GKD Metal Fabrics creates elaborate façade with etched stainless steel panels
Located in Pasadena, Texas, the new Houston Area Safety Council (HASC) represents a two-year campus initiative to expand safety training capabilities for the greater Houston Metroplex. An added goal was to improve health, wellness and physical therapy by way of a new, multi-faceted clinic to meet the growing needs of the energy, space exploration, manufacturing and food industries located throughout the Gulf Coast region.
The design team was tasked with creating a modern, industrial look that feels approachable and appeals to both its core patient base and their families — regardless of whether or not they walk in straight from their jobs in the field, or after work with their family.
However, after the architects were dissatisfied with the material samples and mock-ups for the building façade, the project ground to a halt. Without a suitable etched exterior that paid homage to the industry, the entire exterior design would be ruined. GKD stepped in to provide an innovative, etched stainless steel panel system that helps create one of the most unique and beautiful educational facilities in the region.
Finding a Solution Through Disappointment
Before GKD was brought in to help the design team, one of the brand’s competitors was selected to provide what the architects termed “permanent branding” for the building. One of the first tasks they needed to complete was to provide architecture firm Kirksey and the safety council with a mock-up. The finished design was completely different than original renderings, with an unattractive spiral effect. They were also asked to provide several etching samples. However, these samples didn’t pass muster and the teams left the meeting dissatisfied and dismayed.
GKD was eventually contacted, and the company’s sales and technical teams knew their Omega 1510 would be a suitable and effective solution for the project. Omega 1510 is a transparent and flexible metal fabric used for solar management, ceilings and partitions. It also maintains an etched surface, making it a good solution for graphics. Furthermore, the product offers a flattened rod in the weft, which helps create detailed and highly visible etchings that are perceptible in a variety of lighting.
While Omega 1510 was a suitable product for the project, there were still a number of hurdles to overcome throughout the design, manufacture and installation process. The safety council wanted to depict the Houston skyline with an oil rig and other industrial workers in the foreground. Achieving depth perception in this design was extremely challenging. Etching is two tone – and metal fabric etching is not like a painting where you can create depth, perspective and dimension with multiple colors. It’s a process that the team at GKD had to study intensely.
Just like the previous manufacturer, GKD was asked to do a mock-up after the initial design stage was complete. Kirksey provided the team with an image that depicted the desired etching and GKD worked from that rendering. However, this time the work passed with flying colors, with a sense of depth, perspective and detail that was missing from the previous attempts.
Once approved, the final product was manufactured using seven panels of Omega 1510 metal fabric. The panels were shipped to Texas, and installed using round bars and extended loop – the warp cable has a teardrop loop and a round bar is inserted into the loop. The round bar is pulled by an eyebolt and hung onto structural steel. This helps ensure there is no movement, although the system is designed to move slightly in excessive wind, and the occasional hurricane or tornado (common in Texas).
Since the metal fabric is pre-tensioned during the manufacturing process, the panels are installed in a full stretched state. This is opposed to material that is stretched into place on site. When material is stretched on the job, the manufacturer or contractor is often forced to come back and tighten it in the future due to sagging.
The new state-of-the-art campus features a striking look that is emphasized by the glittering Texas sun and colorful sunrises and sunsets. Beyond the façade, which is a source of pride for employees and visitors, the facility holds 65,000 square feet of comfortable training space situated on 34 acres of land, with room to grow.
The campus also includes a 220-seat auditorium with stadium seating, meeting spaces, computer labs with 650 workstations, multiple classrooms, distinct study areas and parking for over 1,000 vehicles. In addition, the occupational clinic, therapy practice and family medicine clinic help serve thousands of area workers. It’s mission accomplished at the HASC.