Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital

More than 136,000 sq. ft. of Dri-Design panels clad the new Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital in Milwaukee, the state’s largest hospital construction project.  The .080 aluminum panels were finished in Champagne and Bone White.

The Dri-Design Wall Panel System is an affordable dry joint, pressure-equalized rainscreen system.

The Columbia St. Mary’s project is a significant piece of architectures in the urban fabric of Milwaukee due to its size and prominent location along the upper shores of Lake Michigan.

The nine-story, $417 million project was designed by Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum (HOK), St. Louis.  The hospital campus, located on 20 acres overlooking the lake, includes the core hospital of 670,000 sq. ft.; a new 25,000 sq. ft. cancer center; two medical office buildings; and three new parking structures.

“We wanted the building to work on several different scales,” according to David Buckley, HOK’s project designer.  “The project anchors the north end of the city plus it sets in a beautiful neighborhood that welcomed commercial/institutional development compatible with the look of its surroundings.  And, of course, we needed a design that was cohesive with the existing campus buildings.”

Buckley reports that a rainscreen system is particularly important in a healthcare environment because is prevents moisture from entering the wall cavity and thus prevents any opportunity for mold to grow.

The precast was applied three to five stories in order to relate to the scale of the neighborhood and the masonry that was used throughout.  “But we wanted the higher parts of the building to be light colored because that’s what you see from the city and the metal panels look great against the blue skies that are common in the upper Midwest,” Buckley said.

In order to break down the scale of the elements further, the designers used datum line reveals on two foot increments that aligned through the precast and metal cladding.

Installation of the Dri-Design system was done by Architectural Products of Wausau.  “This may be the largest metal wall panel project using that type of product in Wisconsin,” according to John Schremp, president.  “The project was originally planned and bid to use ACM,” Schremp said.  “But the Dri-Design system was significantly less expensive, primarily due to the labor costs.  We were able to cut the per-panel labor cost in half.”

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