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Creative Innovations: Does creativity inspire our innovations, or vice versa?

Much like the age-old riddle "which came first: the chicken or the egg," at Eastman, Ga.-based Alcoa Architectural Products we're finding that our interactions with architects and building professionals often result in the development of new products or enhancements to our existing Reynobond materials. At the same time, the unique properties of our metal composite materials have given architects the ability to incorporate complex architectural elements into their designs that would be cost-prohibitive to fabricate with traditional materials. As they push the envelope, the expectations of ACM's capabilities continue to grow, inspiring us to respond with new products and finishes that broaden their palette. Ours is a symbiotic relationship that has contributed to the evolution of Reynobond ACM from its first standard form, introduced more than 20 years ago, to one of the most versatile, high-performance cladding material available.

Out of the box

The formable nature of the material and the diversity of the finishes available have made ACM an invaluable tool for architects. With the ability to incorporate complex shapes in an unlimited color palette, designers are creating highly efficient building envelopes with visual aesthetics that speak to the nature of what is housed inside. What's more, they're bringing their projects in on time and on budget.

LAHSCOOP HIMMELB(L)AU's design for Central Los Angeles High School #9 exemplifies the versatility of metal. The Viennese firm created a distinctive campus for this high school of the arts by combining buildings of disparate sculptural forms and cladding them in a medley of Reynobond materials and finishes, including Natural Brushed Aluminum, Stainless Steel and traditional ACM with a painted finish. The library, for example, centers the school courtyard, rising up from the ground as a slanted, truncated, asymmetrical cone. Atop the school theater a tower on the fly loft is marked by a winding walkway that forms the school's signature #9. Each building is as unique as the art created within its classrooms, with the resulting quirky environment appropriate for a school focused on the arts.

A Statement That Will Last

Olympic VillageMetal in general, aluminum in particular, is particularly well suited for green building. With 75 percent of all aluminum refined since 1888 still in use today, aluminum might well be considered the ultimate in sustainable materials. And as sustainable design standards become more and more integrated into standard architectural practices, the importance of versatile products made from recycled materials is expanding exponentially. From requests for wider panels to those for new colors, patterns and finishes, Alcoa is responding to the ever-growing demand for durable and renewable materials.

For example, we recently introduced the industry's first resin paint system with a 30-year warranty, which was developed in response to customers' requests to increase the hardness of the finish. Our exclusive Colorweld 500 finish adds inherent value to every project beyond the warranty. The intrinsic beauty of the architecture lasts longer. And less material is wasted during the fabrication process because of scratching and pressure mottling. Additionally, all of the standard paint colors in the system provide a high degree of solar reflectivity, referred to as "Cool Colors."

Architects working in coastal regions along the Mediterranean prompted our scientists in Merxheim to develop yet another breakthrough painted finish. Wood Grain ACM is so realistic, it's almost indistinguishable from real wood. More importantly, it captures the natural aesthetic of wood without cutting down any trees. In contrast to natural wood and compressed wood composites, Wood Grain ACM is engineered to hold up to the corrosive effects of saltwater, intense UV exposure and extreme temperature shifts without warping, cracking or fading, and it can be easily formed into complex shapes. By employing a painted application, not a film, the wood grain pattern on our ACM panels can be easily matched to coil fabricated for flashing materials-maintaining the consistency of the color and pattern throughout the project.

aLoft HotelBy paying close attention to the colors, patterns and materials our clients specify most often, we've developed a broad color palette as our standard offerings. Custom finishes are easily achieved when coil coating-our Wood Grain pattern, for instance, can be produced in virtually any color and in quantities as small as 4,000 square feet or large enough to meet the needs of custom branding programs.

Architects around the globe have responded with enthusiasm. They can incorporate sustainable, cutting-edge materials without sacrificing style or quality. In turn, we've been inspired to expand our trompe l'oeil line, developed by our European colleagues, with new patterns, which will soon be available in the U.S. market. The line replicates natural materials such as travertine marble, granite and terra cotta, providing the freedom to design without the restrictions imposed by the weight and natural properties of stone, and replacing irreplaceable natural resources with recyclable materials.

More Than Meets the Eye

Our building materials provide more than a good-looking façade. They're engineered to play an active role in maintaining the appearance and protecting the envelope of a building. To that end, our scientists are continually inspired to experiment with novel ideas, enabling Alcoa to meet and exceed the diverse architectural standards for sustainable design around the globe.

Sid R. Peterson is the vice president of sales and marketing for Alcoa Architectural Products, Eastman, Ga. Visit for more information.

IMAGES FROM TOP: Central LA High School #9: Mark Kempf Photography, St. Louis; Olympic Village: Wiliam Gnech, The Apple Group; Phoenix Airport Aloft Hotel: Brett Drury Architectural Photography Inc.