Cladding’s Changing Colors Represent Distinct Neighborhoods in an Apartment Building

The $6.7 million exterior retrofit had three goals: improve the building’s thermal performance, eliminate air and water infiltration, and improve building aesthetics.The $6.7 million exterior retrofit had three goals: improve the building’s thermal performance, eliminate air and water infiltration, and improve building aesthetics.

The North Bergen, N.J., Housing Authority’s Paul F. Cullum Tower was built in 1972 to provide homes for low-income senior citizens and disabled individuals. Although the 15-floor, 200,000-square-foot tower still met its primary goal to provide 308 affordable apartments, its exterior façade constructed with a blue-and-white aluminum curtainwall system set over reinforced concrete walls with exposed gray concrete columns had faded and looked utilitarian at best.

North Bergen, N.J., Housing Authority’s Paul F. Cullum Tower was retrofitted with Alucobond Spectra Colors, which allow architects to incorporate an ever-changing color spectrum in the cladding of sophisticated building designs.

North Bergen, N.J., Housing Authority’s Paul F. Cullum Tower was retrofitted with Alucobond Spectra Colors, which allow architects to incorporate an ever-changing color spectrum in the cladding of sophisticated building designs.

An exterior retrofit completed in July 2013 included the installation of approximately 117,000 square feet of Alucobond aluminum composite material by 3A Composites USA in nine different colors, including eight Alucobond Spectra Colors. The Cullum Tower now serves as “a beacon that can be seen from miles away,” according to Diane Peirano-Ingvaldsen, executive director, North Bergen, N.J., Housing Authority. “The sun reflecting on the façade enhances both the residents’ homes and the surrounding community,” Peirano-Ingvaldsen says. “This building has definitely made a statement in the neighborhood.”

Alucobond Spectra Colors allow architects to incorporate an ever-changing color spectrum in the cladding of sophisticated building designs. Alucobond Spectra Colors change colors as different wavelengths of light are reflected back to the audience, depending upon the viewing angle. Alucobond consists of two sheets of 0.020-inch aluminum thermobonded to a plastic core. Alucobond provides flatness and rigidity, formability, low weight and weather resistance. Alucobond aluminum-faced panels are manufactured with a polyethylene core in a standard 4-millimeter thickness.

Situated near the New Jersey Turnpike (Interstate Highway 95), the Cullum Tower is highly visible in the neighborhood. With a western exposure to the New Jersey Meadowlands, this hi-rise building also is particularly vulnerable to the effects of driving rain. Through the years, the building’s curtainwall façade not only had faded but had suffered extensive wear requiring repeated repairs to the concrete columns and caulking of panels, according to Peirano-Ingvaldsen.

A $6.7 million two-phase exterior retrofit of the Cullum Tower was approved by the North Bergen, N.J., Housing Authority in late-2010 with three major goals, including improving the building’s thermal performance, eliminating air and water infiltration, and improving building aesthetics. All goals had to be met with a minimal disturbance to residents, who would continue to live in their homes during the exterior remodel.

Following a series of collaborative design charrettes, architects at Lothrop Associates LLP, White Plains, N.Y., developed a unique design concept to represent distinct neighborhoods in the building, according to James D. Lothrop Jr., AIA, FASID, NCARB, CID, partner, Lothrop Associates. “We didn’t feel that a monolithic color approach was right for this residential building,” Lothrop notes. “We wanted to convey that this is a building comprised of the individual homes of unique individuals.”

“We originally looked at the basic Alucobond colors and presented many color options to the housing authority,” adds Arthur J. Seckler III, Associate AIA, senior associate, Lothrop Associates. “Alucobond Spectra was chosen in particular because the colors were not static. This unique product gave us a stunning array of color through its color shifting properties that essentially tripled the eight basic Spectra color choices. They are not so kinetic that they’re distracting. The color change is fairly subtle and shifts slowly, but it is this change that makes this new façade so dynamic.”

To meet housing authority goals to increase the building’s thermal performance and eliminate air and water infiltration, a weather barrier was installed over the entire building after the curtainwall had been cleaned and the concrete had been repaired. The project’s general contractor Arco Construction Inc., West Caldwell, N.J., wrapped the existing curtainwall and exposed concrete columns and eyebrows in W.R. Grace & Co.’s Perma-A-Barrier VPS, a vapor permeable air barrier membrane.

The $6.7 million exterior retrofit had three goals: improve the building’s thermal performance, eliminate air and water infiltration, and improve building aesthetics.

The $6.7 million exterior retrofit had three goals: improve the building’s thermal performance, eliminate air and water infiltration, and improve building aesthetics.

Fairfield Metal LLC, Fairfield, N.J., fabricated a total of 117,000 square feet of 4mm Alucobond panels in nine colors, including Spectra Jewel, Spectra Sunset, Spectra Ocean, Spectra Sakura, Spectra Autumn, Spectra Cupral, Spectra Antique and Spectra Amazon, as well as Alucobond Platinum Mica Cool. Arco Construction installed the Alucobond panels with Fairfield Metal’s GFM route-and-return wall system with dry-seal gaskets.

Arco Construction was challenged to install the Alucobond panels in a varied step pattern on the building, according to Luigi Colella, partner, Fairfield Metal, who said the company used architectural drawings to number each individual panel and produce a color layout. “We had to make sure that we installed the right color in the right spot,” says Colella. “We also fabricated custom column covers and louvers (the latter for installation beneath air-conditioning units) from Alucobond to match the panels.”

This retrofit also included three colors of granite stone veneer panels installed in varied heights on the first through fourth floors of the building “to mimic the 1- and 2-story homes surrounding the project,” according to Seckler.

In these areas, Fairfield Metal again utilized Alucobond to fabricate custom louvers to most closely match the stone veneer panels by Stone Panels Inc., including Alucobond Steel City Silver Mica Cool with the Impala Black stone veneer, Alucobond Driftwood Mica Cool with the Polychrome stone veneer and Alucobond Platinum Cool with the Regal Gray stone veneer.

This retrofit project was completed in two phases with the first construction phase running from June 2011 through December 2012 and the second construction phase running from July 2012 through July 2013. “The Alucobond was specified by the architect,” says Colella. “No other manufacturer offered colors like these Spectra Colors. The Alucobond was great to fabricate and install. We had no issues at all with this material.”

Most importantly, the residents of Cullum Tower are happy with the exterior remodel of their homes. “The residents absolutely love it,” notes Seckler. “They’ve complimented us on both the building’s new look and its improved energy efficiency. While this building was designed to provide affordable housing, there’s no reason that the elderly should not have aesthetically pleasing homes. It’s a pleasure for us to be able to provide this for them.”

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