Choosing Metal

“The cool colors we use reflect the sun to reduce energy costs during the summer. The paint comes with a 45-year warranty against cracking, flaking, peeling, or chipping, so it really holds up. The chalking and fading values are higher and stand time better than your grandmother’s old tin roof ever did.” So describes Steve Letnich, vice president of Sales & Marketing for Louisville-based Metal Sales Manufacturing Corporation, in explaining one reason why higher education administrators are more and more choosing metal for their new construction and renovation projects.

In fact, administrators at Grand Canyon University (GCU) in Phoenix chose metal paneling for both the exterior and interior of their new 55,000-sq.-ft. student recreation center, which was completed last November. The facility includes a fitness area, dance studio, and three practice courts; accommodates more than 30 fitness classes per week; and serves as the primary facility for the school’s basketball and wrestling teams.

Inside the recreation center, metal panels contrast with brick, offering a contemporary feel. The practice courts are surrounded by 6,500 sq. ft. of 7/8-in. corrugated panels, the strong material providing a sturdy backdrop and creating clean lines for a finished look. Leading to the outside, the partially covered exterior walkway/staircase is lined with 27,000 sq. ft. of 7/8-in. corrugated panels.

On the facility’s exterior, 14,000 sq. ft. of TLC-1 20-gauge roll-formed panels from Metal Sales, which is a provider of innovative metal roofing, metal siding, building components, and accessories, reflect the Arizona sun and provide durable protection. “It has deep bends in the metal,” says Letnich, “and that really catches people’s eyes. It gives the building owner the strength and durability he’s looking for, plus wind resistance.”

Metal’s Many Benefits
In mentioning strength and durability, Letnich is alluding to some of metal’s many benefits. And, indeed, metal offers so much more than the ability to save HVAC energy by reflecting the sun and thus mitigating heat island buildup, which comes from choosing dark-colored materials that absorb heat. Check it out.

Sustainability: “Metal in buildings is a real sustainability story,” says Art Hance, president of Washington, NJ-based Hance Construction, which focuses on tailored construction solutions. “It can be recycled over and over again, thereby making it the most recycled product in the construction industry.”

In addition to its recyclability, metal comes with very little waste, as it’s tailored to the job at hand. “When you ship concrete block or brick,” Hance explains, “you ship enough so that you won’t run out, leaving you with extra product at the end of construction. With metal, there isn’t that level of leftover material, as it is designed specifically for that application.”

Durability: Metal is long lasting. “Probably the biggest benefit of metal,” says Hance, “is its longevity, especially when you’re talking about a metal roof — they easily exceed 30 years. That longevity is very unusual in traditional roofing systems, like built-up and membrane. Plus, metal roofs withstand high wind and snow loads and are low maintenance, which makes them very cost effective.”

For GCU’s student recreation center, a key consideration for the use of metal was its durability, points out John Kane, FAIA, LEED-AP, design principal at Tempe, AZ-based Architekton, which served as project architect. “Recreation facilities take a lot of abuse, and we needed a product that could last a long period of time without needing repairing or repainting,” he notes.

Long-term cost savings: Metal’s durability translates to long-term cost savings. “Metal is a cost-effective alternative on an installed product,” says Letnich, “both on roofs and walls versus other materials. And it lasts longer than other materials, such as built-up or asphalt roofs, so there’s a lifecycle cost advantage to using metal.”

The long-term cost savings include maintenance and repair savings, as little of either are required. “Facilities managers accept a certain level of roof leaks as a matter of course,” confirms Hance. “We don’t understand that acceptance, because it simply doesn’t have to be that way.”

Aesthetics: Metal is aesthetically pleasing. In fact, the panels used on the student recreation center offer a refined profile, resulting in the ideal blend of functionality and polished aesthetics. “The aesthetic diversity that can be achieved, along with low — if any — maintenance,” says Kane, “make metal an excellent choice for higher education facilities. “In terms of color, texture, and form, it is one of those materials that can do a lot of different things.”

Design flexibility: “Metal comes in all kinds of shapes, sizes, colors, and profiles,” Letnich describes. “Our firm’s experience has been that architects like metal because of its design flexibility.”

For example, the metal panels used in GCU’s student recreation center were chosen not only for their durability, but also for their ability to convey a sense of athletic spirit. The TLC-1 panels in Old Zinc Grey frame figures of the school mascot, which are displayed in the form of aluminum antelope silhouettes on the facility’s east- and west-facing sides. Small horizontal stripes in the school’s signature purple color accent the panels to further promote team branding. Combined, the antelope silhouettes and panels help create a landmark of school pride for the campus.

Facility retrofits: “Metal is very useful in retrofits,” notes Kane, “depending on what the existing skins and substrates are.” Clearly, it’s never too late to take advantage of all it has to offer.

Price: “Metal has a relatively easy price,” Kane indicates. “Architecturally, you can do a lot of different things with it. For example, we like that we can use the material on a building’s exterior and continue it on the interior. A lot of materials simply can’t serve in both places, especially for the cost.”

Kane goes on to explain that, in fact, one of the reasons metal was chosen for the GSU recreation center was its cost. “Once we showed the administrators that, for almost the same dollar, we could upgrade their plan for a fabric structure to something that would last a lot longer and have a more dramatic appearance, they agreed to the switch,” he says.

Hance agrees that metal is cost effective, noting that administrators who choose metal can affordably get everything they expect in a building. “You can still get great architectural design and wonderful spaces for students to thrive and learn in, and the construction cost doesn’t have to be what it has been,” he says.

With its many attributes, including sustainability, long-term cost savings, durability, aesthetics, design flexibility, price, and more, metal makes an obvious option for higher education new construction or retrofit projects.

“It’s a diverse, multifunctional material,” Kane sums.