South Texas College (STC) opened its Technology Campus expansion in McAllen, Texas, with a unique ribbon-cutting ceremony in which college officials wielded a blow torch to cut a steel ribbon created by welding students.
The ribbon and cutting technique were befitting of the former plastics manufacturing site, which was renovated to serve as home to the Institute of Advanced Manufacturing and offices of Continuing Professional Workforce Education at the college, as well as its welding, construction management, electrician technology and precision manufacturing programs.
The $9.3 million 72,000-square-foot STC Technology Campus expansion features offices and classrooms, as well as computer, training and robotics labs and sits adjacent to the current campus.
“The existing building looked like a typical warehouse,” states Eduardo Vela, AIA, principal, EGV Architects Inc., of Hidalgo, Texas, which served as architect of record for the project. “We had to start with a well-worn manufacturing site and turn it into a state-of-the-art teaching facility.”
The mission of the STC Technology Campus is to provide students with hands-on educational experiences required to fill jobs in the area’s industries.
EGV Architects wanted to maintain an industrial aesthetic in the retrofit as well as establish a campus identity, according to Vela. Part of that latter goal was met with the incorporation of custom STC school colors in building cladding.
The project features 15,200 square feet of 4-millimeter Alucobond aluminum composite material (ACM) by 3A Composites USA. It includes 6,200 square feet of Custom STC Green, 2,700 square feet of Custom STC Violet and 6,300 square feet of Silver Metallic.
The Alucobond colored panels were juxtaposed with cream-colored brick and brown split-face block wainscot on the façade of the building.
“We chose to use Alucobond as a decorative theme for the college,” says Vela. “It’s low maintenance and requires no painting. Once Alucobond is installed, it’s there – unlike stucco that tends to fade. The custom green and violet Alucobond will be there for many years with no maintenance. The Alucobond was a good fit; it makes the campus architecturally appealing.”
Alucobond consists of two sheets of 0.020-inch aluminum thermobonded to a polyethylene core and is manufactured in a standard 4-millimeter thickness. Alucobond provides flatness and rigidity, ideal for formability, low weight and weather resistance.
While selecting weather-resistant Alucobond as decorative cladding may have been an easy choice, Vela said renovating an existing building designed for manufacturing into college classrooms, offices and labs was more difficult than designing new construction.
“It was a much more challenging role for the architect and design team,” says Vela. “We had to work within the limits of the building’s existing conditions. With new construction, you can do whatever you want. A renovation project adds an element of difficulty.”
Renovating the industrial building into an educational setting required working around a load-bearing wall in the middle of the manufacturing facility as well as existing columns, bracing and roof heights not designed for classrooms. The renovation required much of the existing building’s interior to be demolished and an entrance created where there previously was none.
“We also wanted to use as much of the existing mechanical, electrical and plumbing as possible,” according to Vela, who said new air-conditioning, ventilation and lighting systems were installed.
EGV Architects was able to add 4,621 square of additional space to the north side of the existing building to serve as an outdoor welding lecture space and lab while maintaining the industrial architectural idea, according to Vela.
Broaddus & Associates, headquartered in Austin, Texas, provided project management services for South Texas College. E-Con Group LLC, of Edinburg, Texas, served as general contractor for the project.
Bowman Distributing Co., of San Benito, Texas, which fabricated and installed the Alucobond panels with a rain screen system, began work with EGV Architects in the design stage.
“We recommended Alucobond because of the product’s overall quality and the high quality of the paint that would be used to manufacture the custom colors,” says Juan Marchan, member manager, Bowman Distributing. “We received approval for the first set of custom-colored Alucobond samples that we received. Normally, when we request custom colors of Alucobond, they are spot on and offer consistent quality.”
Processing all three Alucobond colors simultaneously presented challenges in maintaining proper sizes for each color, according to Marchan, who said the majority of the Alucobond was installed on the building’s exterior.
Bowman Distributing fabricated approximately 1,358 Alucobond panels, including: 742 Silver Metallic panels, 471 Custom STC Green panels and 145 Custom STC Violet panels. Alucobond panel sizes ranged from 9-inches by 2.5-feet up to 3- by 5-feet with a standard-sized panel measuring 2.5- by 4-feet.
“It was also a very challenging project because of the large span of bridge walls and the overall size of the project,” states Marchan.
In addition to the decorative design elements clad in the Custom STC Violet Alucobond and Custom STC Green Alucobond, the design of the renovated building features an entrance to a two-story lobby that is covered by a canopy and columns clad in Silver Metallic Alucobond.
“The entry to the campus is very visible to the whole area,” says Marchan. “We’ve received very positive comments from the architect about this project, and the school loved it. We’re very pleased with the outcome of this project.”
“I’m very impressed and satisfied with our work,” says Vela. “We’ve heard comments that there’s no way this could be the original manufacturing site. It’s a wonderful building.”