Designed by FortyEighty Architecture, Frank A. Cassell Hall at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg is nestled in a steep hillside along the south bank of Slate Run. The two-story, 16,837 sq. ft. structure is replete with environmental sustainability and aesthetic features – including woven wire mesh infill panels from Banker Wire – that accentuate its connection to the natural world.
Enclosed in glass, the building’s main internal stairway allows for an expansive view of the surrounding woods and stream. Metal mesh infill panels in a custom angle iron frame, both manufactured by Banker Wire, form a semi-transparent stairway railing that complements the space’s glass façade. The railing’s transparency was an especially important feature, as the designers wanted the outdoors to be visible from all of the occupied spaces within the building. The Banker Wire infill panels and angle iron frame were also used on the building’s exterior ramp and plaza, where they allow for the uninterrupted transmission of natural light into the building.
“For this installation, we wanted a railing system that was custom and transparent, but more durable and easier for our client to maintain than glass. The FPZ-16 mesh with powder-coated finish met that criteria,” says Kent Suhrbier, principal at FortyEighty Architecture.
Combining two different crimping styles, the FPZ-16 wire mesh used at Frank A. Cassell Hall has rectangular openings more than three times as long as they are tall. The orientation of this weave makes a strong design statement. Where the infill panels are installed parallel to the staircase’s slope, the long diagonal lines formed by the mesh pattern slice into the vertical and horizontal lines of the glass façade’s frame. The layering of these lines brings a sense of depth and texture to this modern space. Where installed vertically, the mesh’s aspect ratio noticeably deviates from that of the façade, creating a geometrically interesting relationship.
Its powder-coat finish complements the warm hues of the building’s interior, natural light and surrounding flora. The designers had virtually unlimited color choices but ultimately settled on a warm neutral.
“We enjoyed working with Banker Wire throughout both the design and construction process,” says Suhrbier. “Banker Wire not only helped us come up with a great idea, they made sure that we could realize it within the client’s budget and schedule.”
The angle iron frame and woven wire mesh infill panels were precisely crafted by Banker Wire to integrate seamlessly, creating a beautiful and strong final product. Custom mounting tabs, which are hidden from sight, securely and subtly hold the angle iron frame in place along the staircase, ramp and plaza. The mounting tabs blend into the railing structure, allowing for an almost invisible interface that matches the simple aesthetic of the space.
The infill panels and frames had to provide more than a modern appearance for this university space. Because Frank A. Cassell Hall serves a variety of university functions and is actively used by both students and faculty, the system was also constructed to withstand heavy traffic with minimal upkeep.
The building also aims to realize 30 percent annual energy savings, reduce water usage by 50 percent and receive a LEED Gold designation. Banker Wire mesh contributes to LEED credits in the recycled content category. Its wire is composed of 80 to 85 percent post-consumer and 12 to 18 percent pre-consumer recycled steel. FortyEighty Architecture previously specified Banker Wire for use at The Fred Rogers Center at Saint Vincent College – another building designed for LEED Gold Certification.
“We’ve always been happy with the variety of options Banker Wire offers and the balance their products bring to projects in terms of quality and durability,” says Suhrbier.
Completed in in 2012, Frank A. Cassell Hall received the MBA Building Excellence Award for New Construction Under $10 Million and is currently under review by the US Green Building Council to receive LEED Gold certification. Formerly known as the Sustainable Office and Classroom Building two-story, the facility includes a state-of-the-art computer lab, a video-conferencing classroom, a server room, offices and a technology training classroom.
Members of the project team include Rycon Construction, Inc. and Franco Associates, of Pittsburgh, PA; A. Folino Construction and Massaro Industries, Inc, of Oakmont, PA; Hoff Enterprises, of Johnstown, PA; and Amthor Steel, of Erie, PA.