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Metal composite materials engineer sound and inspire bold designs

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Metal composite materials engineer sound and inspire bold designs

By ALPOLIC Metal Composite Materials | May 7, 2018

Kites made from ALPOLIC metal composite material with fire retardant core hang from the ceilings in the Voxman Music Building at the University of Iowa. Photo credit: Mitchell Stier

High vaulted ceilings are a challenge to acoustical engineers looking to control, direct and amplify sounds to create a dynamic listening experience. LMN Architects approached the design for the new Voxman Music Building at the University of Iowa with an acute understanding of the construction limitations. They needed lightweight, yet rigid material that could be fabricated and hung in the open space in order to provide the right acoustics, integrate in the lighting and fire safety systems, and provide an inspiring experience true to their bold vision.

Metal composite material proved to be the perfect solution for this complex problem. In partnership with fabricators at Shaffner Heaney Associates, Inc, 6mm-thick ALPOLIC®/fr Metal Composite Material (MCM) was designed, fabricated, and installed to meet all engineering concerns and exceed the design expectation in bringing colorful swarms of kites to life.

Throughout the design process, the LMN Tech Studio employed a 3D parametric model to simulate how ALPOLIC® MCM could best provide sound scattering and absorption at the Voxman. The end result helps university musicians achieve the desired acoustic effects during performance.


The kites add rich color and functionality to music rooms without interfering with hanging lights and fire sprinkler systems. Photo credit: Mitchell Stier


To create the 946 detailed components adorning the high ceilings of Voxman’s main music hall and two large rehearsal rooms, Shaffer Heaney fabricator Mark Haab and his team digitally cut 36,000 square feet of ALPOLIC® with a fire retardant core. The unique installation also permitted other systems - lighting and fire sprinklers - to penetrate without interfering in the overall look of the design. "It was unlike any composite job we've done or seen anyone else do, and we knew it was something special the minute we saw the architect's plans," said Haab.

Six different colors, four of which were custom, all using Lumiflon® FEVE resin, add a touch of brilliance to the spaces within the building. While these aluminum "kites" appear to float in the sky, much the like the music filling the rooms, they contribute important elements to the functionality of the music rooms.

“This process and ALPOLIC® MCM has really become a calling card for us,” said Steven Van Dyck of LMN Architects. “We’re exploring and find we can make it do almost anything.”

"It's really a masterpiece, from the architect’s concept through the execution," said Haab of the overall project. "We took something that was very challenging and unique and out of the box and got it done."

Project Details: University of Iowa, Voxman Music Building

Location: Iowa City, Iowa

Fabricator: Shaffner Heaney

Architect: LMN Architects

Exterior Panel Manufacturer: ALPOLIC® Materials | Mitsubishi Chemical Composites America, Inc.

Product: 6mm, ALPOLIC/fr®

Coating: Custom Colors

Industry: Education

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