The University of Houston Downtown (UHD) undertook a bold initiative when it decided to build the new UHD Sciences and Technology Building, which would become the central hub for the College of Sciences & Technology at the school.
At nearly 106,000 square feet, the stunning structure along I-10 near downtown Houston boasts 14 laboratory classrooms, 14 research labs, meeting rooms, and offices.
A noteworthy addition to the Houston skyline, the structure also became the first LEED-Gold certified building in the University of Houston System.
CENTRIA insulated metal panels earned high marks for helping designers achieve two key goals – eye-catching aesthetics, and energy performance.
The Science of Aesthetics
During the design phase, architects and designers knew they had a tall order to fill.
“[UHD] wanted [the building] to be a billboard of science and technology for anyone that was going through there,” said Michelle Old, project designer at Kirksey Architecture, which designed the building.
The site for the structure helped to set the stage – a bayou on one side, the city on another, an interstate nearby and a public transportation hub just down the street.
“They really wanted for it to stand out and for people to take notice, whether you are walking on the trail by the bayou, or on the light rail, or in a car on the freeway,” Old added.
The design team specified CENTRIA Concept Series panels for the northwest and southeast elevations of the building, earmarking them to create a frame for a wall of windows at either end of the structure. One side is the home of the research labs, and the other houses administrative offices.
The Concept Series panels were the perfect choice given their versatility and their durability.
Designers chose five different panel styles and used two different colors.
“With these different profiles that are all interlocking, we could create this cool panel that was reminiscent of science,” Old noted. “It did attract a lot of attention because it has this rhythm and this shadow play, but it also goes back to that resiliency. It’s durable. It can take that wear and tear of being next to a freeway.”
A solution that contributed to the building’s LEED-Gold certification, CENTRIA’s Concept Series Single-Skin wall panels feature concealed fasteners and a common-lock joint that allows the panels to be integrated with each other. They can be installed in a variety of rainscreen applications to form a complete wall system.
Concept Series panels come with stand-off clips that provide a ventilation cavity and drain plane behind the panel. The panel clips allow for thermal and seismic movements.
Way Up High
Because it houses scientific laboratories, the UHD Sciences and Technology Building included a sizable infrastructure for mechanical equipment and air handlers, all housed on the “penthouse” part of the roof.
Once again, designers selected Concept Series panels to form a ventilated barrier around the equipment, which helped to change the dynamic of the roof.
“We were able to conceal [the equipment] with the CENTRIA panel, and because the CENTRIA panel is aesthetically pleasing and has all this rhythm, it ends up being a plus rather than an eyesore,” Old reflected.
Once the building was completed, the university ultimately used the “penthouse” as the backdrop for an actual billboard that carries the name of the school.
A two-year construction project, the UHD Sciences and Technology Building opened for instruction in the fall of 2019.