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A New Kind of Ribbon Cutting Radius Track Completes Work On Architectural “Garland” At Edmonton International Airport

Pilots and passengers landing at Canada’s Edmonton International Airport will be treated to an architectural achievement not normally granted to utilitarian buildings. Set to open in the start of 2013, EMI’s new air traffic tower will be decked out in metal ribbon. Challenged to create a building that would add dramatic flare to the EIA arrival and departure experience, architects designed a structure that is whimsical and eye-catching, and also cleverly integrates sustainable design. The tower’s sculptured form recalls the windswept pastoral region around the Capital Region.

DIALOG® (formerly Cohos Evamy) a Canadian-based architectural firm was assigned to the project in 2008. As a response to the EIA’s growing operational needs, the new tower is an initiative to present Edmonton as a city that values the arts and the power of using great design to spur on a slow economy. The new tower is part of the EIA’s Expansion 2012 program.

The power of DIALOG’s design is in its metal casing, which is covered with shingled undulating zinc and is carefully integrated with the windows to maximize daylight and offer shading when needed.

The control tower is situated at the outer edge of a 10,000 square meter office building, called the COT (Combined Office Tower). The wrap begins 13 m (43 ft) above the ground and twists upward to its overall height of 45 m (148 ft). Each metal ribbon contains either three or two facets that vary in height, width, thickness, and angle as they trace around the building, depending on the aesthetic and shading requirements.

Radius Track Corporation, the curved framing solutions provider, worked with Thermal Systems KWC Ltd, the building envelope contractor, and Gehry Technologies (GT), parametric modeling experts, to design and build the asymmetrical metal ribbon. Construction proceeded “air side,” or parallel to active gates at the airport.

Thermal Systems was hired by the general contractor, EllisDon, to develop a construction system to meet the design intent of the irregularly shaped metal ribbons. Since each twist and turn of the metal wrap is completely unique, there were no “tried and true” construction industry guidelines to follow. The solution had to be a “first.” Thermal Systems began evaluating potential solutions, and concluded that using sophisticated BIM technology would be the best way to create the curves virtually, and then build the structure based on computer models. Thermal Systems turned to GT, the most advanced BIM expert in the country for modeling. In turn, GT recommended Radius Track for 3D modeling and fabrication. Radius Track has a long history of collaboration with both Gehry Technologies and Gehry Partners. Together, the team launched into a process that delivered three significant results: the creation of a new product, an integrated delivery system, and a 3D model of the metal wrap in a virtual computer
based environment where both hat channel and truss locations were set in digital space. The trio of results cut costs and accelerated the project timeframes significantly.

When Gehry Technologies joined the project team, they decided to use site surveys instead of the original construction documents to define the exact location of each truss that would support the metal ribbon. Working with Radius Track, GT developed a simple solution – a method for curving hat channel – that provided a smooth attachment surface for the finishing materials.

With these types of intricate projects, there are subtle differences in form, so geometry makes all the difference. GT’s role was to find a way to improve the constructability of the project. Coming in mid-project, they worked with the team to find a system that would work with the existing steel and glazing systems that were already in play.

GT is known for their work in parametric modeling, which allows data to be entered into a building information model (BIM) to be altered, and the effects of that change to be understood immediately. ‘Known’ data (or rules) are coded into the BIM model, and the rules are propagated to study the effects of the known rules, and what happens when those rules are modified, even very slightly. The system accurately predicts the design of the building and highlights where potential problems or clashes exist. GT supplied Radius Track with highly detailed data that enabled them to fabricate the curved hat channel precisely.

Prior to fabrication, Radius Track generated a 3D model of the metal wrap. In the virtual computer based environment, hat channel and truss locations were set in digital space. During fabrication, Radius Track used this information to mark the centerline of each truss attachment location on the hat channel. The accuracy was so high that installation crews used the hat channels to place the location of the trusses. Tyler Weisgerber, Commercial Division Manager at Thermal System commented that, “the materials used were significantly more efficient and allowed for a faster and less-complicated installation with a higher quality result.”

At the jobsite, the hat channel was attached to the trusses and served as the surface to attach the decking and zinc finish. Since the channel could be fabricated to a highly exacting curvature, it arrived on the jobsite perfectly aligned to the trusses. This help control costs, as installation was simple and materials arrived on the job site well organized and on time.

Glazing punctuates the ribbons to provide panoramic views of the surrounding prairie and airport landscapes. Designed to meet LEED® Silver designation, the building is situated to maximize natural solar advantages. An optimal east/west solar site orientation minimizes solar gain from the western exposure. The carefully designed profiles of the ribbons control solar heat gain and harvest natural light. Many of the artistic twists and turns of the metal double as shading where needed and let natural light flow in other areas of the tower. These detailed shading requirements also played into the final curved framing solution created by the team.

When the new tower opens at the beginning of 2013, it will stand as a monument to travel - the first and last significant building seen by travelers visiting the Edmonton International Airport. As part of Canada’s fastest growing airport, the Edmonton tower adds an impressionable design statement that will be appreciated by the six million people who travel through its gates each year. “Radius Track is proud to have been a part of such a distinctive design project,” stated Chuck Mears, FAIA, and Chief Design Officer of Radius Track.

About Radius Track Corporation: Radius Track Corporation is the premier expert and provider of curved cold-formed steel framing solutions. The company designs and engineers cost-saving solutions and fabricates the cold-formed steel framing for domes, curved ceilings and acoustical panels, curved façades and any other type of curved surface. From simple to complex, structural or non-structural they have a solution. Their areas of expertise include: BIM Design/3D Modeling; Curved-Right™ Custom Framing, Ready Track®, Ready Arch® and Ready Angle® hand-bendable framing products and Radius Track Bender® and Radius Trim Bender® Tools for use in the field. RADIUS TRACK, founded in 1996, is headquartered in Minneapolis, MN. For additional information, visit www.radiustrack.com, email info@radiustrack.com or call 888-872-3487.

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