Skyscrapers Reach for New Heights

According to a recent study, skyscrapers are going to continue reaching for the stars and with this high rise building trend, the value of prefab, insulated wall panels will increase.

As reported in Durability & Design a new study looking at socio-economic trends over the next 30 years suggests that the construction of skyscrapers will continue to climb. Estimates are that around the globe there will be 6,800 skyscrapers per 1 billion people compared to 800 skyscrapers per 1 billion people today.

The recent study by Jonathan Auerback and Phyllis Wan also predicts that future skyscrapers will stand 50 percent taller than those towering above us today. This forecast is not startling if you consider increasing population density in urban centers. After all, going “up” is about the only option for accommodating more people in the same amount of ground space.

 AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili

According to the study, the construction and average height of skyscrapers has increased steadily over the years. In 1950, they tended to average close to 500 feet tall (or 40 floors); those numbers have gone up 8% every year since then, and the average height of a skyscraper today has doubled. If this pattern continues, the number of skyscrapers will outpace the 2 percent annual growth of urban populations, and by 2050, an additional 41,000 skyscrapers will have been constructed.

There are some really tall buildings out there now, such as the Burj Khalifa (828 meters tall in Dubai), and there is every indication skyscrapers will continue reaching for the heavens.  The Jeddah Tower (Saudi Arabia) which will be finished in 2020, will be 1,000 meters tall.  The other interesting statistic that emerged from the study is that as the height of skyscrapers increases, the number of floors tends to decrease as the floor heights expand. So, in 2050, skyscrapers will be 50% taller than today,  but will not have 50% more floors.

Urban planners and architects acknowledge that as the global population continues to increase, vertical growth can be used to accommodate the additional density. This vertical momentum will also drive trends in the construction and building material industries, trends which are already emerging today, such as prefab panelization.

Hi-rise construction and buildings towering at great heights will require structural building solutions such as the manufactured, insulated exterior wall systems entering the marketplace today.  Durable and lightweight systems with continuous insulation can install in less time with less manpower and can require less maintenance once in place, while also providing more energy efficiency and durability.  Working at high elevations can be complicated and dangerous; prefab panels can help minimize these risks, simplify the installation process, and expedite building times while ensuring quality.

As our buildings collectively reach for the clouds, emerging technologies will continue to revolutionize the construction industry. Clearly, prefabricated panel solutions will play an important role in this evolution.


Sto Panel Used for Student Housing at Rowan University

StoPanel

This large-scale student housing project at Rowan University in N.J. relied on StoPanel to meet an aggressive construction schedule.

Rowan University in New Jersey needed housing to accommodate its rapidly expanding student body and partnered with the nearby town of Glassboro (just outside Philadelphia) to construct a six-story residential building.

The proposed structure, called The Penthouse, was a large L-shaped building with 500,000 square feet of floor space and approximately 200,000 SF of exterior wall. While designed mainly for student housing, there was also mixed-use space on the first floor. The project had to go up swiftly in order to house incoming students that same year, so the construction schedule was exceptionally aggressive.

The owner, developer and general contractor, Nexus Properties concluded that the only way they would come close to meeting the desired timeline for completion was by using prefab panels for the walls. Even with that, it was going to be tight.

Having worked with Jersey Panel for over 20 years, they enlisted their help. StoPanel was then brought onto the team. The offsite construction plans called for StoPanel Classic, a lightweight prefabricated panel that is both energy efficient and durable, with continuous insulation and the StoGuard air and moisture barrier forming the core of the system.  Sto’s versatile choice of finishes would then allow for almost any design aesthetic that was envisioned.

Nexus ultimately specified StoPanel Brick ci, a lightweight, energy-efficient prefabricated exterior wall panel, incorporating EPS insulation and StoGuard. It weighed a fraction of conventional thick brick and gave the Rowan buildings an updated traditional look. The final touch was Stolit® Lotusan,®  a ready-mixed, hydrophobic exterior textured finish designed to resist dirt pick-up and keep the walls clean and attractive. To achieve a very detailed exterior look, three contrasting finish materials were used – brick, cast stone and texture

Essentially the entire outside wall structure was completed in-house, then brought to the jobsite by truck, lifted into place with a crane, then bolted to the structural framing.  “The beauty of prefab is that the exterior goes up quickly,” said Art Baruffi Jr, VP Project Management for Jersey Panel, “And the interior can get started at almost the same time.” The average installation, he reports, was 10 panels a day, with each building requiring an average of about 65 panels.  “We didn’t need carpenters, plasterers and other related trades in the field since the walls were ready to go up when they arrived, and we worked with a crew of just five or six people to install them.”

The owners were so pleased with the new building, including the quality panels and the waterproofing details, they engaged the same StoPanel Technology team and their affiliate, Jersey Panel Corp. for the next six buildings they constructed. Between 2014 and 2018, seven buildings comprising more than 450,000 square feet and 1,500 wall panels were constructed in three phases.

Everyone involved in the process understood that panelization as a construction methodology offered distinct advantages: The buildings could be enclosed before it got cold, and the interior could then be finished. Working on the final six buildings almost simultaneously, they were able to make the panels ahead of time and the installation got faster and easier with each structure. In this case, speed meant cost savings and added value.

Sto panels were the right choice for these projects and served the needs of the university and ultimately the city, by creating aesthetically-pleasing buildings with high energy efficiency and superior performance characteristics. The new buildings are a showcase on the campus that Rowan can now use to help attract more students.


StoPanel Partners with Cladding Brand Leaders Dri-Design and Swisspearl

StoPanel Technology is now partnered with two façade industry leaders to offer state-of-the-art enhancements to its product line. Working with Dri-Design, Sto now offers a decorative metal panel system that will further elevate StoPanel’s design versatility. Sto has also teamed up with Swisspearl to offer high-caliber fiber cement panels — a unique non-composite, architectural wall system with a distinctive look and a pressure-equalized rain-screen system.

The inaugural project for StoPanel Dri-Design was the aLoft / Element Hotel in downtown Austin, Texas.

With Dri-Design, Sto can now offer a line of unique architectural panels that are available in a variety of metals including anodized copper, aluminum and zinc. They are connected using true dry joints, and the absence of sealants or gaskets means zero legacy maintenance for the building owner. They are beautiful, economical, sustainable, and fully test

The availability of a Dri-Design prefabricated panel option will provide owners and design professionals with a wide range of aesthetic metal panel shapes and color options along with the benefits provided when using a cladding that offers a rainscreen technology.

Swisspearl, the inventor of fiber cement panels, has joined with Sto to offer a continuous insulation system that uniquely combines the convenience and cost-effectiveness of offsite panel manufacturing with the look and feel of an innovative, contemporary aesthetic. The inclusion of Swisspearl in the StoPanel line-up of prefabricated panel options provides owners and design professionals with a wide range of attractive fiber cement panel and color options that also include a rainscreen design.

Swisspearl provided the handsome facade for the Corona del Mar Middle School in Newport Beach, California.

For years, capitalizing on the spirit of invention and its expertise in the building envelope Swisspearl has been developing innovative and sustainable products made of natural materials –fully focused on aesthetics, quality and responsibility to people and the environment.

Both of these new Sto panel systems offer owners and architects the design flexibility they are looking for while deploying a time-saving, offsite construction method to enclose their buildings.  These panel systems are high-quality and economical; they install faster and are the next chapter in creating innovative envelopes for tomorrow’s buildings today.

You can learn more about the StoPanel Dri-Design partnership here and more about the StoPanel Swisspearl partnership here.


StoPanel Technology Project in Downtown Denver Wins Award

The Le Meridien AC Hotel complex in downtown Denver is an award-winning study in Sto Panel Technology.

 

The Le Meridien and AC Hotel complex in downtown Denver is one of the first dual-branded luxury lifestyle hotel developments in the U.S. The 272-room Meridien, and the 223-room AC offer two iconic brands under one roof, just a block from the Denver convention center. The pair of European-inspired properties mark an industry milestone as the first collaborative project from hospitality giants Marriott and Starwood since their merger.

The 20-story project which opened in September 2017, is also noteworthy for its use of award-winning StoPanel Technology. Built quickly and efficiently, the project won top honors for Excellence in Construction Quality from the Association of the Walls and Ceiling Industry (AWCI) in its EIFS category.

According to Tyron Garrison, Senior Product Manager for Swinerton Builders, a contracting firm on the Meridien/AC hotel project, “Sto is our go-to resource for panel systems; no one else has a panelized system like theirs. With StoPanel Technology,” he adds, “we can confidently say we are constructing a completely dry, energy-efficient building.”

StoPanel Classic ci was the cladding selected for the new structure – using a prefabricated insulated exterior wall panel system that weighs almost 90 percent less than a precast panel of the same size. The light weight prefabricated panels are both energy efficient and durable, incorporating an insulation layer and StoGuardÒ air and moisture barrier.

Prefabricating the exterior with finished panels improved quality, safety onsite, and cut the onsite construction time.  In fact, the finished panels were installed in under 300 hours.

Despite limited access to the construction site and a location in the heart of busy downtown Denver, the streets were kept open to traffic during this massive construction project. Precast was done three days each week and panels were installed three days each week.  The panels were set in 40 days, employing a maximum crew of eight at any one time on the site.

The installation of the exterior walls for the entire project was done simultaneously, and by using the panels, saved about 75% of the conventional construction time, according to Travis, Vap, CEO of South Valley Prefab. “Panelization takes the guess work out of any project,” said Vap.  “The projects can be designed ahead of time, there’s a fast dry-in, and the interior can be completed concurrently. It’s an easier way to build.”


A New Era for Modular Design & Construction

The Harrah's Convention Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where modular Sto Panel technology and off-site construction played a role.

According to a recent white paper written by FMI’s* Sabine Hoover and Jay Snyder, today’s modular design and construction trends are poised to pull the engineering and construction (E&C) sector out of its 50-year lethargy and launch a new era for the industry.

Capital projects today are getting more complex and many of these projects face chronic cost overruns and schedule delays. In fact, according to The Economist, over 90% of all global infrastructure projects are either over budget or late. The authors maintain that modular design and construction can alleviate these costly issues.

While offsite construction has been around for decades – including prefabrication, modularization, preassembly or offsite multi-trade fabrication — according to these industry pundits, it has only recently emerged as a critical method for delivering projects faster, safer and cheaper in today’s labor-constrained environment. That being said, according to the FMI researchers, only 37% of owner organizations in the E&C sector are embracing offsite construction; nearly 50% still opt for traditional design-build approaches, which do not allow for optimal project planning and execution of offsite construction.

Despite advanced technologies and digital tools that now allow firms to leverage data to address these issues, and despite the fact that there is a $1.6 trillion productivity gap in the construction industry (that much additional value could be added to the sector’s revenues via higher productivity), the U.S. is experiencing declining productivity in this sector, with China and South Africa making dramatic leaps and taking the overall lead in this category.

The authors point out that the E&C industry’s resistance to change could “cost it dearly”. It is not an industry that has traditionally embraced disruptive innovation. Most firms have lacked the vision, strategic initiative, will, expertise –  and most importantly, the financial capital to innovate. There simply hasn’t been a significant return on investment or incentive to innovate. Even so, if firms don’t learn the art of managing change and take advantage of new business models and new technologies such as modular design and construction, they will be eclipsed by those that do.

FMI sees a tremendous amount of venture capital directed into innovative sectors of the E&C industry. “Private equity firms are ramping up investments and seeking new niches that are helping firms to change corporate direction,” says Alex Miller of FMI Capital Advisors. With companies like Google, Marriott, Starbucks and Autodesk embracing offsite construction, investment money is looking to revolutionize the industry.

While FMI claims that over half of all E&C firms expect more change in the next 5 years than in the last 50 years combined, the question remains: will they change? Will they adopt a new framework for success? Will they collaborate on a more streamlined approach to the design-manufacture-construct process? Can construction manufacturers leverage technology to reinvent the entire construction value equation and drive innovation?

There is plenty of evidence that leveraging off-site construction and modular design can mitigate the impact of weather delays and create safer on-site construction environments, as well as improve productivity, increase project efficiency, and enhance collaboration between offsite fabricators and general contractors. It remains to be seen however, if E&C firms can reinvent themselves, not only to keep up with the competition, but to stay relevant in the future.

The authors offer the analogy that disruption is more like a hurricane than a tornado – destructive but offering sufficient time to respond if industry participants are willing to do so. They believe it is in fact possible to respond and survive. Ironically, disruption is rarely led by current industry experts or insiders, but rather it is generated by innovators from outside the industries they disrupt.

*FMI is a management consulting and investment banking firm focused in the E&C, infrastructure and built environment sectors.


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.