Architects achieve the look of brick while avoiding structural issues

Nichiha’s PlymouthBrick fiber cement panels provide the warmth of brick along with an affordable, easy-to-handle format with less weight.

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September 30, 2015 |

Park Metro Apartments in Bellevue, Wash.

The goal of the Park Metro Apartments in Bellevue, Wash., created a unique design challenge: attract a younger audience to a growing urban downtown area but also relate to the single-family residences in the nearby neighborhood. To achieve this effect, the team fashioned the building to look more like townhouses than an apartment building. But the building’s scale of 78 residential units with ground floor retail, and six residential levels above two parking levels compassing 116,421 total square foot presented the biggest hurdle.

The key to attaining the townhouse effect was using materials with a residential sense of scale, says Andy Kovach, AIA, NCARB, principal of Kovach Architects. Brick met that goal by offering warmth and a long-lasting quality but it also brought complications associated with mounting height and costs.

“We wanted the scale of brick, but the weight created a structural issue. That went away as soon as we decided on Nichiha,” Kovach says. Nichiha’s PlymouthBrick fiber cement panels provided the warmth of brick the architects desired, along with an affordable, easy-to-handle format with less weight.

Working with Nichiha was new to many on this project, requiring research and collaboration to ensure the intended design came to fruition. For example, to achieve greater crispness at corners, the team installed extruded anodized aluminum trim around windows, doors, and at building edges. The aluminum trim developed a clean tight look that complimented the street level storefront system and added a unique dimension to the overall appearance of the Nichiha panel system.


Nichiha’s PlymouthBrick fiber cement panels and aluminum trim


Not new to Nichiha but new to PlymouthBrick, installer Vacek Szymula of DOM Construction, was able to successfully install PlymouthBrick panels for the first time from the inside at unique angles, over layers of fire protection sheathing.

Because Nichiha panels install more quickly than traditional brick using a patented system, the project’s tight timeframe was met by providing additional manpower to accommodate faster siding installation without compromising quality and consistency.

Mark Flynn, project manager for Halvorson Construction Group, liked what the quick and simple installation offered behind the panels – a moisture management rainscreen which reduces risk of mold and water damage inside the building. “We all embraced this additional design feature,” says Flynn, given the wet climate in the greater Seattle area.

In the end, the Park Metro Apartment building is one that everyone is proud of, says Szymula. “We show this building to new clients. You have to get up close to see the joints,” he adds. “We receive a lot of compliments on the building.”

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