Hanging Wallboard - Tape & Float and Working With Aluminum Composite Material

April 23, 2011 - For a project like the epic Creative Co-Op, you try to plan for as much as possible in advance, but when something unplanned that is good comes along you would be foolish not to include it to the project. That kind of serendipity happened to us a couple of months ago when we met Chris Larimore, president of Grupo Daissa. Although the company is headquartered in Mexico, and does much of its' business in South America, Chris lives a short distance from our studio.

Chris had been watching our building go up, and decided to stop in one morning to talk. He asked me what we were planning on using for the roof decking and siding, and I told him R-panel, which are the pre-formed steel sheets popular on metal buildings (and what we had used on the epic studio). Chris had a material with him I had never seen before (or at least never really paid attention to). His company manufactures ACM or Aluminum Composite Material. ACM as I was about to learn, is one amazing product.

Aluminum Composite Materials (ACMs) are flat panels that consist of a non-aluminum core bonded between two aluminum sheets. The core is low density Polyethylene in this case made from recycled plastic bags. The aluminum sheets are coated with Flurocarbon paints for exteriors and Polyester paint interiors. ACM is frequently used for external cladding of buildings (typically for facades and signage). ACM is very rigid and strong despite its light weight. Aluminum can be painted in any color, and ACMs are produced in a wide range of metallic and non-metallic colors as well as patterns that imitate other materials, such as wood or marble.

Chris explained to me that it is commonly used on commercial buildings and he named a dozen buildings in The Woodlands where I could go and see it. The material is simply awesome. I thought it would be a short conversation, because it also costs three times the amount of R-panel. As we got to talking, Chris asked me about our work at epic, and we realized we could help each other. Chris would donate some ACM to the project and we would shoot some video showing proper application techniques. 

Chris also represents the ALPOLIC brand of ACM manufactured by Mitsubishi in Mexico. He and the local rep from ALPOLIC stopped by our job site and the ALPOLIC rep was impressed with our work. They have also provided some ACM materials for us to work with. We are planning to have some students from the local architectural schools come up with unique and interesting ways to use the ACM. The juxtaposition of the rough walls of the corten steel containers next to the highly finished surface of the ACM should make for a very interesting building exterior.

In addition to the ACM, Chris let us use his $4,000 Panel Saw, and a special router he modified to cut the panels. Adam immediately stopped his work on the electrical boxes because he wanted to see what it was like to work with the ACM. He and Alan cut and routed out a small sample section of trim for the balcony, and it was very cool. He wanted to continue to work with the ACM, but turned his attention back to the electrical work that we need to finish before the insulators return next week. The more we work with AMC, the more we like it. We are planning to do a couple of blog entries on using the ACM, so stay tuned.

Adam added a second electric panel that will control all the power to the big room. Over the past several weeks, we had several photographers and videographers visit the Co-Op with interest in renting the big room. We need to insure that we will have adequate power to handle the over sized lights and other equipment they may want to use during a shoot. Adam also came up with a concept for the lighting grid that will be suspended above the studio floor. We will go into more detail on that next week.

This week we had a crew working on the wallboard. Two of the men hung over 20 sheets of 4' x 12' panels, and two others followed by taping and floating the joints. It has been hot and dry and the cellulose insulation that was blown in last week had dried nicely. Our goal next week is to get all of the interior wallboard done, then turn our attention to the ceiling of the Video Production Room. That is going to be a challenge. It is a massive ceiling that is 19 feet off the ground. Because this is a commercial structure, we have to use 5/8" wallboard which is very heavy.

We finished adding the remaining 3/4" exterior plywood deck panels on the ADA ramp on the second floor. Next week we will add the metal railing and extend the deck outside the Silver Rock back entry. The ComforTemp crew is scheduled to come by on Monday to blow in cellulose in the big room, and finish insulating units 9 &10.

The Houston Chronicle sent reporter Lindsay Payton to the Creative Co-Op a few weeks ago, and last week ran a nice article on the project on the front page of the local edition of the paper. You can read it online here.



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