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Enhancing Client Brand Identity

At the South Fayette, Pa., medical office building for Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), the architects at Pittsuburgh-based IKM provided a design solution featuring metal wall panels that provides striking and memorable imagery consistent with the client's goals for the project.

By Bob Bailey, AIA

Good architecture can sometimes function as a landmark and a beacon. For a health care services provider looking to expand its market, a medical office building that is more than a mundane box can help the facility and the provider achieve recognition.

When the function involves treatment of children who are being brought by anxious parents, a strong design statement can help reinforce the mission of the health care provider.

At the South Fayette, Pa., medical office building for Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), the architects at Pittsuburgh-based IKM provided a design solution featuring metal wall panels that provides striking and memorable imagery consistent with the client's goals for the project.

Anna Klingmann, an architect and academic who specializes in branding, states, "A brand is something that brings out the identity of a particular place." IKM's concept dealt with two overarching ideas. First was to utilize a site that is highly visible from an interstate highway that could present the Children's Hospital brand firmly in the area south of Pittsburgh. Second was to create a building that would have enough similarities to the main hospital to emphasize the brand. Children's was building its first stand-alone outpatient facility in well over a dozen years, so it was important to communicate the brand with the building's design concept.

The building massing is simple. Waiting areas and public circulation are placed at the front of the building. Upper floor public functions are contained in a metal panel-clad three-story tube element that rests on a podium clad with large-format ceramic tile. The end of the tube becomes a glazed lantern visible from the highway. Exam rooms and treatment spaces are contained in a large four-story volume with brick veneer behind the tube and podium. The tube is canted at an angle from the rectilinear brick volume, and a glazed portion of the waiting space on each floor juts out from the tube.

As the major design element, the tube was used to convey the branding message and concept. At the main hospital, one of the most memorable features is the portions clad in variegated copper panels. The juxtaposition of the expanses of copper against brick masonry and curtainwall give a very strong visual that contributes to the institution's brand identification. IKM's initial hope was to replicate the copper cladding as a means of the brand visual, but cost concerns quickly ruled that out. IKM's architects researched various metal façade system options, keeping in mind cost as well as the client's schedule for opening the building. The initial thought was to use an aluminum composite material panel system, but ultimately IKM decided on Moon Township, Pa.-based CENTRIA's Formawall Dimension Series as the basis of design for the metal wall panel system.

IKM selected Formawall because it manages both thermal and moisture control. The system could provide the panel sizes on a module that worked well with other exterior elements, in addition to allowing the incorporation of windows within the system. Also, the Formawall system provided the reveal aesthetic the project designer was looking for. More pragmatically, the Formawall system allowed for quick erection by the installing subcontractor, A.C. Dellovade Inc., Canonsburg, Pa.

Project designer and manager, IKM's Douglas Lieb, AIA, considered approximately 36 different colors before arriving at a palette of three colors for the panels with the tonal values of copper. The design of the panel sizes and colors-every panel was specifically laid out and given a color-was meant to be read on two levels. From a mile away on the interstate highway, it's difficult to know that you're not looking at actual copper cladding. In the parking lot approaching the building, you notice the interplay of panel sizes and colors, the depth that the reveals lend, and the five different sizes of windows within the system, seemingly in random locations, yet each placed in a very studied position.

The aluminum coping at the top of the wall panels was custom finished segment by segment to match the color and length of the Formawall panel immediately below it. Reynobond aluminum composite material (ACM) panels from Alcoa Architectural Products, Eastman, Ga., were used at the spandrel floor lines. Projecting from the wall plane just slightly, and finished to match the curtainwall framing, these spandrel panel elements help emphasize the glazed element that juts out from the tube.

Another important factor in the use of the Formawall system is installation tolerances within the system. The east end of the tube forms a dramatic 32-foot cantilever that shelters the building entrance. Formawall handles this requirement without modification or evident deflection.

Cost analysis showed that Formawall was approximately 30 percent below the cost of copper (approximately $45 per square foot as opposed to $65). CENTRIA proved to be an excellent partner on the project. Benjamin Marnik, PE, district sales manager for CENTRIA, gave personal attention and helped to allay IKM's concerns relative to detailing Want to see more projects? and specifying the system. Lieb states that the tube façade was "an exercise in detailing," and IKM received no requests for interpretation on the façade details. Concern for long-term maintenance was an issue and thus far there has been no evidence of water infiltration.

"CENTRIA Formawall Dimension Series panels and integrated Formavue windows fit perfectly with the sophisticated exterior envelope expressed in IKM's design," notes Marnik. "We worked with IKM during design and pre-construction, assisting in product selection, detailing and specification to help ensure proper application and performance of the building envelope."

IKM set a bold direction for the building design. They were able to work successfully with the wall panel system manufacturer and installing trades to help deliver both the design vision and the price point effectively in a way that more than met the client's expectations. Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh is very happy with product it received and South Fayette now has a very identifiable work of architecture that the public can readily connect with the services offered there.

Bob Bailey, AIA, is specifications and constructability specialist for IKM Inc., Pittsburgh. Bailey has been a full-time specifier for 25-plus years and is the founder of Pittsburgh Specifiers' Roundtable, a past president of CSI Pittsburgh, and a winner of CSI Pittsburgh's Roswell S. Johnson Memorial Award for specifications writing.

Alcoa Architectural Products,