Metal Architecture Home

Excellent Expanded Metal Example

Mcn  Editors Pick  August15 3

Metal and a transparent design produce a glass-clad, L-shaped building


Photo courtesy of Butler Design Group

Expanded metal was used as a prominent architectural component on the SkySong 3-a LEED Silver-certified building in Scottsdale, Ariz.-to produce a glass-clad, L-shaped office/research/mixed-use building. The 145,000-square-foot building, completed in August 2014, is on the 43-acre Arizona State University Scottsdale Innovation Center.

In keeping with the City of Scottsdale's criteria, Butler Design Group, Phoenix, wanted a semitransparent design element to follow the horizontal roofline on the west and south ends of the "L" and continue around the corners, where it would merge with elongated vertical columns of the same material. "Our concept (for the feature) was to be less transparent when seen from a distance, but more transparent as you get closer to the building," says Korey S. Wilkes, RA, associate/project manager, Butler Design Group.

The job required close coordination between the steel fabricator Saguaro Steel Industries LLC, Phoenix; Butler Design Group; engineer PK Associates, Scottsdale; general contractor DPR Construction, Phoenix; and Scottsdale city officials. McNICHOLS Co., Tampa, Fla., was the metal supplier. Achieving the concept meant building a full-size mock-up and field testing the material, requiring a forklift to raise the metal sheets to the exact height for test viewing at various angles.

The objective was to determine the opacity and the best positioning for the metal's diamond pattern to maximize energy-efficient light diffusion while achieving the necessary transparency. "We needed that vantage point to get a full sense of the appearance," says Ryan Young, STS, LEED AP BD+C, project manager at DPR Construction. "We all stood back and looked at the shading." Because of its transparency when viewed at an angle and its opacity viewed lineally, the team's solution was standard expanded metal. With its raised lath diamond pattern, they designated McNICHOLS expanded metal. Typically used for screening, ventilating or security, the diamond-shaped openings permit passage of light, air, heat and sound, and the sheets are lightweight and easy to fabricate and form.


Photo courtesy of Butler Design Group

The assembly of expanded metal sits about 2 feet from the building's façade. It is attached to square tube steel frames with expressed WT horizontal supports extending horizontally 110 feet along and above the roofline on the two ends of the L-shaped building connecting to vertical columns 48 feet tall.

With this assembly's horizontal and vertical positioning, fabrication and installation were challenging, says David Terrell, principal and general manager of Saguaro Steel Industries. Specifically, he notes the importance of correct placement of each panel, so the diamond pattern was consistent. Primed and painted red oxide, the expanded metal covers approximately 10,000 square feet of the office building and 5,000 square feet of the parking garage. "We had to be sure the long direction of the raised diamond pattern was placed horizontally so that the material would all go in the same direction," says Terrell.

Working hand-in-hand, Wilkes and Terrell were able to minimize waste. "We made adjustments, so when we cut a piece of material we could use what was left somewhere else," says Wilkes. The excess of a 4- by 8-foot sheet cut to 2 by 6 feet, for example, was reused somewhere else to help kept cost down by maximizing material use.

To complement the office structure, the four-story concrete parking garage has expanded metal frames in various shapes and sizes extending from the second to the fourth floor and wrapping the corners. To add other shade elements and create visual appeal along the more expansive sections of glass, Butler Design Group incorporated architectural fins of perforated metal, also fabricated by Saguaro Steel and supplied by McNICHOLS.

"What's unusual about this application is the vertical and staggered placement of the perforated metal and the use of color and positioning of the expanded metal columns," says Debra Bellanti, director of marketing communications at McNICHOLS. "Both features have become a signature design element of the building." SkySong 4, an adjacent reverse image of SkySong 3, is set to begin this year.


Sidebar: SkySong 3, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Owner: SkySong is a collaboration between Plaza Companies, the ASU Foundation for
a New American University, the City of Scottsdale and Holualoa Companies
Architect: Butler Design Group, Phoenix
General contractor: DPR Construction, Phoenix
Engineer: PK Associates, Scottsdale
Steel fabricator: Saguaro Steel Industries LLC, Phoenix,
Expanded metal, perforated fins and canopies: McNICHOLS Co., Tampa, Fla.,

Photo courtesy of Butler Design Group