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Articulated copper clads gateway building to new College of Nursing in Phoenix
Copper has certain attributes that make it an appealing facade option in arid climates. The first is that it doesn’t turn green. “Here in the desert, it weathers like a penny in your pocket,” said Mark Kranz, the SmithGroup Phoenix design principal in charge of the recently completed Arizona State University College of Nursing and Health Innovation Phase II project. Clad in an articulated and partially perforated copper skin, the 84,000-square-foot, five-story facility complements a collection of existing and new buildings that form the college’s new Phoenix campus. This month, the project won a 2011 North American Copper in Architecture Award, earning points not only for the identity it imparts to the campus, but also for a unique panel design that delivers environmental performance at a low cost.
The architects chose copper in part because it has a deep-rooted history in Arizona, which has led the nation in copper production for the last century. But the project, which achieved LEED Gold, also benefits from the material’s recyclability to earn points, and on its low price at the time of specification to meet the school’s budgetary needs. The cost of the copper facade was 3 percent, or $853,000, of the $27 million project.
SmithGroup worked with design-build contractor DPR Construction Inc. and Chandler, Arizona-based facade subcontractor Kovach Inc. to develop a series of panel profiles that would form the building skin’s randomly repeating pattern. Though the team initially began with 18 panel variations, those were winnowed down to six custom profiles and three widths to keep costs lower and facilitate easier erection on site.
The project includes 15,000 square feet of UNACLAD architectural grade sheet copper, which arrived at Kovach’s 45,000-square-foot fabrication facility in large coils. Because the 80,000-pound copper facade includes shaded outdoor student spaces in its program, some of the panels are designed to have perforations. Copper for these portions was sent to Diamond Perforated Metals with digital plans on how and where holes should be made, then returned to the Kovach facility. To achieve the facade’s creases and reveals, copper sheets were cut into the proper widths, then customized on a computerized press break, a modern and more precise version of older hand-operated press breaks. The finished panels were tested for wind loads at Kovach’s in-house testing facility before installation.