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Reflective Scales

Alucobond panels help create building's fish-scale surface

The Vancouver Organizing Committee challengedthree architectural firms to design Millennium Water, the Southeast False Creek Olympic Village, for its first use as a temporary home for many of the 2,600 athletes from 82 nations that competed in the 2010 Winter Olympics, held Feb. 12-28, 2010. Millennium Water was designed as a sustainable, mixed-use residential and commercial community that incorporates not only environmental sustainability, but also social and economic sustainability goals.

At 1.4 million square feet, and an estimated total cost of $1.075 billion, Millennium Water is the largest single-phase development in Canada. The Olympic Village, which was awarded LEED-ND Platinum status, encompasses seven city blocks and includes 16 residential buildings-all of which were awarded LEED Gold certifications.

Built on a former industrial site, the Southeast False Creek Olympic Village was designed as a showcase for green building, incorporating leading-edge techniques ranging from green roofs to toilets flushed with the aid of rainwater. The entire complex is heated by sewage; while renewable energy systems, including solar panels and solar hot water systems, generate power for households. Building materials were chosen for their sustainability, including their embodied energy use over the building's lifespan in the form of required maintenance and upkeep.

3A Composites USA Inc.'s Alucobond naturAL aluminum composite material featuring a finely textured aluminum surface with a FEVE clear coat was selected with the brushed finish for cladding of Parcel 4 of the Olympic Village.

Known as Canada House, Parcel 4 served as the temporary home of Canada's athletes during the Olympic Games. The Canada House's unique design incorporates a fish-scale surface achieved with approximately 77,000 square feet of 4-mmthick Alucobond naturAL fabricated into 7,000 individual panels. This sculpted architectural image reflects the property's waterfront location overlooking Vancouver Harbor at the northwest corner of the Millennium Water development.

The $75 million Canada House residence consists of two buildings-the 106,100-square-foot 12-story West Building and the 55,750-square-foot seven-story East Building-offering 60 condominium suites. A public courtyard featuring a reflecting pool and light sculpture separates the two buildings. The original building design was reconfigured from a u-shaped massing to two separate buildings to allow the greatest amount of sunlight to flood the courtyard and waterfront public walkway and bike path to the north of the site.

According to architect Nick Milkovich with Nick Milkovich Architects Inc., the sculptural shaping of the buildings was done to allow more early morning sunlight to reach the public garden and park to the west of the site. To achieve this goal, the west building leans away from the park by 15 feet over its 12-story height through a rotation of floor plates. The same movement was applied to the lower seven-story building.

"The resulting dynamic silhouette of the buildings is enhanced by the cladding of glass and brushed aluminum 'fish scales' that catch the changing light of the day creating interesting shadows articulating the textured skin," says Milkovich.

"These buildings were very unique in the village," says Carlo Gatti, business development manager at Keith Panel Systems, which fabricated the Alucobond naturAL and installed it with the proprietary KPS System "A" Plus, which features a dry-joint pressure-equalized rainscreen.

KPS became involved in the project in a design assistance role two years prior to its completion, according to Gatti, who said the design complexities of the fish-scale look required weekly meetings to solve interface connections on the building.

"All issues were resolved in these design assistance meetings," says Gatti. "We used typical details floor-to-floor to design the panel system. And, to accommodate the twist in the building, we ensured the panel dimensions were field measured … To create the fish scales, we fabricated wedge-shaped panels. The assembling of our proprietary frame to the Alucobond was unique. We tested it for structural and rainscreen performance."

KPS proposed the use of Alucobond naturAL in response to the architect's specification of a natural-looking metal. Each building floor features a fascia band with the fish-scale design fabricated from Alucobond naturAL.

"The Alucobond offered a quality finish in terms of performance over time, and it offered the flexibility to make any size panel with no oil canning," says Gatti. "The Alucobond composite also gave us flexibility in completing unique closures and profiles. The head and sill panels at the window in this project were comprised of irregular shapes. With Alucobond, we could keep the edges crisp."

At one point in the design process, the architects considered utilizing insulated glass for the fish scales, but the idea was rejected as being too expensive, according to Milkovich.

"We wanted a material that would be a little reflective, and the Alucobond gave us reflection," says Milkovich. "It could carry the fish-scale shape and the Alucobond strip (fascia) along the building … Compared to other metals, the Alucobond was thicker. It doesn't oil can. And, it provides a good flat surface. The south façade of these buildings is nearly solid Alucobond."

"In the case of Canada House, the Alucobond naturAL reflects the color of the atmosphere," says Gatti. "As the sun hits the panel, it produces an interesting effect."

It took KPS approximately six months to fabricate the Alucobond naturAL panels, according to Gatti, who said the panels were fed to the site as required. Canada House was the last parcel to begin construction at the Southeast False Creek Olympic Village, and KPS was the final trade to work on these buildings under the supervision of the general contractor. Canada House was turned over to the Vancouver Organizing Committee in October 2009.

"With the Olympic Games looming, we couldn't slide the deadline," says Milkovich. "We knew that the repeated pattern would make construction fairly fast. But, with the shape of the building, not every piece would be the same. Keith Panel Systems did a marvelous job."

Adds Gatti: "Even though we were put in a tight position, we managed to finish two weeks ahead of schedule. The job completion date on this project was non-negotiable. The athletes had to move in."

KPS received the 2010 Vancouver Regional Construction Association's Gold Medal in the President's Trade Awards category for its involvement in the design, development and installation of the Alucobond panels featured in the KPS System "A" Plus on Canada House.

Organizing Committee


Millennium Water, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
General contractor: ITC Construction Group, Vancouver
Architect: Nick Milkovich Architects Inc., Vancouver
Design consultant: Arthur Erickson, CC, Vancouver
Fabricator/installer: Keith Panel Systems Co. Ltd., Vancouver
Metal wall panels: 3A Composites USA Inc., Mooresville, N.C.,, Circle #76