Sustainable University Uses Stainless Steel Metal Fabric For Solar Management

June 23, 2015 | Sustainability

 Project Name:  Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communication
 Location:  Phoenix, Arizona
 Architect:  Ehrlich Architects + HDR Architecture Inc
 GKD Metal Fabric:  Lago
 Photography:  Bill Timmerman 

In 2009, the Mayor of Phoenix, Ariz., introduced the Green Phoenix plan, partnering with community groups and individuals with the goal of becoming the most sustainable city in the United States. Exemplifying this partnership, Arizona State University built the 223,000 square foot Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Communication building in downtown Phoenix, providing new classrooms, office space and a home for local PBS affiliate KAET Channel 8. GKD–USA’s Lago stainless steel woven metal fabric was used to create sunscreens, bringing the sustainable elements of sun control to the building.

Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Communication Building, Ehrlich Architects, LEED Silver, USGBC, GKD USA Metal Fabrics Lago Mesh, Photo by Bill Timmerman

To design the new building, Los Angeles based Ehrlich Architects were given a budget of $71 million dollars from the City of Phoenix and the University of Arizona. They were challenged with a strict design-build timeline and the need to create a building that was aesthetically impressive and environmentally responsible. 

Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Communication Building, Ehrlich Architects, LEED Silver, USGBC, GKD USA Metal Fabrics Lago Mesh

GKD’s Lago was selected to contribute to the project’s sustainability needs. Formed into 64 panels (a total of 2,400-square-feet) of sunshades, the stainless steel fabric covers a continuous band of windows on the west side of the building. The mesh protects the glass against damages while allowing light to penetrate deep into the building. The transparent AISI type 316 metal weave mitigates solar heating, but allows easier viewing of flat-screen TV’s and computers, and because of the transparency of the mesh, building occupants can still see a view of downtown Phoenix. On top of its ability to provide a clear view, filter daylight, and save energy through natural lighting, the durability and maintenance-free nature of the Lago mesh was also a contributing factor in its selection.

Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Communication Building, Ehrlich Architects, LEED Silver, USGBC, GKD USA Metal Fabrics Lago Mesh, Photo by Bill Timmerman

For increased aesthetic appeal, architects Ehrlich and Michael Jackson, along with designer C. Terry Abair used a variety of colors and textures in building materials, as well as including glass-encased staircases that protrude from the school to prevent a boxy feeling. The sunshades added an interesting texture over the glass, working both functionally and aesthetically.

Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Communication Building, Ehrlich Architects, LEED Silver, USGBC, GKD USA Metal Fabrics Lago Mesh

Woven metal fabric presents itself as an ideal material for solar management. Of the myriad concerns when building new construction or renovating existing structures, energy management and its associated costs rank high. HVAC costs, water usage and maintenance issues are constants to building owners. Among the benefits of woven metal fabric for use as a solar shading solution are:

  • It is impervious to fluctuations in climate, making it suitable for use in locations where temperatures are extreme.
  • It’s ability to naturally harness the power of solar energy.
  • The flexibility of its weave makes it an excellent choice for allowing natural air ventilation which helps to maintain a building’s temperature.
  • Cost benefits: improved sun protection leads to a reduction of mechanical costs to run and maintain a building.
  • The life span of the product – with stainless steel as the base material, it offers unparalleled durability.
  • Low maintenance costs – no harsh chemicals or special treatments are needed to clean the material, resulting in low lifecycle cost.
  • The openness or transparency of the weave allows natural light to shine through, ensuring visibility while still offering protection from sun’s harsh rays and heat
  • Use of woven metal fabric in a project can help earn LEED points in a variety of ways.
  • Wide range of innovative pattern and texture provide limitless design options.

The ASU Journalism School building was awarded LEED® Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and was recently shortlisted for World Architecture Festival 2009 Award. 

Photography © Bill Timmerman 

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