The Beauty of Exotic Metal Shines Through 

As metal roofing becomes more popular, its aesthetic appeal is better appreciated and receives more attention. The need for a better quality, and a better looking, metal roofing product and accompanying advances in metal processing methods, have pushed the popularity of metal roofing far beyond the industrial plants, barns and tobacco sheds of yesterday.

Advances in color palettes and finishes have allowed this time-tested material to take on the look of more traditional products while still boasting all of its own desirable characteristics. Metal shingles designed to have the look of cedar shakes and any color imaginable, including those custom designed to be consistent with a corporate brand, have advanced metal roofing’s aesthetics. Those products are amazing and can help any project achieve a desired aesthetic while offering all of the benefits of metal.

But, what if the product you need isn’t a copy cat. What if you want a roof that stands up proudly as natural, unpainted metal and easily moves past the sea of disguised products? An exotic metal roof makes an incomparable aesthetic statement.

An exotic metal in its true form is striking. Metals such as zinc, stainless steel, titanium and copper demand and deserve the attention they receive for being themselves and for being different. These materials are often referred to as exotic because the appearance of a well-executed natural metal is magnificent, and the metal itself exudes a mystique.

And while the material remains true to itself, a finish is often necessary to allow the most functionality and performance while still delivering exotic beauty. Finishes can be rolled in, abrasive, colorized or embossed and offer many different, subtle appearances.

In addition the material’s aesthetics at the time of installation, long-term performance is also essential. Corrosion resistance and durability are important for both performance and aesthetics, as is the resistance to mold. When exotic metals are properly specified and installed they can last the life of the building with little maintenance. In going the distance, these materials not only provide an environmentally sensible solution, they are cheaper in the long run as compared to materials that require replacement.

A rusted, dented or algae covered metal roof panel is not visually appealing and means many problems for the building’s architect, owner and facility manager. Specifying a metal and finish that will perform for at least the useful life of the building is critical.

A finish, such as those we produce at Contrarian Metal Resources, creates an interesting visual and a high level of functionality. That translates into the ability to make an aesthetic statement while achieving the necessary level of performance to ensure those aesthetics remain intact.

Architectural metal finishes eliminate the need to compromise beauty for performance.

For example, an architect might desire the beauty and sleek nature of exotic metal for the roof of a technology center along a major interstate. The aesthetic of stainless steel might be just right for a high tech look but a highly reflective material isn’t appropriate in a high traffic area. A solution is to specify the exotic metal but with a low glare finish. The reduced reflectivity is suitable for the location and the stunning metal crowns the building just as the architect desired.
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Core & Shell Solutions: Stainless Steel Finishes for Cladding Applications 

Stainless steel is a sustainable exterior cladding material due to its superior corrosion resistance. In addition to the environmental benefit of sustainability, stainless steel is difficult to beat on a life-cycle costing basis (in the long run, it’s cheaper than most other materials). To take advantage of stainless steel's sustainability, it is best to use it in a bare, uncoated state. This requires careful grade and finish selection to ensure good results.

II. Grade Selection
A. T316 is appropriate in most seacoast or northern climates in close proximity to the use of deicing salts.

B. T304 is appropriate in most other locations.

C. Other grades of stainless steel may be specified that are appropriate in more severe conditions. Conversely, it may be possible to use a less expensive grade in a given application. The important thing is to consult a stainless steel supplier with the requisite expertise to recommend an appropriate, cost-effective grade for your application. At Contrarian Metal Resources, we routinely make such recommendations and back them up with a 30-year limited warranty on material supplied.

III. Finish Selection
In order to determine an appropriate finish for a panel application, the following factors must be considered:

A. Glare Tolerance: Most stainless steel finishes are rather reflective. This can be a desirable attribute. However, at many site locations, such as those near airports and highways or for buildings that are out in the open, glare can be a problem. For these situations we recommend a low glare finish like InvariMatte®.

B. Degree of Pedestrian Contact: In high traffic areas, a more cleanable, fingerprint resistant finish is desirable. InvariLux™, Starlight™, InvariWeave™ and other coined textures perform well here. Some of the deeper patterns also offer a higher degree of abrasion resistance.

C. Tolerance for Variability of Appearance: Most designers and building owners want visual uniformity, particularly with a non-reactive material that does not develop a patina, like stainless steel. However, in some cases like industrial plants or smaller trim elements, a certain degree of visual variability can be tolerated. But in the majority of cases, architectural cladding systems demand highly controlled surface characteristics and superior flatness in order for the installation to look good. Some finishes, such as the rolled-in finishes produced by Contrarian Metal Resources, are very repeatable and are stretched to improve flatness. The most common problem facing specifiers of stainless steel in architecture is that the industry's decorative finishing infrastructure is dominated by #3/#4 polish that is produced to satisfy the kitchen equipment market. Architectural cladding systems require better surface uniformity and better flatness than the industry is conditioned to supply. Since this vast majority of polished stainless steel buyers are not willing to pay for architectural quality, the specifier assumes a great deal of risk when calling out "#4".

Whatever finish you choose, we believe the best value is delivered to the owner when a proprietary specification is written. This may sound counter-intuitive, but there are few competent architectural stainless steel suppliers in the world. Specifying industry standard finishes will pull the client into a range of product quality that may not be at all suitable for the project. Since cladding systems are so visually prominent, it is foolish to assume that risk. As to any concern over material pricing on a proprietary spec, it’s a matter of trust. Use a supplier you trust to help you develop a specification and put them in the documents. A reputable stainless steel company will not abuse the situation.

D. Visual Design Requirements: While this is a very important part of any project, we mention it last, because the thought process on choosing a finish as a design element should definitely include the factors mentioned above. There is a wide array of stainless steel finishes available, from low glare to a perfect mirror. New geometric patterns have been developed that create striking visual effects within the surface. When selecting a finish for a cladding application, it is important to view the finishes being considered from a greater distance than the top of your desk. From 20 feet away, the typical distance from which one might view an installed panel, some of the more subtle surface textures will disappear. Overall glare characteristics of the different stainless finishes will overcome surface textures when viewed at a distance. This is important to consider, as some deeply textured finishes are less repeatable than others, especially smoother, rolled-in finishes. There is typically an economic benefit to the smoother textures as well.

IV. Conclusion
Stainless steel offers sustainability in a wide array of visual choices. Finish selection is more complicated than what looks good on your desk. To ensure good results, you should consult a stainless steel company that specializes in architectural applications. In doing so, you will have access to metallurgical expertise and if you are willing to write a proprietary specification, you will have requisite quality control on the finish you select that will meet the demands of your application.
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Metal Walls: The Current Trend of Using Metal Panels on High-End Buildings 

According to the most recent annual survey of architects published in Metal Architecture, the amount of material used in all new construction for exterior metal panel walls has increased almost 50 percent in just the past year. We have seen significant evidence of this increase reflected in orders for the high-end building segment. Driving forces behind this trend include sustainability and competitive long-term cost, design flexibility and quality improvements, and new finish choices in high performance metals. These factors have positioned metal as a top choice for high-end buildings in every category.

Building owners and architects often approach projects with sustainability in mind, using materials such as metal that can have a positive impact on the environment. This is clearly desirable for the public good, and a requirement for projects seeking LEED certification. However, the intrinsic value delivered to the building owner in terms of low life-cycle cost may be the most cogent factor contributing to the growth of metal panel specifications today.

Life-cycle costing involves adding all of the costs of a conventional wall system, including installation and maintenance over the life of a building and comparing that figure to the present cost of a sustainable installation. As an example, a $5 million wall system replacement 20 years from now at 5.25% interest would cost $1.8 million today. This calculation suggests that it would be more beneficial to upgrade to a sustainable panel system, provided the installation cost does not increase by more than $1.8 million. When this analysis is conducted, the sustainable option usually prevails.

While high performance metals like stainless steel, zinc alloy, titanium and copper can seldom be justified on strip malls, for example, they offer a compelling argument for use in high-end buildings that are typically designed to last a century. When evaluating the relative merits of different materials, and certainly different metals, it is important to consider how long the building is expected to last - essentially its projected life cycle. In most cases, there are economic, as well as environmental benefits from choosing construction materials that will last the life of the building.

Designers appreciate the creative flexibility metal offers through its ability to be easily fabricated into any imaginable shape. Panels can be flat, curved, corrugated, or perforated. While more common metals like galvanized steel and aluminum can be painted in a wide array of colors, high performance metals are best left uncoated. Nevertheless, the variety of finish textures and colors available in high performance metals provides the designer with a broad palette of choices with which to achieve the desired visual effect.

Aesthetics are especially critical for high-end, high-profile buildings. Quality improvements and finish options have pushed the aesthetics of metal far beyond the initial expectations of architects, designers and owners. Additionally, there has been a considerable amount of work in recent years directed to improving the quality of high performance metals to meet architectural standards. Certain finishing methods have been developed that provide excellent uniformity. With the recent availability of coil stretching, flatter sheets are now possible without incurring the expense of sheet stretching. Composite panels have also come a long way, with high performance metal versions now available that exhibit excellent flatness with the economic advantage of using inexpensive core material to stabilize much thinner skins of more exotic metal – further reducing material costs.

The need for high performance metals of better quality is how Contrarian Metal Resources got its start. Several years ago, we identified a need to make flatter, more uniform metals available for architectural applications and created a company to do just that. We have since developed excellent rolled-in finishes, launched a domestic zinc alloy program to compete with imports, and even brought high quality metals to the domestic market from other parts of the globe.

When properly specified, metals have an advantage in the marketplace. Metal delivers low cost on a life cycle basis. Metal can be fabricated to execute unique architectural designs. Recent quality improvements and finish options in high performance metals like stainless steel, zinc alloy and titanium have now made it possible to take advantage of the longevity of these metals without sacrificing cosmetics. The combination of these factors makes a powerful argument in favor of continued growth in the use of high performance metal panels on high-end buildings.
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Exotic Metal Construction – Selecting the Right Material 

Exotic metals help create beautiful, long lasting and durable walls and roofs. But knowing you want an unpainted metal is not enough. Selecting the right material for the individual project can have a major impact on performance.

Even for an architect who has previously specified exotic metals, selecting the right material can be a challenge. And, the product manufacturers themselves are sometimes biased toward the material they specialize in. Understanding the basics of exotic metals and knowing that consultants are available to help make those decisions, can make specifying exotic metals a breeze.

Before we go much further, let’s hammer out a few definitions. We consider exotic metals to be high performance, sustainable options like stainless steel, zinc alloy, titanium, terne coated stainless, copper and nickel-based alloys. In the context of construction, exotic metal applications are commonly roofing, wall panels, and interior and exterior trim elements, such as column covers, fascia and elevator cabs.

Metal Selection Criteria
Before selecting materials for any project, it is first necessary to define the environment in which the building will be located. Among the factors to be considered are atmospheric contaminants/pollution, the proximity to salt water and the application of deicing salts, airborne abrasives including sand, soil, and debris, ultraviolet exposure, humidity range, externally induced fire risk from airborne sparks or brush fires, and the frequency of maintenance on the part of the owner.

Stainless Steel
As a rule, stainless steel is extremely durable, and corrosion and fire resistant. It is available in a variety of grades and finish treatments. When properly specified, fabricated and installed, stainless steel will last indefinitely with little maintenance in all but the most severe environments. Stainless Steel is available in several grades and each is appropriate for specific environments.

Type 304 is sufficient for most exterior applications.

Type 316 should be used within 10 miles of saltwater bodies. However, if the building will be subjected to saltwater spray, a nobler grade of stainless steel, titanium, or nickel should be specified.

In close proximity to the use of deicing salt, even on nearby roadways where vehicle traffic can create airborne particles, Type 316 should be used. If periodic rinsing from rains will not occur on all exterior surfaces, these areas must be washed each spring. If dependable maintenance is not predicted, a nobler grade of stainless steel or titanium should be used.
Specify types 304L or 316L if welding will be employed.
Any grade, including type 430, may be used in interior applications.

Once an appropriate grade has been selected, a finish choice can be made to create the desired visual effect. An uncoated metal that will last for many years without degradation is the optimal choice. Flatness, uniformity, reflectivity and aesthetics should all be considered when choosing a finish option.

Titanium
Titanium is also extremely durable, as well as corrosion and fire resistant. When properly specified, fabricated and installed, titanium will last indefinitely in the most severe environments such as buildings subjected to saltwater spray or in close proximity to deicing salt use, and facilities that will experience little, if any cleaning and maintenance.

Grade 1 titanium, which offers a good balance between formability and strength, is suitable for most applications. However, other grades with higher mechanical properties may be considered, as design requirements warrant. With the proper grade selected, a finish should be chosen that will achieve the necessary aesthetic. Again, selecting an uncoated material that will last indefinitely without degradation will provide the best performance. Typically, titanium has a variable, grainy surface that lacks visual consistency. This may be desirable in pursuit of a random “tile” effect in building panels, in which case a mill finish should be specified. However, if uniformity is desired, a finish such as Contrarian Metal Resources’ InvariSand™ will provide the flattest, most visually uniform surface possible.

Sand is a non-directional, low-gloss, uniformly textured titanium finish designed for use in architectural applications. While its lower reflectivity lends itself to roofing applications, it can be applied to wall panels, coping and trim. Since InvariTech has no coatings to deteriorate, it will last indefinitely with little maintenance.

Solid Zinc Alloy
As is the case with stainless steel and titanium, pure zinc is extremely durable and corrosion resistant when properly applied. With proper specification, fabrication and installation, it will last indefinitely with little maintenance.

In general, zinc is suitable in most environments, including…
Most climates, including those where moss, algae and fungus propagation is a problem. These organisms with not survive in contact with zinc.

Marine environments not subjected to airborne sand and salt spray. However, low pitch roof conditions in a marine environment can propagate an undesirable oxide development.

Alloy710 zinc, which contains copper and titanium, is appropriate for most applications. Other grades are also available with different mechanical properties. Finish options can change the look of the material. Untreated zinc is quite reflective in its initial state. Once installed, it takes years for the surface to mature into a dull, medium gray patina. If it is desirable to have an aged appearance upon installation, pre-weathered material that has been chemically treated to replicate years of weathering is also available. Textured, low glare zinc offers the option of natural patina development without the initial glare problem of the untreated version. Unlike copper, zinc does not produce undesirable runoff that can stain masonry and paving materials below. Since it is a natural tendency for zinc to eventually look like the pre-weathered finish, scratches will blend into the surface over time.

Zinc vs Stainless in a Corrosive Environment
Consider all of your options when selecting an exotic metal. There are many material choices and many finish options for each of those materials. However, not every option is going to be right for your project and the most convincing sales person isn’t always the best resource. Consulting a metals or corrosion specialist can help ensure the metal you choose is the right metal for the job. While manufacturers are conditioned to present their own materials exclusively, a consultant or metallurgist will offer an unbiased opinion. We are rather unique at Contrarian Metal Resources because we offer a number of high performance metals that we either manufacture or distribute. In counseling architects, we take care to mention all viable options that will meet the design requirements.

A building under construction at a coastal university is an excellent example of the right metal being critical to the project’s success and its near-miss specification. The project was originally, and appropriately, specified as a stainless steel wall and roof application. During the course of the design process a zinc material was also considered and soon replaced the stainless steel on the specification.

An exotic metal was the right choice for the project, however zinc was not. Because of the flat roof design in a costal setting, the zinc material would lead to oxidization that would be visually undesirable. Zinc can be specified in a coastal setting if the roof features a steep slope, allowing for proper ventilation and for any corrosive elements to be washed away. This project’s flat roof is much better suited to stainless steel.

Fortunately, the project will be completed with stainless steel, providing a corrosion-free, long-lasting finish.

Zinc is unquestionably beautiful as a metal finish in its natural state but must be properly specified and installed to realize its potential sustainability.

Metal Takes Off in Airport Environments
Airports create extremely sensitive environments and present a strong need for sustainable products. But not every product is sustainable in this environment.

Every time a jet takes off, spent kerosene residue from the jet fuel punishes the nearby buildings. This residue quickly destroys coatings that would last for years in other settings. This creates the need for bare metals on airport structures.

However, not just any bare metal will satisfy this need because of glare issues. Typical bare metals are highly reflective, creating a dangerous environment for any transportation setting. Low glare metal finishes solve that problem. An uncoated metal with a low glare finish can safely and easily withstand potentially damaging airport environments. The Detroit airport expansion, JFK’s Jamaica Air Train terminal, an aviation facility in Scottsdale, AZ, and the Raleigh-Durham airport project currently under construction, all specified our non-directional, low glare InvariMatte® stainless steel finish.

Cost Considerations
Cost is an important consideration with every project. When selecting an exotic metal, some architects or owners may be weary simply because of the term “exotic.” But that need not be the case.

When we measure cost, we argue that the cost that means the most to the building owner is the life cycle cost, or the present value of all the dollars required to construct, maintain and dispose of the building over the entire ownership period. The point we make here is that exotic, high-performance metals are the least expensive material choice, on a life-cycle basis for many building applications.

The Federal Highway Administration issued a report in 2001 estimating that in the United States alone, we spend $550 billion per year combating metallic corrosion. Of that cost, $113 billion per year is spent on construction related metal failures ranging from roof perforation to replacement of components that have become aesthetically unattractive.

Aside from catastrophic damage, metallic corrosion is clearly the chief cause of metal building panel failure. When metal building panels corrode, there are undesirable consequences that go beyond cosmetics. Corroding panel systems will begin to leak, causing potentially significant damage to the interior of a building. Repair costs can be substantial, usually involving removal and replacement. Architects and contractors can save their clients money by using materials that will last the life of the building with little or no maintenance.

Life-cycle costing involves adding all of the costs of a conventional panel system, including installation and maintenance over the life of a building and comparing that figure to the present cost of a sustainable installation. As an example, a $5 million wall system replacement 20 years from now at 5.25% interest would cost $1.8 million today. This calculation suggests that it would be more beneficial to upgrade to a sustainable panel system, provided the installation cost does not increase by more than $1.8 million. When this analysis is conducted, the sustainable option usually prevails.

The price paid for an individual product is simply not enough information to evaluate its true cost. Life cycle costs, sustainability and required maintenance are all costs that should be considered because a building’s costs do not end when construction is complete. Specifying a lower cost, but inadequate product, can have far greater budget implications than specifying the correct, though initially more expensive, product.

While exotic, high performance metals like stainless steel, zinc alloy, titanium terne-coated stainless, copper and nickel alloys can seldom be justified on strip malls, for example, they offer a compelling argument for use in buildings that are designed to last longer. In most environments, metal building systems made from more common metals like galvanized steel and aluminum will require replacement within the life span of the building on which they are installed. In marine environments or northern urban locations where de-icing salts are commonly used, specifying a common metal often means more than one panel system replacement is possible over the life span of the building. However, if an appropriate exotic metal is specified that will last the life of the building without replacement, it is usually the most cost effective choice. In addition to the low life cycle cost associated with using an exotic metal, there is an environmental benefit from executing a sustainable design.

Exotic Metal Finishes
It is important to point out that the full benefit of these types of metals is typically realized by using uncoated, bare metal surfaces. There is no sense putting a coating made to last 30-years on top of a metal that will last 100 years. Since building owners demand aesthetically pleasing finishes, Contrarian Metal Resources, along with other manufacturers of high performance metals have pursued quality improvements. New finish options have pushed the aesthetics of bare metal far beyond the initial expectations of architects, designers and owners. Additionally, there has been a considerable amount of work in recent years directed to improving the quality of high performance metals to meet architectural standards. Certain finishing methods have been developed that provide excellent uniformity. With the recent availability of coil stretching, flatter sheets are now possible without incurring the expense of sheet stretching. Composite panels have also come a long way, with high performance metal versions now available that exhibit excellent flatness with the economic advantage of using inexpensive core material to stabilize the much thinner skins of more exotic metal – further reducing material costs.

The need for high performance metals of better quality is how Contrarian Metal Resources got its start. Several years ago, we identified a need to make flatter, more uniform metals available for architectural applications and created a company to do just that. We have since developed excellent rolled-in finishes, launched a domestic zinc alloy program to compete with imports, and even brought high quality metals to the domestic market from other parts of the globe.

When properly specified, exotic metals have an advantage in the marketplace. These materials deliver low cost on a life cycle basis and sustainability. A solid specification for sustainable design is about selecting a metal that will meet the criteria of the design while matching the sustainability of the building. Beauty, cost and sustainability are all advantages to metals that are specified and installed properly. The quality improvements and finish options in high performance metals have now made it possible to take advantage of the longevity of these metals without sacrificing cosmetics. The combination of these factors makes a powerful argument in favor of continued growth in the use of exotic metals in construction.
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Rigidized® Metals Corporation Fabricates 25 foot "Weeping Wall" in Buffalo, NY 

Rigidized® Metals Corporation provided the metal and fabrication for an eye-popping art installation located on Seneca Street in Buffalo, NY. Link to complete article in The Buffalo News, here.



Artist: Shasti O'Leary Soudant
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