The Art and Science of Color

Color has become big business; and at Sto, the science and technology of color have been perfected over decades to create coatings and finishes that offer both form and function in the built environment.

With spring blooms beginning to burst forth from the grey, white and neutral tone of winter months, we are reminded once again of the significance of color in our world.  In fact, the right color can be worth a lot of money — in fashion, interior and exterior design, in advertising, and yes, even in building materials.

Color has become big business; the psychology of color is now well-documented, and the science and technology of color have been perfected over time. But then, as the famous painter Claude Monet said: “Color is my day long obsession, joy, and torment.” Color design truly is an art form and has become a defining quality that can seemingly make or break a business, whether it’s the “right” blue in Google’s ad links, the latest designer fashions, a building’s curb appeal or the wall color on a company’s entrance.

Since the Pantone company introduced its first “Color of the Year” in 1999, the mysterious art and business of color forecasting has been elevated to a competitive level on a global scale. That first color of the year was a cerulean blue, and it launched countless projects and generated millions of dollars, as recounted in The New York Times.


The experts from The Pantone Color Institute declared 2018 to be the year of Ultra Violet, saying that # 18-3838 was “a dramatically thoughtful purple shade that communicates originality, ingenuity and visionary thinking.”

Experts continue to forecast color trends years in advance (What will resonate with consumers for instance in the Spring of 2019: brights or neutrals, jewel tones or pastels?) and while color forecasting is an interesting (and lucrative!) practice, it can be arguably subjective and somewhat suspect. However, the theory and basics of color are not, nor is the science of color, which Sto has been perfecting for decades. Color technology is grounded in far more than mere prognostication, and the science of color is where Sto excels.

The Sto School of Color

Sto has been a leader in providing high-performance color systems, with a colorant scheme that offers form and function, which means it offers an unlimited spectrum of colors and aesthetics, along with durability, and safety. It starts with the design gurus in Sto Studio, a team of color professionals who are inspired by color and art in architecture, and who know the science of color mixology, but also the gestalt and psychology of color.

Then there is the Sto Corp Tint School – a training lab for sales reps, distributors, applicators and other contractors — and the professional Sto Color Lab in Vermont that turns out, on average, 70 new color formulas and 100 samples a day. With all these resources, Sto has a corner on mastering the art, science and psychology of color in coatings and finishes.

In 1965, Sto introduced a revolutionary color system and has been building upon that first offering since then. The StoColor 800 — a collection of 800 colors formulated to match the range of human visual perception — was released in 2002, and remains a favorite go-to resource for those in the architecture, engineering and construction sectors.

StoColor 800 Collection

The StoColor 800 Collection is based on an understanding of the complete range of human color perception. The related StoColor System is a unique tool for planning the use of color in architecture.

Sto colored coatings and finishes are not only beautiful, but they meet the strictest test standards for measuring accelerated weathering and UV fade resistance.  There is zero-variability with Sto coatings and finishes, and optimized tint loads for better results. A proprietary cloud-based system provides access to more than three million color formulas. Sto is expert at color, but also understands the importance and value of a coating or finish that is sustainable and satisfies the goals of the design and building community, for both new or restored building projects.

Join us over the next several weeks as we delve into the vast and wonderful world of color. We’ll be doing a primer on color (the difference between the critical attributes of light, hue and chroma, and how DO you tone down the shade of a color?), as well as providing insights into what makes a colored coating or finish product durable. We’ll look at the variables that contribute to perceived color problems, complaints, and costs such as application techniques, substrates, lighting conditions and even the human eye. What are the guidelines mixing and storing colorants or for dispenser and jet mixer maintenance and calibration checks? What is a metrameric match, and what is the difference between organic and non-organic color?

The trending colors for Spring fashion, may not directly apply to the color trends in coatings and finishes used in architectural design, but clearly, color is a powerful influence on many fronts, including exterior and interior building design. Building material industry leaders such as Sto are on the forefront of this brave, new (and dare we say) colorful world of the built environment.

Biophilic Design in Architecture for Health & Tranquility

Biophilic architectural design which is harmonious with nature has proven to enhance the health and wellness of those living and working in such spaces.

There is feng shui, and there are meditation decks, white noise fountains, serenity pools, soft lights and harmonious neutral colors to create a peaceful haven in your home. And — there is biophilic design in architecture.  It’s all intended to optimize your life by creating a healthier, less stressful living space.

According to a recent post in Houzz, while biophilic design has been around for a long while (Frank Lloyd Wright often incorporated it into his architecture) it is experiencing a resurgence with today’s architects.  Biophilia literally translates as ‘love of life’. Examples of biophilic design date back to ancient civilizations, but it wasn’t until the 1980s, that the terminology evolved thanks to American biologist E. O. Wilson who proposed that evolution has soft-wired us to prefer natural settings over built environments. In Wilson’s words, we have “an innate and genetically determined affinity … with the natural world”. Proponents of biophilic design are attempting to satisfy this instinct architecturally.

Frank Lloyd Wright was an advocate of biophilia. “Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you,” he advised, and many of his buildings bear this out. Notably, his game-changing creation Fallingwater (pictured above) is so integrated with nature as to be inseparable.

Essential to biophilic theory is the idea that buildings aid our physical and mental health only when they are designed holistically and in tandem with nature. Green building principles emphasize responsibility to the environment and efficient use of sustainable resources, and while biophilic design embraces these aims, it focuses more on the wellbeing of the people who use the spaces.

Today, the concept of biophilia is supported by a more scientific understanding of the psychology behind building-based wellness. Some pundits believe that the inordinate amount of time we spend in built environments may contribute significantly to feelings of isolation, tension and lethargy. So, there is a growing interest in designing restorative, productive and appealing buildings that better engage with nature and are more biophilic in nature.

Some of the components of biophilic design include:

  • Natural light from windows, skylights, walls of glass
  • Exterior views; psychologists claim that people with views have a healthier outlook on life, because there is more dimension to their perspective and a sense of connection to a wider ecosystem
  • Water features such as fountains and ponds that can be seen, heard and touched
  • Sensory stimuli that reference nature: scented plants, plants that change color seasonally; open flames; tactile materials and natural fibers that reflect local ecology such as stone and timber

In a concrete, urban jungle — In the absence of real natural environments — biomimicry can be a source of biophilic design as found in organic shapes in construction and furniture. If you stop to think, geometric shapes are rarely found in nature. Color schemes derived from nature – earthen and green, water and sky tones, even images of nature, including photographs, art, murals, and sculptures, can create a biophilic effect.

An undulating, cedar-clad ceiling for instance is, as one architect noted, “the antithesis of the ubiquitous flat, white plasterboard ceiling” and is replicating more environmental shapes and forms. A buffer of green landscaping in a causeway to the street enables connection and interaction with nature for occupants and passers-by. A central courtyard allows visual connection with other areas of a structure and creates a thermal ‘lung’ for natural cooling and heating. The results are living spaces that comfort the body as naturally and effectively as they do the soul. And that’s what a biophilic environment should do.

Zen principles which are often applied in design are attempting to do the same, reflecting balance, harmony and relaxation. Despite all of our modern conveniences today, well-being and contentment often evade us, and it may just be that our home and work environments have an influence. Bring on the biophilic and namaste all around.

Advanced Insulated Wall Systems that Exceed Expectations and Code

StoTherm ci XPS is a continuous insulation system, which provides air, thermal and moisture control without the connection and compatibility challenges that characterize other systems, while also offering multiple design and finish options.

Today’s architects, specification professionals, and owners are typically looking for an insulated wall design that not only meets but exceeds the nation’s increasingly demanding code requirements. Enter the StoTherm® ci XPS continuous insulation system, which provides air, thermal and moisture control without the connection and compatibility challenges that characterize other systems, while also offering multiple design and finish options.

As the building industry adopts more stringent energy codes (Title 24, IBC, IECC, ASHRAE 90.1), the need for external insulated finish systems (EIFS) is increasing. The StoTherm ci system is highly energy efficient, minimizing heating and cooling costs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The components prevent thermal bridging, thus lowering the risk of heat leakage and the attendant energy loss.

Other features that make the StoTherm ci XPS system a superior alternative to other systems include:

  • Durability and impact resistance (77% higher density and 250% higher compressive resistance than EPS)
  • Low Water Absorption (due to its closed cell structure)
  • R-Value of R5/inch (the higher the R-value, the greater the resistance to heat flow)

The system is also installation friendly; one installer and a single skilled trade person can make quick work of it. The low allowable deflection value makes for lightweight construction, which reduces overall project cost and weight per square foot.  These factors make for material and labor costs that are highly competitive, if not more economical than most other options.

A wide range of decorative and protective wall finishes (StoCreativ® Brick, granite, limestone) along with unlimited color choices make StoTherm ci XPS one of the most versatile and innovative products on the market today.

Aesthetically Enhanced Wall Solutions with StoPanel Dri-Design

The striking Dri-Design metal panels over Sto EIFS can be specified in a variety of materials, colors, finishes, dimensions and textures.

As a leader in wall cladding systems and the world’s largest manufacturer of insulated wall systems, Sto Corp is constantly looking for new and improved products and engineering solutions. One example of this is the StoPanel Dri-Design system, a next-generation exterior wall solution where form and function harmonize, offering all the advantages of panelization, and a superior moisture barrier with state-of-the-art water management. The easy-to-install, fully customizable system also offers a wide range of aesthetic options to choose from.

Manufactured with single-skin-metal, the StoPanel Dri-Design system employs an innovative and patented interlocking design that is attractive, adaptable and sustainable. The single-skin metal eliminates the risk of delamination or fire and will attach to nearly any substrate without clips or extrusions. Working with Dri-Design, Sto’s lightweight, energy-efficient and durable panel systems now offer even more aesthetic options while continuing to ensure optimum performance.

The Aloft / Element Hotel in downtown Austin, Texas is a showcase for the StoPanel Dri-Design exterior wall system consisting of 100% recyclable, pressure-equalized rain-screen, architectural metal panels. Available in a wide array of design possibilities, with an unlimited palate of colors, finishes, materials, and textures, these custom panels are manufactured efficiently and install faster than any comparable product, saving time and money.

As offsite manufacturing of panels rapidly gains in popularity due to faster build times and savings as much as 50% in labor costs, Sto Panel Technology now offers architects and builders even more options. The 33-story Aloft/Element Hotel in downtown Austin, Texas is one recent example of this pre-fab technology in action.  This hotel/retail development in the heart of Austin’s famed Entertainment District posed numerous challenges, including a zero-lot-line property located in a congested, busy downtown area, with no laydown area and an aggressive dry-in schedule.

The Baker Triangle Prefab project team for Aloft decided that Sto Panel Technology (STP) and Dri-Design’s metal wall panels offered the ideal workaround solutions – zero jobsite laydown, the ability to install a complete floor in just two days, with only a crew of 6 to install the building skin versus the customary crew of 55. All of the framing, sheathing, waterproofing, Dri-Design integration, EIFS, window units and window sealants were executed offsite where they were incorporated into each panel.

By eliminating the need for scaffolding and limiting the onsite manpower, safety and efficiency on site was improved, and by using Sto Panel’s digitized QA/QC program, the owner, project architect and other consultants could easily monitor all 600 panels. StoPanel Dri-Design was a “win-win” for all, delivering speed, value and quality.

Numbers Reveal Construction Industry Trends & Issues

Construction industry statistics from 2017 reveal future issues and trends to watch.

A picture is worth a thousand words, but statistics are also compelling — especially in an industry that’s driven by numbers. The following numerical data, as reported by Construction Dive, are based on a recap of 2017; they are noteworthy in billboarding the near future for construction.

$1.6 trillion — The opportunity cost, according to McKinsey Research, of the construction industry’s hesitation to adopt new technology. While new technologies are making inroads in the construction market – drones, and high-tech, virtual reality  & AR wearable devices – the industry remains somewhat old-school and slow to adapt, thus missing opportunities to grow the market.

$200 billion – According to Moody’s, the estimated damage from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma that ravaged Texas and Florida this year. The stat is a strong argument for resilient design and planning for extreme weather events and rising sea levels.

Key West, Florida, underwater.

$5 billion — The amount of money Amazon is planning to put into its second headquarters (HQ2) building, location TBD.

1,200 — The number of concrete buildings that fall under Los Angeles’ seismic retrofit ordinance, which is the first of its kind in the country. Another tale of governmental policies that are shaping the construction industry and driving resilient design standards to ensure public safety, while protecting property owners’ investments.

76 — The percentage of U.S. construction companies that indicate the tight labor market will stay the same or worsen throughout the year. This statistic, unveiled by the Associated General Contractors of America, bodes well for next-generation practices such as off-site construction, prefabrication and modular assembly, that have proven to help mitigate the industry’s persistent skilled labor shortage.

56 — The average age of the more than 90,000 dams in the U.S. The Association of State Dam Safety Officials estimates the necessary work on the country’s non-federal and federal dams would cost more than $64 billion.  Now there’s a construction market opportunity!

3 — The number of months it took to 3-D print a 26-foot-long concrete bridge in the Netherlands comprised of 800 layers of reinforced, pre-stressed concrete material. 3-D printing and comparable new technologies are changing the building industry.

AIA Announces Architecture Honor Awards for 2018

The highly innovative Spring Street Salt Shed, in Manhattan, by Dattner Architects in association with WXY architecture + urban design, was also honored. This New York City industrial facility was transformed into urban art; “a visual oxymoron to sanitation” said the judges who applauded the project for raising the bar on civic infrastructure design.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has announced its Honor Award winners for 2018, which include projects from around the world designed by architectural firms both large and small. From a girls’ school in Afghanistan to a municipal salt shed, this year’s widely diverse group of winning projects will be honored at the AIA Conference on Architecture in New York City in June of this year. The Honor Awards, now in their 69th year, were selected by a jury consisting of architects and academics who judged projects based on “outstanding excellence and innovation”.

The Audain Art Museum in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada by Patkau Architects was one of the 17 award winners. An eco-friendly design, the elegant architectural structure hovers above a floodplain topography where there is heavy snowfall, thus embracing the elements and the setting. According to the judges, the project “wraps users around nature, blurring the boundaries between man-made and natural”

Another award-winning museum was The Broad in Los Angeles, designed by architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Gensler.  The contemporary art museum is home to more than 2,000 works of art in the Broad collection, one of the most prominent holdings of postwar and contemporary art worldwide. The 120,000-square-foot building features two floors of gallery space.

The Chicago Riverwalk, by Ross Barney Architects & Sasaki Associates, also took top honors. A once neglected downtown riverfront area, it is now a reinvented urban space with a wide range of amenities that reflect the city’s layered and diverse history.

Another award-winner was the Gohar Khatoon Girls’ School, in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, designed by Robert Hull, FAIA, and the University of Washington, Department of Architecture. A modern take on masonry construction, the school’s beautiful yet restrained aesthetic creates an urban oasis and promotes community engagement as well as reflecting a new era for girls and women in the country.

Other architectural design winners were: the Mercer Island Fire Station 92, in Washington by Miller Hull; the new United States Courthouse by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in Los Angeles; the Vol Walker Hall & the Steven L. Anderson Design Center, a state-of-the-art architecture, landscape architecture and interior design school, by in Fayetteville, Arkansas, designed by Marlon Blackwell Architects; and the Washington Fruit & Produce Company Headquarters, in Yakima, Washington, by Graham Baba Architects.

Construction Trends for 2018

More offsite construction and increased use of modular components are two trends anticipated in 2018.

After a robust 2017, commercial construction companies are anticipating an even stronger 2018. Trends for this year, include a continuing rise in offsite construction as well as increasing reliance on technology. Another emerging phenomenon is the increased focus on resilient design following the most destructive hurricane season on record and devastating fires and mudslides in California.

Other trends that will likely shape construction this year revolve around federal and state policies, the ongoing labor shortage and anticipated mega projects such as Amazon’s much-ballyhooed HQ2. Construction Dive identified what the editors see as the top eight trends for the coming year, and here they are:

Resilient Design

The focus on strengthening structures is driven by the disastrous weather events of the past year. Hurricanes, heat waves, cold waves, flooding, tornadoes and wildfires took their toll, with a nationwide financial hit estimated at $400 billion.

Rather than constructing duplicate replacement structures, more property owners will likely demand resilient site and structure features, heeding the advice and support of organizations such as the U.S. Green Building Council. New projects are likely to mimic resilient construction that is already underway, such as re-evaluating building codes and redefining flood zones in Florida and Texas and fire-resistant construction in California.

Labor Shortages

The construction industry will continue to grapple with a tight supply of skilled craft workers as younger individuals shun construction as a career option, baby boomers retire and the federal government reverses the tide of immigrant labor from Mexico, Central America and the Carribbean. With industry groups continuing to lobby lawmakers for funding for trade education programs to help create a construction industry labor pipeline, these efforts could pay off and help ease the problem.

Meanwhile, the industry is turning to alternative construction methods to compensate for the shortage of skilled labor. Offsite construction and prefabrication, for example, are helping mitigate some labor issues, often reducing labor demands by as much as 50%.  Increased use of modular construction in 2018, could also reduce the need for additional workers.

Offsite Construction

A growing number of U.S. contractors are partnering with prefab companies to incorporate offsite construction into their operations. Suppliers, too, are building up offsite capacity and developing products to help streamline operations. With companies like Google, Autodesk, Marriott and Starbucks embracing offsite construction, so are investors who hope offsite will improve construction industry productivity and returns.

As offsite components increase project speed, they are leading to greater collaboration between general contractors and offsite fabricators. With large companies like Turner Construction and Gilbane adding project manager roles for offsite, this delivery method is projected to gain momentum.

Transportation Investments

Cities are making big investments in transportation, integrating it into other public infrastructure upgrades. Nashville, TN, for example, proposes to spend $5.2 billion on an infrastructure and transit plan. Minneapolis’s $1.9 billion Southwest light-rail and Boston’s $2.2 billion overhaul of the area’s Green Line light rail are two other notable investments in transportation systems. In addition to traditional rail and bus systems and tunnels, high-speed maglev trains and hyperloop systems are also trending.

Technology and Automation Advances

Automation and related technologies such as 3-D printing are changing construction practices dramatically. Consider Europe’s first 3-D printed building in Denmark, a 3-D printed concrete bridge in the Netherlands, and the 3-D print concrete turbine towers planned in California.

According to Construction Dive, construction technology was the “Trend of the Year” in 2017. It’s not going away; in fact it looks to be ramping with factory-based construction automation and standardizing design and construction, creating a continuum of services.

New Policy Regulations

New policies at the federal and state level will continue to shape the industry. New York City now requires construction workers to undergo at least 40 hours of safety training. Los Angeles instituted a new seismic retrofit ordinance that will impact an estimated 1,200 older concrete buildings. As always, policies and politics will impact the construction business.

Large Companies with Large Construction Projects

While last year saw the addition of new, high-tech campus facilities at Google and Apple, a second new North American Amazon headquarters complex will likely fuel increased momentum for similar expansions in 2018.

Microsoft is slated to begin a multi-billion-dollar redevelopment of its existing Redmond, WA, campus later this year; Marriott and General Electric are also expected to break ground on new headquarters developments.

As more firms continue to expand their facilities, many are also likely to add infrastructure needed to support their operations. Data center construction is an especially fast-growing sector, as companies amass unprecedented amounts of information. By the first half of 2017, data center investments had already doubled those made in 2016, coming in at $18.2 billion.

Augmented & Virtual Reality — Wearables and Drones

With mixed-reality headsets, such as Microsoft’s HoloLens, and wearable devices, such as Triax’s  Internet of Things-enabled sensors, high-tech wearables and both augmented and virtual reality will continue to make inroads, transforming job sites. Two of the greatest benefits these technologies offer are safety and efficiency — areas where the construction industry has struggled in the past.

Beyond the innovations and investment in con-tech, it’s also possible that technology will help attract younger workers who are captivated by the technology in-roads impacting construction, such as the increasing use of drones on survey sites. One thing is certain: the industry buzz can’t hurt.