Metal Architecture Home

Transportation & Aviation

CONRAC at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, Austin, Texas

CONRAC at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, Austin, TexasPatriot Erectors Inc. fabricated and installed three of McNICHOLS Co.'s stainless steel decorative wire meshes for a consolidated rental car facility (CONRAC) at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. High-, medium- and low-density mesh were used to create a pattern along the building's 235-foot-wide by 70-foot-tall west elevation, visible from the airport's main west entry and from a northwest, pedestrian-oriented spine.

Approximately 600 panels averaging 5 feet wide by 8 feet high were used for the project, which was completed in 2015. The panels were produced with McNICHOLS Techna 8165, a single-wire, mediumdensity hole of 0.838-inch with 70.2 percent open area, and McNICHOLS' Techna 3155, a double-wire, low-density pattern with 75 percent open area. Additionally, McNICHOLS' LP-38, a single-wire, high-density material with 0.253-inch opening and 57.8 percent open area, was used to clad façades on five 20-foot by 70-foot, west-facing stair towers. The panels on the exterior side were framed with 1-inch by 1-inch by 1/8-inch 316 stainless steel angle frames with 3M's Scotch-Brite finish.

Patriot Erectors and Walter P. Moore of Austin, an engineering firm for the project, created a panel mounting system with cable and attachments that worked within the head-and-sill design provided by Jaster-Quintanilla, a structural engineer. The system relies on a vertical cable mounting method. Structural mounting beams, which would obscure the panel pattern and reduce the light passage, were not needed. Cable was attached to the panels with Ubolts fastened onto tabs that were fabricated into the panels and supported by WT members (T-shape cut to W). This made it possible to run the cable vertically adjacent to the tab. "This [configuration] allowed the cable to be strung between the ground and roof with enough tension to hold everything taut," says Parley Dixon, owner of Patriot Erectors.

Intermediate tubes were placed horizontally on the stair tower panels with an I-beam that was cut in half to create two T members. The mesh frames were supported by WT members framed between horizontal hollow structural sections (HSS) floorlevel members.

Wesley Wong, chairman and principal at Demattei Wong Architecture, says his firm wanted to provide coverage over the west elevation, but not with a solid opaque element. "Depending on [one's] vantage point and how [the] sun hits the elevation, it has the appearance of a transparent wall," he says. "At night it is gorgeous. You know something is there, but you are not sure what it is, so the look at night is special."

The $155 million CONRAC project was a public/private partnership with the City of Austin Aviation Department and car rental companies. Rental car operations were consolidated in the 1.2 million-square-foot parking structure. The facility has 1,840 rental car stalls on three levels, 1,152 rental car storage stalls on the roof level and 800 airport public parking spaces on the ground floor. "This is a big facility, so we needed to let in as much light as possible for the safety of customers returning cars," Wong says.

Design-build designer: Demattei Wong Architecture, Dallas
Design-builder: Austin Commercial LP, Austin, Texas
Engineer: Walter P. Moore, Austin,
Structural engineer: Jaster-Quintanilla, Austin
Fabricator/installer: Patriot Erectors Inc., Dripping Springs, Texas, www.patrioterectors.net
Finish: 3M, St. Paul, Minn., www.solutions.3m.com
Metal mesh: McNICHOLS Co., Tampa, Fla., www.mcnichols.com