Brown University Applied Math Building
The new building for Brown University’s Division of Applied Mathematics was completed in 2015. The surface of the building is clad with a custom layout of shingles in Zahner’s Solanum Steel, a preweathered patina on weathering steel alloy. This 13,000 square foot structure offers additional space for faculty, students and staff.
Zahner was specified on the job by the designers at Architectural Research Office (ARO), who had previously worked with the Solanum Steel material on a residence in Telluride, CO. Adapting a similar shingled system for the new design at Brown University, the designers came up with a small tabletop mockup for the layout. This mockup allowed for rationalization of the overlap pattern, and the ability to figure out the layout early on.
Solanum Steel, weathering steel, copper-bearing steel, and COR-TEN (Corten) are all names for a durable subset of steel alloys (A-242 and A-588). These alloys are beneficial for art and architecture because of their long-term endurance in exterior conditions. Instead of corroding away, as these materials surfaces oxidize, the oxidized layer becomes a protective layer. This means that the surface won't corrode further. The issue with fabricators who use standard corten alloys, is that it takes a few years of exterior exposure before the material's rust condition becomes stabilized. During this process, the material will bleed.Solanum Steel resolves this challenge, by bringing the natural weathering steel alloy into an insoluble and stable state. This preweathered surface is accelerated in a dedicated Zahner facility for producing sheets and custom fabricated corten forms in Solanum Steel.
Designing the Facade System for Brown University
The project was already streamlined with cut lists ready and Zahner in the specs by the time it arrived in estimating. Because Zahner was clearly listed as the source for the finish, the construction management team at Shawmut knew who to contact, and were offered pricing in a quick and timely manner.
The cut list contained six different profiles for the shingles. These varying profiles were arranged in a stagger, with 2” overlaps to conceal face fasteners. The Architect also had determined their desired stagger for the layout, which would alternate overlaps at every course for the two layout options. Zahner worked with Shawmut Construction to coordinate the locations for the ¼” fastener holes, and provided shop drawings confirming exact dimensions for each of the profiles.