality that the glass and the stainless panels have allows the landscape to be reflected in it and, in my mind, that was the greatest success. When you’re looking at this building in the landscape, you don't see this solid mass, you see this mass that has these reflections of the landscape of the sky that give the building the appearance of being fragmented and pierced.”

Photo: James Florio

In addition to highlighting the environment, the piercing, reflective panels and glass play another role in the design; they represent how products being manufactured inside are used in the drilling industry.

More specifically, DynaEnergetics uses the plant to make high-precision explosive devices for fracking water and petroleum wells called guns. Similar to the reflective components piercing the solid building mass, guns form pathways in the ground. Continuing the metaphor, panels and glazing are arranged in a pattern with four, horizontal bands that mimic geologic strata. Heights of the bands are varied, as are the widths of the panels and windows. Further variation is created by shifting of the bands so panels and windows are offset from one band to the next.

“The geology is what inspired that horizontal layering and shifting,” Meade says. “And then their product creates these voids in that strata. So we created these voids, and that's the stainless steel panels, that's the reflected glass.”

Photo: James Florio

Glazing Transition

In addition to the pattern of horizontal bands, glazing follows another pattern; it gradually increases from one end of the building to the other. As the building’s linear form transitions from a manufacturing block at the short side west end and office block and gathering space at the short side east end, glazing expands and culminates at curtainwalls that encase a two-story office section at the northeast corner and, at the southeast corner, a large employee dining and gathering space, which is dubbed the living room.

Meade says, “The whole building kind of erodes from the solidity of the manufacturing facility as it moves east to the office block; the idea was that there would be this gradual erosion of solidity. And that's why the glass is kind of feathered back into the panels, which was also kind of an interesting technical challenge.”

Indeed, at some locations, insulated metal panels (IMPs) were installed in curtainwall framing. In other places, windows were installed in the IMP wall assembly. The easier of the two combinations was putting IMPs in the curtainwall framing because the panels were specified as the same thickness as the insulated glass. However, installing and waterproofing glazing in the IMP assembly required more detailing.

“We really worked it out fine, but it required a little bit more finesse,” Meade says. “Allowing the insulated metal panel to meet the extruded aluminum at the head flashings, because of that corrugation, we had a custom head flashing made that allowed that to happen.”

Photo: James Florio

Canopy Connections

Two other areas that required customized detailing are an employee entrance canopy on the north side of the building and a canopy at the southeast corner where the living room gathering space is located. In contrast to the boxy forms of the building, the canopies have standing seam roofs angled inward. They direct rainwater to gravel beds with trees.

The entrance canopy is angled inward in a V-shape that funnels rainwater from west to east. “There's a V-channel, and you can't see it [from ground level], but there's this custom formed scupper that just drops [rainwater] into a gravel pool in the landscape,” Meade says.

The canopy at the living room is larger than the entrance canopy and square-shaped with the roof angling inward from all four sides, which direct rainwater to the gravel bed with a tree. Like the reflective stainless steel panels and glazing, the canopies make a connection to the environment.

Meade says, “The idea was that when it rains in Central Texas, it rains unbelievably. So we were like, ‘Oh, let's make it into a performance so you could watch it.’”

Both canopy designs were inspired by Roman compluvium roof openings, which collected rainwater in residential courtyards, Meade says. “That was our nod to ancient Rome.”

Photo courtesy of Kingspan Insulated Panels

Distinct Materials

The majority of metal cladding is Deland, Fla.-based Kingspan Insulated Panels Inc.’s BENCHMARK Designwall 2000 IMPs with 22-gauge steel exterior skins coated in Elkhorn, Wis.-based Millennium Forms LLC’s Zalmag, a zinc, aluminum and magnesium coating that patinas. “[Zalmag] has the economy of steel, but it gives you what I'd call the luxury of a live surface,” Meade says. Also, the panels are slightly corrugated for rigidity.

The polished stainless steel panels are BENCHMARK Designwall 1000 IMPs and have thin widths. Interior faces of both IMPs have a baked enamel finish and provide clean surfaces in the manufacturing area. The canopies are built with acoustical metal decking and Bristol, Conn.-based Morin Corp.’s standing seam roof panels. Phoenix-based Arcadia Inc. supplied curtainwalls and the vertical and horizontal aluminum sunshades. Admiral Glass Co. in Houston installed the glazing.

Photo: James Florio