VanDusen gardensMetal roofs, as we know, can in some cases take on the look of other common roofing materials. But have you ever associated the word “undulate” with metal? A daring architectural firm in Vancouver, B.C. took that approach and is now reaping the rewards for their work.

The VanDusen Botanical Gardens Visitor Centre was awarded the 2013 Chairman’s Award from the Metal Construction Association (MCA), thanks in part to its use of 12,000 square feet of Alucobond natural panels on the roof, which is designed to resemble five orchid leaves. Surrounding the panels is a vegetation-filled rooftop made up of Douglas fir beams and plywood, according to the MCA.

At one of the first meetings about the project, the architects at Perkins+Will were told to make the building “outrageous.”

“They wanted a building that really drew people in,” design principle Jim Huffman told the MCA. “It looks irrational and illogical, but if you understand how it was designed and the technology behind it, it’s actually quite clever.”

Designing the panel system

VanDusen gardensHow was this all put together? The metal installer Keith Panel Systems Co., LTD (KPS), out of Vancouver, created an interlocking system of prefabricated panels that would display positive and negative curves. The panels, says Huffman, proved to be easy and quick to install — but that doesn’t mean the project went entirely as expected.

“What you start with and what you think you’re going to do on a crazy building like this, and what you end up with, is a growth curve,” says Doug Dalzell, the founder of KPS. “This is art. This is not a solid product; it’s a shape and a form. And what you do is, you let the shape and form take over a little bit. If you try to do what we pulled off here from a flat sheet of metal, be it aluminum or stainless or whatever, it would probably kink on you.”

But in this case, the curved panels worked tremendously in the builders’ favor.

“It’s got a tremendous memory,” Dalzell adds. “It’s just alive. The more complicated the job, the more this product will work for you.”

Dalzell told the MCA that his firm decided to take on the daring project as a challenge. But it was a very enjoyable one: “When things like this come along, it’s a lot of fun, let me tell you.”

If this story has you intrigued and you’d like to learn more about the bold use of metal for roofs in Florida, contact us to talk!