A metal façade introduces a visually appealing architectural element on top of a built insulation system, such as a vapor barrier, insulation board, and structural supports. Known for their versatility, durability and elegant, clean finishes, metal claddings can be used for both roofing and walls to deliver a long-lasting and eye-catching finished product made from natural materials such as aluminum, copper, zinc and steel. Regardless of which system is used to fix the panels (concealed clip system or exposed fastener system), a façade can be made from a variety of profiles and colors for unlimited design options.
One of the design challenges of wall assemblies is how to integrate corner transitions, inside and out, where traditional methods often call for installing flashing with pop rivets to frame the panels. For high-profile buildings that require a clean look and seamless transitions, an alternative can be custom-made corner pieces that allow for the continuity of the panel shape around each building elevation.
Specified as “miter seam corners”, these handcrafted transition pieces are meticulously mitered, folded, structurally bonded and carefully finished with touch-up paint. They can be supplied at various angles and lengths in any horizontal profile perforated or solid, and work as inside or outside corner transitions, typically 1 to 3 feet long on each side. Prefabricated corners are made from the same material as the adjacent panels and thus match the profile and paint system exactly, providing a seamless transition and overall smooth look.
For example, in STL Architect’s design for the Lycée Français de Chicago, the exterior above the glazed foundation is clad in perforated and corrugated panels, punctuated only by the red frames, which add dynamism to the children’s school building. In this prism, the use of miter seam corners emphasize this feature.
The Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building by Rafael Vinoly architects used metal cladding and corners by Morin in which the grooves of the horizontal panels amplify the continuity of the boldly shaped, elevated structure curving to the shape of the surrounding forest.
In Clark Nexsen's Abbotts Creek Community Center, perforated, corrugated metal panels highlight the volumetry through earthy tones. As the architects responsible for the project point out, “The construction of the building is a structural steel frame with envelope construction consisting of a ground-face CMU veneer and metal panels.”
The Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln, Nebraska was a massive project for designers Clark Enerson and Partners, as they needed a massive solution to complete the metal façade. They chose to use corners measuring 3 feet by 3 feet at the edge of each building elevation, with a slim piece of trim lying between each panel edge. Not only is this an intelligent design decision, as it improves installation and allows for thermal movement, but it is also a visually appealing break on the expansive area of metal wall.
It is also important to mention that natural metals, such as aluminum, zinc, copper and stainless steel, offer a sustainable building solution and unique design properties, especially in how they react to weathering. In addition, they have a high potential for recyclability, promoting a circular economy.
Whether a wall is made from painted or natural metals, architects, contractors, owners and installers can appreciate the end result of a well-designed architectural metal wall with custom corner transitions. Specifying this option results in a uniform façade, without protrusions or trim, rivets and screws, creating an overall professional and clean building appearance.
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