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Five Connected Metal Building Structures

New facility shapes up in the desert with multiple building components

Remote Solutions Mar18 1

Tucson, Ariz.-based Remote Solutions designs, manufactures and tests remote racking and remote operations for circuit breakers and electrical systems. Its owners were looking at designs for a new facility in Tucson and were impressed with a building owned by Tucson-based Hamstra Heating and Cooling. Specifically, its rust-finish panels made a favorable impression on them. Moreover, they were especially impressed with the well-coordinated design-build approach its architect INDEVCO Architecture LLC, and general contractor INDEVCO Construction Inc., both of Tucson, used to build it.

INDEVCO took on the design-build challenge of the new facility knowing it would not be easy. The new facility was slated for a triangular-shaped site and according to Joel Kramer, INDEVCO Architecture, this irregular-size lot meant a regular-shaped building would not suffice. The amount of building space for the site required a two-story solution; the triangular site was solved by stepped construction. Furthermore, it would be located in the harsh Sonoran Desert, the hottest of the North American deserts.

“Right away, we knew it was not going to be a normal, run-of-the-mill building,” Kramer says. “It was going to be special. It presented us with problems, challenges and opportunities—depending on how you look at it.” A successful solution to an irregular situation was accomplished via the flexibility of a metal building system.

Sonoran 5-Pod Plan

Metal was used throughout the building’s interior and exterior envelope. Five metal building pods— using metal from Charlotte, N.C.-based Nucor Building Systems' plant in Brigham City, Utah—created a staggered footprint of low sidewalls to maximize space on the odd-shaped commercial lot. The pods create interesting visuals and their varying parapet heights form a winged effect.

Steadfast Structures Inc., Tucson, was the metal building and components provider and also the facility’s metal installer. Steadfast Structures is a close partner to INDEVCO and it came up with the idea of the metal pods. “We love working with the team at INDEVCO Construction in part because they have the knowledge to develop projects, which push the envelope in metal building design while maintaining a laser focus on the owner’s ultimate needs and end use,” says Matthew North, president, Steadfast Structures.

“To accommodate the staggered building width design, we translated the metal building into four separate pods with shared end walls but varying building widths,” says Elizabeth Tipton, operations manager, Steadfast Structures. “Inside each of the pods was also an asymmetrical mezzanine system of joists [from Charlotte, N.C.-based Vulcraft] and decking [from Phoenix-based Verco Decking]. This mezzanine system created a two-story office space within a portion of the overall building shell, leaving the remainder of the shell a full-height warehouse. Nucor coordinated the mezzanine system, creating a one-stop solution for the interior steel that simplified the engineering and design costs.”

“About half the building has a second-floor mezzanine,” says Joe Mellody, senior district sales manager at Nucor. “The front of the building has an exposed mezzanine that acts as a porch and equipment platform. A conventional building with a radiused wall and roof was integrated into the project. We had to integrate multiple materials into the design masonry, steel stud framing and architectural panels.”

A fifth pod on the front sidewall of the building is a single story to create the exterior balcony space with additional offices below. “This space received a complex mix of conventional and metal building components to create a clean, modern, outdoor space for the client,” Tipton says. “The pods also provide support for the varying 8- and 12-foot concrete masonry unit (CMU) walls surrounding the perimeter of the structure.”

Tipton says the installation of the primary and secondary steel for the five metal building pods was fast, clean and efficient. This was largely driven by the partnership with Nucor which allowed for all the  details and connections to be developed in-house at Nucor, who also took responsibility for handling the coordination with Vulcraft and Verco. The multiple portal frames and x-braced walls eliminated the need for temporary bracing during the installation process, making the install faster and safer.

Exterior Panels and Finishes

The budget savings obtained by using a pre-engineered metal building system for the basic skeleton of the project allowed for creative exterior finishes. For all the visible exposed steel, a natural rust finish was used. But for differentiation, several manufacturers contributed to the precise look desired by the property owner and architect.

“Not only was the building unique in its design, it was more so in the use of its various structural systems and the exterior cladding which combines a pre-engineered metal building, conventional structural components and CMU,” says Brent Gettinger, estimating manager, Steadfast Structures. “Exterior cladding came from three different sources. It was a mix of insulated wall panels (IMPs), exposed fasteners and conventional profiles installed both horizontally and vertically.”

“We wanted to give the building different faces; all lending to the aesthetic appeal, but some with a very functional aspect in mind, [such as] solar heat gain,” says Kory Dingle, Indevco Construction. The facility is highlighted by Pearl Gray IMPs with an embossed finish from Vacaville, Calif.-based All Weather Insulated Panels Inc. (AWIP) on its western side.

“We knew Tucson’s environment presented unique problems, such as extreme temperatures in the Sonoran Desert frequently soaring well past 100 degrees,” says Gary Robinson, national accounts manager, All Weather Insulated Panels. “In this part of the country, thermal performance plays a huge role in the selection of building products. Using IMPs on the west-facing wall would work best to keep the brutal Arizona heat from the warehouse inside. Our DM40 panel has R-values as high as 49 available depending on panel thickness. The clean lines and embossed stucco finish make for a great contrast to the other building components around the DM40 panels. They tie everything together beautifully. A lighter color like Pearl Gray also really helps to keep that west wall as cool as possible, even under full solar load.”

To satisfy the owners’ request for the look of rust, the north and south side has faux rust-finish panels from Phoenix-based Bunger Steel. Houston- based MBCI supplied Slate Gray metal panels on the east side, in addition to flat, artisan Polar White soffit panels; and miscellaneous exterior accent trims. The Polar White metal panels were supplied by Nucor.

Tipton says the wing walls on the west side of the building where AWIP’s IMPs transition to Bunger’s faux rust panel were created by intentionally detailing Nucor’s girts to run long past the final planned building edge. “This allowed the crew to field work the girts down in an angle to match the actual installed angle in the CMU, allowing for flexibility in the field for the aesthetic matching of these two different forms of construction,” she adds.

These diverse exterior metal panels, finishes and profiles create a series of accents and draw attention to the unique geometry of the structure’s stepped wing walls and parapets. The facility’s stepped elevation helped designers taper and reflect some of the site’s triangular shapes and elevation too. “We stepped and tapered the walls, so it looks like playing cards in a deck or in your hand,” says Kramer. “The walls layer up on themselves. Being able to create a unique look while taking advantage of the durability of exterior metal finishes in the desert reduces long-term maintenance costs for the property owners, and thereby increases their ROI.”Mellody says the challenges of material integration and conventional building to PEMB were overcome via extremely tight coordination between Steadfast Structures and INDEVCO.

How was the challenge of working with the multiple components of the building met? “The most challenging aspect with providing so many of the metal building finishes from various component suppliers is performing the detailing and take-offs in house, while also making the various manufacturers’ trims coordinate and meet the intent of the architect’s design,” Tipton says. “Fortunately Steadfast has been tackling these types of hybrid metal building projects for years, and has developed an in-house system to simplify this process while identifying the components that may be safely ordered in advance based off drawings versus waiting for the ability to perform field measurements. This combined approach allows us to work more efficiently with the various suppliers. It also allows us to reduce construction schedule delays caused by material lead times whenever we can use one of our tricks to pre-order with no waste.”

Mezzanine and Lobby

An integrated metal building mezzanine creates second-floor office space for the interior, plus an upstairs, balcony on the exterior. MBCI’s PBD profile, Slate Gray wall panels on the second-floor balcony were installed horizontally to add further visual appeal in contrast to the first floor’s masonry. Mezzanine interior decking and balcony exterior decking was supplied by Verco Decking. The balcony’s composite decking’s final finish was supplied by Cali-Bamboo, San Diego.

The mezzanine/balcony system created some unique challenges as they shared a common grid line. “The mezzanine system on the interior was designed to receive a concrete deck by others, while the exterior portion became a balcony system with B-deck,” Tipton says. “The exterior balcony was also designed for a lower eave height, so that once all the additional components were installed to create the exterior deck space, the height would be lower than the interiors’ door thresholds and provide drainage away from the building envelope to the east low sidewall.” The addition of a curved lobby with full-height masonry accent walls and curved staircase help highlight the strength of metal as both a structural and design choice. “The owner wanted a floating staircase, but with code restrictions, you cannot have floating stairs that don’t have treads and risers,” Dingle says. “So, we developed a staircase and this was the biggest challenge on that job. We detailed those stairs six to 10 times in construction due to their complexity and multiple radius. We just kept tweaking it. Concrete steps sit on perforated steel framework. Then we used an aircraft cable guardrail system to maintain the ‘floating’ light look. Since the stairs go over the top of the entry door, this coordination and integration was a huge task. We only had a 1/4-inch tolerance to make that work.”

Another installation challenge the facility faced was the issue of building on a sewer easement. This put the project on hold for six months, but the situation was eventually worked out with the Tucson municipality. A new design took up more of the site and meant INDEVCO had to redesign the whole front lobby. “Originally, the lobby was triangular, but because of the sewer easement, we curved the lobby and the metal roof curved with that,” Kramer says. “Originally, it was an angular, tilt-wall building, but we ended up using more metal than masonry. When we sent softer and more organic, [the result was] fewer sharp, fine lines and more earthy colors and more curved walls.”  

INDEVCO likes to design and construct all its buildings with standing seam profile metal roofs because Dingle says screw-down roofs in Arizona are not always compatible. “Neoprene gaskets wear out; floating standing seam metal roofs are fastener-less,” Dingle says. “With this facility, it was not an aesthetic thing, because most of the roof you can’t see. It’s for longevity. With a standing seam metal roof, you get low maintenance.”

“The installation phase of the project consisted of a plan of multiple mobilizations as the metal building and conventional construction components were so frequently dependent upon each other,” Tipton says. “Steadfast Structures provided the detailing, materials take-off and custom flashing details for the large number of mixed construction areas that used MBCI and Bunger Steel sheeting components.”

Another installation challenge the facility faced was the issue of building on a sewer easement. This put the project on hold for six months, but the situation was eventually worked out with the Tucson municipality. A new design took up more of the site and meant INDEVCO had to redesign the whole front lobby. “Originally, the lobby was triangular, but because of the sewer easement, we curved the lobby and the metal roof curved with that,” Kramer says. “Originally, it was an angular, tilt-wall building, but we ended up using more metal than masonry. When we sent softer and more organic, [the result was] fewer sharp, fine lines and more earthy colors and more curved walls.” 

INDEVCO likes to design and construct all its buildings with standing seam profile metal roofs because Dingle says screw-down roofs in Arizona are not always compatible. “Neoprene gaskets wear out; floating standing seam metal roofs are fastener-less,” Dingle says. “With this facility, it was not an aesthetic thing, because most of the roof you can’t see. It’s for longevity. With a standing seam metal roof, you get low maintenance.”

Other Creative Components

The warehouse space received a series of skylights to increase energy efficiency with daylight. Newbury Park, Calif.-based R&S Manufacturing and Sales Co. Inc. supplied curb-mounted skylights. Providing both the metal building curb with integrated skylights, allow a single source of responsibility for the skylight’s weathertight conditions. “The optional fall protection was not utilized for this specific application, as the architect had the ability to keep all mechanical units off of the standing seam roof system, which eliminated the need for regular foot traffic or other potential sources of damage to the clients’ roof system,” Tipton says. “Instead the evaporative coolers were ground mounted and ducted through the north wall, and the office’s HVAC units were installed in a mechanical yard on the balcony.”

The building was designed with two different types of occupied space from an energy code perspective: the conditioned offices and the evaporative-cooled, full-height warehouse. A CFR standing seam roof with tall clips was selected from Nucor’s standard offerings. Separating the zones with North Olmsted, Ohio-based Therm-All insulation packages helped obtain compliance with local energy codes. This system allowed for a two-layer, high R-value roof insulation package over the conditioned air spaces.

As the warehouse received evaporative cooling, a transition to a single-layer system created additional material and labor efficiencies in the overall design. The transition from warehouse to office areas also occurred in a staggered pattern. 

“Remote Solutions is security conscious, so we created a big metal screen wall to make a security barrier, but also make it more inviting,” says Kramer. “It’s a big wall that runs right through the building. It’s also a signage piece, almost.” 

INDEVCO’s design-build approach helped it stay flexible to meet this and other challenges of the facility. “While we had to design the building, get it permitted and meet all jurisdictional requirements, even during construction we were tweaking and designing things to make them look better,” Dingle says. “We may see an opportunity in the field that we didn’t see on paper when you are designing it a year ahead of time. We made countless revisions on this job for this very reason. And that’s the value of the design-build approach: flexibility.”