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Ventilated Facades and Their Role in LEED Designation

Ventilated Facades and Their Role in LEED Designation

Green not only refers to the color of money for this bank, but also for the many steps the financial institution took in designing and building an environmentally friendly, community-serving facility
BY ARPI NALBANDIAN

A newly built banking facility designed to meet LEED Gold certification as established by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and verified by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) on the corner of Crawford and Dempster in Skokie, IL, not only exceeded the expectations of its officers and staff, but also that of the community it now serves. The full-service branch of First Bank & Trust of Skokie is located on a formerly vacant lot that previously housed an abandoned gas station. The building process, not only included comments from the community and environmental representatives, but it also included an assurance by the general contractor leading the project, Knudsen Construction, Inc., that the contaminated soil left by the gas station would be properly cleaned up according to the guidelines set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In addition to implementing an energy-saving ventilated facade, the branch features a geo-thermal pump, an underground water detention/filtration system, large floor-to-ceiling windows, LED light fixtures, recycled building and construction materials, and a living roof covered with native plants, flowers and ornamental grasses.

“We’ve been architects for the bank since they formed 16 years ago,” said Joseph Behles, AIA, LEED AP with Behles + Behles, an Evanston, IL-based architecture and design firm. “They approached us to take the lead with a green initiative and to achieve LEED Gold certification. They wanted it to be sustainable, reflect a high quality appearance, and to embody solid, durable materials,” Behles added. “We suggested ventilated facades, and after looking at many products, we chose large format tile from Marazzi as the material.”

Following environmental testing and reports, the all-clear was given for construction. Planning for the design and building of the 3,600-square-foot branch took approximately one year. The building process, from the moment construction crews broke ground until the doors to the branch were opened, took 10 months.

“We had never used large-format tile as a ventilated facade. However, we knew that the efficient way to use cladding is to live within its modular dimension. So, we worked very closely within its limits because the building itself is not square, said Behles. Further, Knudsen Construction understood this was a unique project in that the large-format facade was something new. The trades were made to understand that we had to integrate [the tiles’] conditions to our needs by working together,” Behles reflected.

According to Behles, the extrusions used in connecting the facade to the exterior of the bank were manufactured in the U.S., while the tile — a total of 4,300 square feet of 24- x 48-inch Monolith in White and Gray — was manufactured and brought in from Italy.

Marazzi distributor, Madison, WI-based Great Lakes Distribution, was tasked with supplying the tile for both the interior and exterior. Rebecca Bau, President of Great Lakes, says the “exterior facade looks amazing. It really added something to the community. We were happy to help out with the project’s needs.”

“Everybody learned from the facade process. The appearance, size and quality of the tile is always being commented upon,” added Behles.

When asked why Marazzi was chosen for this LEED-designed project, Marazzi USA’s Commercial Sales Director, Jerry Joyce, said, “We had the granite look that Joe Behles wanted, at the cost per foot they needed. Additionally, we have installations in the U.S., and lastly, we provided the engineering services they needed to design the attachment method used.

“We began the project in early October of 2011 and we didn’t wrap up until mid-November,” said Brian Castro, second generation President of DTI of Illinois, one of Chicago’s oldest ceramic tile companies. “The bulk of the project was on the exterior of the building which required no mortars, grouts or adhesives since it was a mechanically fastened system. Marazzi was great in that they supplied all the hardware, but most importantly, the necessary knowledge that we needed for the exterior installation.”

For the interior, the architecture and design team at Behles + Behles had specified 1,750 square feet of Marazzi’s Monolith in two formats — a 24- x 48-inch and a 12- x 24-inch — both in white and gray. “The main interior wall was constructed exactly like the ventilated exterior walls absent any insulation. The balance of the interior work was a conventional tile installation. It required us to use MAPEI’s UltraFlex LFT thinset and UltraColor Plus grout products,” Castro added.

Because of the varying facets of this project, several crews were utilized simultaneously. “On average, we had four to six installers working in three separate crews. One crew would install the metal support system and insulation. The second crew would cut, drill and transport the 24- x 48-inch panels, to a third crew most often on scaffolding that reached as high as 25 feet above the ground. There was a huge learning curve the first couple of weeks. We knew there would be challenges, but we all learned together. All the knowledge and experience we gained through this is immeasurable.”

As for any obstacles that were encountered, Castro mentioned an engineering difference between the U.S. and Italy. “Italy mostly uses plywood or attaches directly to their older building facades when securing the metal support system. The designed system included a single product that the Italian’s wouldn’t approve. Fortunately, Jerry Joyce hired an American structural engineer, Jurij Podolak. Together Jurij and Joe crafted a work-around that met everyone’s requirements. The new system required some minor field engineering and adjustments, especially when windows, doors or corners were involved. “The biggest problem,” added Joyce, “was finding the best way to secure the mounting brackets through the wall that provided the pullout strength required to support the cladding structure.”

Castro added that as a 60-year-old business, “we’re always embracing new technologies. We knew before we started a lot of eyes would be looking our way, especially since no one seems to know whose work this really is. My greatest compliment came from Jurij in our post-project evaluation. He said, ‘I’m glad you did this project because it couldn’t have been done by anyone but a tile contractor.’ As a TCAA [Tile Contractors Association of America] Trowel of Excellence recipient, we strive to deliver quality to the table every day. And that’s exactly what we did here,” he concluded. TILE

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