If money was no object, designing an award-winning building would be easy. But the first-place winner in the Metal Buildings category of the third-annual metalmag Architectural Awards, the Delta Fence Industrial Building in Brentwood, Calif., demonstrates a creative design doesn’t have to break the budget.
“To keep costs down, we wanted a simple rectangle, stock finishes, an out-of-the-part-box aesthetic and a pre-engineered building. The design had to be flexible, simple and affordable but creative,” explains Keeth Lichtenberger, principal design architect with SDG Architecture + Engineering, Brentwood. “It’s a box, but we hope it’s a visually interesting box.”
The building is a pre-engineered and -manufactured steel, flex-use building that houses Delta Fence Co. Inc. offices and warehouse space. “The architects chose the most ubiquitous of metal-building types—the factory/warehouse—and made it sing. With a few simple moves that added layers of meaning, texture and color, the simple box is carved away to express the structural mechanics of the building and indicate the ‘people part’ of the structure,” says Peter David Greaves, AIA, LEED AP, principal of Seattle-based design firm Weber Thompson and a member of the metalmag Architectural Awards jury.
“This project makes an elegant, minimalist statement out of simple metal shapes,” Greaves adds. “The yellow structural elements stand out against the gray siding, roof fragments are left to form overhead weather protection, and the opaque garage doors in the bulk of the building are replaced with a glass and aluminum storefront. The shift in the purpose of this part of the building is highlighted with a simple blank panel and yellow canopy.”
The use of stock materials, simple shapes and metal also was preeminently practical. The storefront/office windows have a horizontal, deep-ribbed metal panel placed at the same height as the roll-up doors so at any time, the owner can swap roll-up doors for storefronts or vice versa. The building was designed so it easily can be subdivided for sale or lease at a future date.
Striking design elements, like the large roof overhangs and canopy, serve a dual purpose: They articulate the interior-design program variation between the storefront/office and the warehouse portions of the complex , as well asmanage heat gain in summer months.
Lichtenberger says the decision to choose metal was a practical one. The pre-engineered pieces, which Lichtenberger compares to tinker toys, assemble quickly regardless of weather. In addition, the affordability, fire resistance and long life of the material made it a logical choice for the project.
According to Wayne Bogart, president of Stockton, Calif.-based TMW & Associates, the project’s general contractor, the building went from slab to move-in in 150 days. Approximately five weeks were spent on-site for the actual erection of the building.
Beyond basic practical matters, using metal had environmental and design implications. “The metal in this design is recyclable,” Lichtenberger points out. “The use of metal illustrates, from the foundations to the parapets, how the structure is put together. You can see how the canopies relate to the horizontal structural framing elements and how the warehouse section relates to the public sections.”
Metal also appealed to Lichtenberger’s modernist inclinations. “I’m a die-hard modernist,” he admits. “But the design is only as good as the client allows. Luckily, the interest in green architecture—allowing an expression of how the building is made—is in fashion. That is a good thing for modernists like me. And the client was really receptive and fun to work with.”
Look and Feel
Choosing from a palette of mostly stock materials and finishes could have made this industrial complex fairly predictable. But Lichtenberger chose from a wide range of metal components and products.
The roof has a Kynar finish in polar white. Vertical and horizontal metal siding panels also are in a Kynar finish and use the colors frazee intercoastal, rubber duck high gloss and tundra. Horizontal deep-shadow ribbing used above the storefront windows marks where future roll-up doors can go and contrasts with the lighter-shadowed vertical siding used elsewhere. Lichtenberger also specified aluminum storefront glazing, steel roll-up doors and custom solar-shading canopies.
“Integrating the steel building with concrete, the horizontal elements, like the canopy and metal from other manufacturers, makes it a bit more challenging but also makes it a much more interesting building,” Bogart says. “The architect had a good feel for how to add architectural elements onto a steel building to give it a unique look.”
Exterior plastered sections bookend the entry to articulate between the public and warehouse sections. “We made these as thin as we could to create a knife-edge sculptural element in keeping with the predominant use of metal,” Lichtenberger explains.
“The warehouse portion is relatively straightforward, but we celebrated the public space with a large canopy that shelters the glass from the summer sun and also reflects the business of the owner—a fence company,” Lichtenberger says. “The diagonal bracing on the porch element was designed to mirror steel fence posts. Originally, I wanted to have chain link on the porch element, but as it evolved, the owner decided he liked the framework without the chain link.”
“This is a very tectonic representation of how a building goes together,” Greaves says. “It is an honest and straightforward approach to industrial architecture, but it is handled in a very elegant way. The proportion and details will look good for a very long time.”
Lisa Anderson Mann writes about architecture and metal construction from Petaluma, Calif.