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Spanning the Spectrum

How Building Teams are changing the colors of their façades 

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November 24, 2014 |

Chameleons are known for changing their skin colors to suit the observer, but what if a building can too? There are myriad ways Building Teams are splashing colors onto façades, from shimmering iridescent coating to dichroic glass. The end result is a dynamic exterior that changes color at different times of day and at different angles, making each visitor’s approach a truly individual experience.

Iridescent Coatings Provide a Dynamic Glow

Colorfully coated panels are popping up in a variety of projects. The Exploration Tower in Cape Canaveral, Fla.—home to one of the busiest cruise ports in the world—is a new public attraction welcoming visitors to learn about the area’s maritime history. The seven-story, 23,000-sf sail-shaped building was purposefully designed by GWWO Inc./Architects to evoke imagery of a rocket ready to launch, or the hull of a ship positioned rather vertically. Skanska USA (general contractor) and Thornton Tomasetti (structural engineer) also worked on the project, which officially opened November 2013.

The tower’s exterior shimmers in different lights and angles for outside observers. The effect is made possible by an iridescent coating spray-applied over the building’s southern elevation, which is composed of metal wall panels that appear to rise out of the water until they give way to a steel frame outline. While at first glance the Exploration Tower can appear colorless to observers depending on where they stand, just one hint of movement or shift in the sun can give rise to a pop of color.

In Honduras, a new shopping mall designed by Gerardo Lopez and built by Grupo Karim’s shimmers in the city of San Pedro Sula. There, approximately 32,000 sf of perforated aluminum composite panels were installed on the exterior. Fabricated and installed by Windotech, the 4-mm thick panels feature a custom prismatic purple finish. The resulting effect is a mix of purple, blue, and green shades that seamlessly blend into each other.

Dichroic Glass Shadow Play

The South Campus Central Chiller Plant at The Ohio State University plays host to a number of dichroic glass fins and boxes. The objects reflect numerous colors onto the building’s façade throughout the day, changing in hue for each viewer as they stroll through campus at various times. Glazed window openings are also positioned throughout the structure to offer views of the energy-efficient chiller equipment inside. The color-changing shadows are cast onto the façade’s modular precast concrete wall panels and continue into the night as exterior LED lighting powers on. Ross Barney Architects and Champlin Architecture designed the LEED Silver project; other Building Team members included Whiting-Turner (construction manager), RMF Engineering (mechanical/electrical), Shelly Metz Baumann Hawk (structural engineer), Garry Steffy Lighting Design (lighting consultant), Arup (façade consultant), and MSI Design (landscape architect).

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