Domenic Gulli is happy to take the blame.
The owner of Edmonton’s Shearwall construction company suggested steel-skinned polyurethane composite panels to adorn the exterior of the new Peregrine Point residential highrise (105th Street and 97th Avenue).
Architect Andrew Baziuk agreed to incorporate the product.
Distributor/ installer K&T Metal Industries of Morinville welcomed the opportunity to display the versatility of the panels.
|Kenton Friesen photo, Business Edge|
|Roger Conrad, left, and Chris Blake of K&T Metal are proud of the Peregrine Point building, which uses steel-skin cladding.|
However, the U.S. manufacturers of the panels were not keen on seeing their product used in residential highrise construction. It’s a first for this type of application in North America, and there were concerns about using the product in an unstandardized fashion.
“This particular application, they didn’t feel comfortable with,” says Chris Blake, VP of sales and marketing for K&T Metal. But together with Shearwall, a design was produced and engineered, including the bending of panels for corners – nixing the tricky job of installing external corner mouldings.
“Just because it’s never been done doesn’t mean it can’t be done,” says Gulli, crediting Kennedy with the quote.
“I did a little bit of homework on it and I thought that it saves construction time, gives an insulation value and you’ve got a better waterproofing value than stucco . . . so why not use it?”
Propelling the concept into reality was Blake, who has installed similar panels on freezers up to 80 feet high, such as at Atlas Food Storage in Toronto.
The 30-foot-by-42-inch panels are installed exclusively from the interior of the building, eliminating the need for swing stages or scaffolding. They come in lengths of up to 50 feet, but were cut to three-storey height to allow for improved expansion and contraction (similar in principle to the installation of laminate flooring).
The product provides drywallers the luxury of installing steel studs in a secure environment, out of the elements. The tongue-in-groove system is attached to the concrete by hidden fasteners and eliminates the need for an independent vapour barrier.
The two-inch thick panels provide an insulating value of 16.6 (R 8.3 per inch).
Immediately inside the panels is a two-by-six steel stud wall filled with traditional fibreglass insulation, taking the overall insulation rating well above standard and helping to reduce noise concerns at the busy intersection.
Two sections of concrete wall were added up the entire height of the 13-storey building for lateral bracing. Roger Conrad, K&T Metal business development, says the five-man crew used to install the panels on site could install three storeys of panels right around the building in about three 10-hour days. That time included the unavoidable interruptions of sharing the crane.
“That was one of our problems. We’ve got to share the crane when we’re on site. We can’t just hog it,” says Conrad.
Standard construction during winter months requires special techniques, often necessitating serious hoarding measures. But the insulated panels can be installed without complication during the snowy months, and don’t require finishing touches when the weather warms up.
Insulated panels have been around in various forms since the 1930s, most commonly applied in the freezer and cooler industry. In Alberta, they are mostly used in the construction of warehouses and mega box stores.
Current progress is being made in the visual appeal, with a spray-on stucco embossing being made available as well as a simulated marble look.
K & T has installed the polyurethane-filled panels in locales as distant as Cuba and Russia, though the bulk of its business is in Western Canada. There’s talk of shipping a crew along with a five-inch-thick version of the product up to Eureka, N.W.T.
Demand for the product has escalated in the last couple of years, and the use of the panels on the highly visible Peregrine Point (about 30,000 sq. ft. in total) has generated a lot of interest in the product. As a result, the company is in the planning stages of two similar projects – one in Edmonton and another in Fort McMurray.
Quality wood-skinned structurally insulated panels are built by a number of manufacturers in the Edmonton area, but there is no recognized manufacturer of steel-skinned polyurethane panels in Canada, says Blake.
“The lines that these panels are built on are $20-million-US lines . . . There are some local manufacturers in Alberta that are trying to break into this commercial market with lines that are $700,000 to $1 million, and it’s been hurting the industry,” says Blake, citing a lack of quality and delamination troubles.
Time will judge the effectiveness of the panels in their newest application, but it is certain that similar construction methods that increase insulation values economically and cut down on-site labour times will grow in popularity as energy prices rise and qualified tradespeople become harder to find.
Architect Baziuk hedges on a full endorsement of the product for high-rise application. “I see no problems in it so far, but I would like to see it a year in action.”