Copper Work Buildings
Copper cladding preferred as lightweight, long-lasting, efficient material for fabricating wall panels
It started on rooftops and is increasingly making its way down the sides of buildings and onto the structures below. Copper wall cladding options are becoming more popular in North America as builders adopt the style for various architectural purposes.
The preference for copper is not limited to aesthetics. While it’s true that builders who gravitate to copper likely see the visual benefits, they also recognize the practical implications of cladding with durable, lightweight and long-lasting materials like copper, brass and bronze. In an era of sustainability and energy efficiency, copper cladding gives architects an ideal avenue for creative, useful design.
Over the last few years, the New York Citybased Copper Development Association (CDA) has seen an increase in the number of copper-cladding systems installed on commercial buildings, evident by those projects selected for a North American Copper in Architecture (NACIA) Award. Projects such as academic facilities, learning institutes, museums and sports and recreation centers have all been recognized with a NACIA award for incorporating some form of cladding system in the design.
Copper wall cladding systems
Most copper wall cladding systems are in many ways similar to copper roofing systems. They are generally installed over a continuous nailable substrate which is covered with 30-pound asphalt-saturated felt. Rosin-sized building paper is laid over the felt to keep the copper siding or panels from bonding to the felt. Flat-, circular- and other-shaped walls can easily be covered with copper cladding systems. What also makes copper-cladding systems attractive to builders is that it can be fieldformed from sheet material or pre-manufactured and transported to the job site.
For example, building designers are using copper-screen panels as lightweight-finish screens to repel rainwater while allowing in light. The panels can be perforated to allow in the right amount of sunlight, and they are easily cut to include openings that act as decorative designs.
“Architects want options that add to the structural integrity of a building, and also enhance the interior and exterior features, both performancewise and aesthetically,” says Andy Kireta Jr., vice president of CDA. “Copper wall cladding can meet both needs. It’s long-lasting, sturdy and requires significantly less in the way of regular maintenance. The end result looks amazing.”
Likewise, curtainwall systems are increasingly made from copper to better control air leaks, moisture and temperature. Copper panels are preferred because they are easy to shape and of the right weight for secure hanging. In modern architecture, this type of innovative thinking is crucial for longterm building life. Consider, for example, the Seagram Building in New York City, which was built in 1957 and comprises bronze and glass components for its curtainwall system, with mullions running the full height of the building.
In addition to standard sheet copper installations which provide some natural surface contours, composite panels made with thin copper sheets clad to the exterior of a structural substrate offer designers the ability to create a dead-flat building surface for a uniform, aesthetic look. These panels are strong, lightweight and can vary by thickness, depending on the project and whether it’s for indoor or outdoor use.
The last few years, CDA’s NACIA award program has seen a variety of projects that incorporate some type of copper-cladding system. Of the 2014 NACIA awards recipients, the North Dakota Heritage Center, Bismarck, N.D., and the Louisiana State Museum and Sports Hall of Fame in Natchitoches, La., exemplify this growing building trend. As a tribute to the bronze accents of the historic state capitol building right down the road, the North Dakota Heritage Center installed copper panels inside and outside the building. To create a cohesive design, the same copper panels on the exterior of the North Dakota Heritage Center were pre-patinated and used on the interior of the building. Due to copper’s natural ability to gradually change as it weathers and ages, the exterior copper paneling will eventually match the pre-patinated copper inside the center.