Western Washington University Academic Instructional Center

Cambridge Architectural

A woven metal mesh shading system from Cambridge Architectural exudes modern flair, while providing solar shading and ventilation for the Academic Instructional Center on the campus of Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA.

The 120,000-square-foot facility incorporates a number of green building elements, and the University has applied for its LEED certification. By employing streamlined and sustainable concepts like metal fabric shading, the Academic Instructional Center has been able to reduce energy usage and optimize building operations. Cambridge mesh contributes to the daylighting and views section of LEED by decreasing glare and improving quality of light.

A Cambridge Solucent™ architectural mesh shading system dresses the southwest-facing exterior of the building, allowing for maximum solar shading. Long panels of woven metal fabric are installed in tension, perpendicular to the structure’s windows so that they meet the sun at the proper angle. This facilitates daylighting for the interior while blocking harsh sunlight and the heat that it generates.

“This project is the perfect example of our ability to provide highly-customized systems that meet very specific visual and functional needs,” says Heather Collins, Director of Marketing for Cambridge Architectural. “We were chosen not only because our material captured the architect’s attention, but also because we were able to put mesh to good work, shading the sun and promoting ventilation.”

It was the unique look of architectural mesh that sparked the project team’s imagination and led to their interest in the Solucent system. Installed much like vertical slats, the material adds a new dimension to the building’s facade.

“The aesthetic of the mesh was very desirable to us,” says Mark Gifford, Associate Principal of NAC Architecture, the architect of the project. “Especially the way it is fabricated and the texture that it brings to the building.”

Still, the system that was used on the exterior of the Academic Instructional Center was chosen based on more than just looks. To fit the building’s overall design, it needed to be easy to integrate, and it needed to be sustainable. Stainless steel architectural mesh is a recyclable material that is virtually indestructible, outlasting most other materials in durability. Not to mention, it can accommodate almost any environment.

“There were very specific structural wind load requirements for this building,” says Jake Lindsay, Project Manager for Dawson Construction, Inc., the general contractor on the project. “The Cambridge team helped us make the necessary adjustments to meet those requirements.”

Maintaining ventilation and preserving outside views were two other key considerations for the Academic Instructional Center. The inherent nature of architectural mesh allows it to block the sun without blocking airflow or views – making the Solucent system an exceptional solution for both interior and exterior applications.

“We were placing the mesh on a building that is naturally ventilated,” says Mark Gifford. “Cambridge’s product allowed us to maintain this ventilation while shading the structure.”

Cambridge is committed to assisting the design and construction team from initial concept to final installation on each and every project. The Western Washington University project was no exception. In fact, Cambridge assisted in the entire process in order to make sure that the project team achieved all of their design goals.

“It was a pretty slick product and process,” says Jake Lindsay. “Cambridge was able to customize the anchors precisely according to what the design team wanted.”

“The whole process went very smoothly,” says Mark Gifford. “Cambridge brought a really nice mock-up sample to the site that proved the product would perform well.”

The Solucent system was fabricated with mesh in Cambridge’s Shade pattern, which features flexible open weaves that shade and screen structures including facades, parking garages and pavilions.

Cambridge’s Eclipse™ tension attachment hardware was used to install the Shade product. Tailored edges are provided for expanses of flexible metal fabric in tension. Elegant, custom-cut apertures receive the metal fabric ends in tubing that is integrated into a bracket and structural support design. Tube sizes may vary to emphasize or de-emphasize the attachment. The Eclipse hardware is appropriate for lengths of metal fabric held in tension up to 100 feet.

Construction on the Academic Instructional Center at Western Washington University was completed in June 2008. The project team consists of architect NAC Architecture, Seattle, WA, and contractor/installer Dawson Construction, Inc., Bellingham, WA.

Cambridge Architectural is an active member of the USGBC, and helps architects take maximum advantage of LEED credit through the many categories in which architectural mesh systems apply. Most notably, mesh can contribute to as many as four LEED points for optimized energy performance, and can help in acquiring additional points for incorporating recycled content and introducing daylight and views into the regularly occupied areas of a building.

About Cambridge Architectural

Cambridge Architectural is a full-service provider of architectural metal mesh systems for both interior and exterior building applications. For more information, visit

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