Metal walls and panels a big plus when it comes to Net Zero Energy

Kickapoo Tribe Government & Community Building

Kickapoo Tribe Government & Community Building features MBCI’s eco-FICIENT Grand H and Grand V

Are you familiar with “Net Zero Energy?” No, it’s not that sense of power you got from using that early dial-up Internet browser of the 1990’s (The company, by the way, is still in existence, and comes up in searches for the term Net Zero. Who knew?). The Net Zero Energy I’m speaking of is the enviable, sustainable state achieved when the creation and use of energy within the same building system are equal.

Though achievable, the cost and capacity for producing energy within a building system is greater than that of creating energy efficiency in one. The good news is that metal roofing and wall panels are extremely useful on both sides of the equation.

On the energy efficiency side, insulated metal panels (IMPs) provide roof and wall systems with the thermal and radiative performance needed for sustainable design. eco-FICIENT® insulated wall and roof panels provide continuous insulation and eliminate thermal bridges. As building and energy codes become increasingly more stringent, insulated metal panels are an ideal choice for thermally efficient building envelopes.

Davidson Center for Space Exploration

Davidson Center for Space Exploration features MBCI’s eco-FICIENT Royal and Insulated BattenLok

On the other side of the equation, a common method of generating energy is through the use of photovoltaics (PVs), and metal roofs provide the best possible surface to host a photovoltaic (PV) array. Solar photovoltaic systems and solar water heating systems can be installed on a metal roof, penetration-free, resulting in high performance with minimal risk. Both the use of IMPs and the installation of PVs on metal roofs can be used with proper designs to maximize building energy efficiency.

Of course, metal roofing, known to last 40 years or longer, is the only type of roof that can be expected to outlive the PV system mounted on it, which results in virtually zero maintenance and a very low in-place cost for the roof and PV system together.  A sustainability win, a durability win, and, of course, an aesthetic win.  The result is anything but a zero sum game.

Find out more about MBCI’s eco-FICIENT®  IMPS

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Lightning can be a lucky strike with Metal Roofs

LightningArticleBuilding owners and managers fortunate enough to have a metal roof know personally its durability, resiliency and reliability, not unlike that contributed to the U.S. Postal Service of yore:  “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night …”—nor fire, nor hail nor the like—will prevent it from fulfilling its function. Those natural elements conspire to knock on the good reputation of a metal roof, to no avail. But how does a metal roof hold up against a more ominous threat… lightning?

Metal conducts electricity, so it’s not unreasonable to have concerns about whether a metal roof is the best material with which to build a roof to avoid damage from lightning.

According to the Metal Construction Association’s technical bulletin on Lightning and Metal Roofing, the probability of a lightning strike is determined by a several factors:

  1. Topography in the area of the structure: The probability of a strike is higher if a structure is situated on a mountaintop or hilltop as opposed to a field.
  2. Size and height of the subject structure. A tall building or a facility covering a large ground area is more likely to be struck than a short or small building. A tall, thin structure, such as a tower, a tree or utility pole, is also a more likely target for a lightning strike.
  3. Relative location of the structure with respect to nearby larger and taller structures. A very tall structure located near a small, short one will tend to further reduce the likelihood of a strike to the smaller one.
  4. Frequency and severity of thunderstorm activity in the geographic area of the project.

Notice there is no mention of the material from which the structure is made. In fact, the probabilities of a strike to a metal roofed structure are no more or less than any other kind of structure. The probably risk has more to do with the height and size of the structure and its surroundings than the material of which it is made.

The use of a lightning protection system, such as lightning rods, may lessen the consequence of a strike. And if lightning does strike a building, a metal roof actually can cause the energy impact to disperse evenly and uneventfully through the structure. Finally, metal roofing isn’t combustible or flammable.

Bottom line, metal is probably the best material option for roofing, and a safer source of protection for your facility , customers and employees when the inevitable storms come.

Find out more about MBCI Roofing products

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Part 1 – The importance of consensus in building standards

Building Code Standards BlogMost people understand the purpose of a building code: To ensure the safety of the occupants and to establish the minimum accepted performance level of the building and its systems.  Fewer people understand that because building codes are adopted into law by a governing body, technically referred to as an Authority Having Jurisdiction or AHJ, they are an in fact an extension of the law or ordinance that brings them into effect.  Knowing that, you should not be surprised to learn that like laws, building codes in America can’t just be arbitrarily made up by somebody having the authority and know-how to do so.  Instead, they must have gone through some type of consensus process in which all affected entities or their representatives have the opportunity to participate. This concept, called Due Process of Law, is central to many governmental charters such as the Magna Carta and The Constitution of the United States of America and is designed to ensure that a person’s individual rights are not unfairly taken away.

Under the US Constitution, laws are written by Congress and interpreted by judges.  Members of Congress are elected by their constituents and judges are either appointed by elected officials or elected themselves.  Similarly, building codes are written by consensus bodies, like the International Code Council or ICC, and interpreted by Building Officials, who are generally appointed by elected officials.  The code development process used by ICC is one where any interested member of the public can participate and is guaranteed a forum to propose changes and comment on the proposed changes submitted by others using a system governed by Roberts Rules of Order.  After discussion and debate, the code committee votes on the individual proposals and those that pass are incorporated into the code, guaranteeing due process.  (Actually, it’s quite a bit more complicated than this but for purposes of this blog, let’s just leave it at that.)

However, building codes commonly do not actually spell out all of the requirements for buildings and building systems.  More and more, the code will delegate low-level detailed requirements to a different type of document called a standard, and then brings the requirements contained within by referencing the standard in the code by name.  Likewise, these standards then must also be developed through a consensus process administered by an adequate standard development body.  But because all standard development bodies are structured a little differently, it is not realistic to mandate that consensus process directly.  Instead, another independent body called The American National Standards Institute or ANSI, certifies standard development bodies as having a sufficient consensus processes to be deemed as meeting the incorporating code requirements for due process.  Examples of these bodies are the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) who develop ASCE 7, the document that determines the minimum load requirements for buildings; the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) a group widely known for developing material and testing specifications for general use; and the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), who develops ASHRAE 90.1, the document that spells out the minimum building energy efficiency requirements.  If you are an architect or engineer, all of these acronyms should sound very familiar to you.

Another acronym that you are probably familiar with is LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.  It is developed and maintained by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) and is the premier green building program in the world.  Interestingly though, the development landscape changes drastically when it comes to green construction programs like LEED.  You see, the USGBC is not an ANSI accredited standard developer and thus LEED is not an actual official standard, hence the use of the word “program”.  How then is it possible that USGBC can have so much say in how buildings, particularly publicly owned buildings, get built?  The answer is that they get around this limitation by structuring LEED as a voluntary program and then lobbying the potential owners of buildings, like the US and state governments, into using their program by executive order rather than legislating the requirement directly.  If you’ve watched TV at all in the last year, particularly with respect to immigration reform, you know how controversial this approach can be.  Nevertheless, it is perfectly legal in this context.

This really has not been a significant issue to date because LEED does have a consensus process (albeit not an ANSI accredited one) and LEED credit requirements have been fairly uncontroversial in past versions.  However, LEED v4, the latest generation of the wildly popular green building program, changed all of that by adding credits that are less about design and functionality of the building and more about transparency with respect to building product ingredients to ensure occupant health and comfort.  Let’s be clear: Most reasonable people, including building product manufacturers, don’t have a problem with increased transparency and want more occupant comfort and health.  But it is how LEED defines “transparency” in version 4 has many people up in arms and they point to the hypocrisy of developing a definition to the word “transparency” during a closed-door meeting with no manufacturers at the table as what is wrong with green building as it exists today.  My next blog will explore that concept further.

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The art of properly specifying snow retention systems

The recent arctic blasts that hit the northeast brought to mind many things: hot cocoa, the evils of shoveling snow, a nice fire, the longing for a warm beach and, of course, how to properly specify snow retention systems on standing seam roofs. I’m not alone here, right?

All jokes aside, when I was scratching my brain for a new blog post, the cold weather and blizzards reminded me how easy it is to specify snow retention devices improperly. It might appear rather elementary at first; you might think it is as simple as planning for snow retention around entrances and frequent walkways. If so, you, along with many others, are mistaken. Let’s review some not-so-obvious areas to consider while planning a snow retention system for a SSR.

Gutters If a gutter is used that has a face high than the pan of the roof panels, the gutter must be protected from sliding ice and snow. Gutters are designed for one purpose – to channel the water to a downspout. If it is left unprotected it cannot resist sliding ice and snow.

Pipe penetrations As ice and snow slides down a roof and encounters a pipe penetration, the force can cause the pipe to move down slope and damage the roof jack and the roof, or shear the pipe at the roof surface.

Upper roofs draining into lower roofs The upper roof should have a snow retention system installed to prevent ice and snow from falling onto the roof below. Without snow retention, the sliding ice and snow can cause extensive damage to the roof membrane and to equipment on the lower roof.

Panel seams perpendicular to the main roof slope Connector roofs or dormers are typical examples of this type of roof area. The main roof slope provides a surface for ice and snow to slide toward the eave. If it then encounters a roof surface that is perpendicular to this main slope, damage to the roof panels and trim on these roof areas can occur.

Valleys in high snow load areas Valleys allow for snow to slide down a surface that is perpendicular to the panel seams. This offers the potential to bend panel seams down or shear them from the panel.

Aside from considering these areas while planning your snow retention system, also use clamps instead of screws to attach the system to the standing seams of the roof panels. Screws not only perforate roof panels but can also pin the roof and prevent it from floating as designed. Clamps, by comparison, have been tested and can be engineered for the specific roof to which they will be attached, allowing for the snow load, roof slope, panel run length and other details. These clamps do not penetrate the roof membrane, do not hinder roof expansion and are easily installed with a screw gun.

Lastly, I recommend having a registered, professional engineer design a retention system that meets the specified snow loads for the project. Without their expertise there are possible repercussions. If the snow retention system cannot support the snow load, it can result in an entire system failure and major roof damage. This could potentially cause snow and ice to fall and hurt bystanders.

By keeping all of these in mind, along with proper installation and maintenance, a snow retention system will help your SSR survive winter blasts and protect pedestrians, too.

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Standing the test of time: new study reveals 55% Al-Zn alloy coated standing seam roofs last 60 years

The majority knows that metal roofs are durable, but it wasn’t until recently that a study showed the longevity of low-slope unpainted 55% Al-Zn alloy coated steel standing seam roofing (SSR) systems- 60 years. With the service life of a commercial building being 60 years, according to LEED version 4, this means that essentially the metal roof system described above, and commonly referred to as Galvalume® metal roofs, does not require replacement. To put this into context, by comparison most non-metal roofs require at least one replacement during the same period. This study also reveals that the longevity of a 55% Al-Zn alloy coated standing seam roofing system far surpasses the typical warranty period granted, which is 25 years. Basically, this is a game changer and we, manufacturers, are thrilled!

Technical Director of MCA Scott Kriner said, “This study is a breakthrough for the metal construction industry because it finally provides third-party, scientific data that backs up the long held stance that 55% Al-Zn coated steel standing seam roofing systems are very durable, economic and can be better for the environment.”

Let’s take a closer look at the study. The Metal Construction Association (MCA) and Zinc Aluminum Coaters (ZAC) Association sponsored it. The study involved three independent consulting firms testing 14 buildings in five climate zones. The variety of structures and climates allowed them to analyze how Galvalume metal roofs perform in a range of temperatures, humidity and precipitation pH, or acidity, levels. All of these can affect the metallic corrosion rate of roof panels, their sealants and components, and that’s what the consulting firms analyzed.

Here were some of their findings:

  • First, the sealant life is the primary deciding factor in establishing end-of-life for Galvalume metal roof systems. In certain structures analyzed that were 35 years old, the sealant was considered “entirely adequate and without issue.” Based on the sealant performance, the study conservatively projected the lifespan of such roof systems to be 60 years.
  • Secondly, although a Galvalume metal roof is moderately maintenance-free, all roof systems require a periodic inspections and maintenance in order to achieve such long lifespans.
  • Thirdly, while the roof system as a whole was projected to last up to 60 years, components may need to be replaced during this period. The cost of replacing components, however, is considerably less than 20% of replacing an entire roofing system, which is the value deemed by this study as excessive to the point of constituting the end of service life for a roof system.
  • Lastly, the study unveiled that even on areas typically most susceptible to corrosion, such as panel profile bends, there was an absence of significant rust after 35 years; even at its most vulnerable areas, a Galvalume metal roof system performs well.

So what does it mean for architects and building owners? Speaking from a purely biased manufacturer’s prospective, specify and purchase more metal roofs! All jokes aside, this study displays the appeal in selecting a metal roof because it reduces the maintenance costs of the building. It also changes and increases the accuracy of Life Cycle Cost (LCC) or whole building Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) associated with Galvalume metal roof systems by providing tangible research as opposed to previous calculations based on roofing professionals’ opinions. To find out more information or to download the full report, visit

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A difference in terms

It is an industry standard that we use the word “gauge” to describe the thickness of steel coils and sheets. Metal panels rolled from coil come in a range of gauges, with many of our panels’ standard being 24 gauge. This format is based on the Manufacturer’s Standard Gauge (MSG) which is a remnant of an outdated standard.  It’s not until you take a closer look do you realize that specific gauges, such as 24, can equal a range of thicknesses.

When steel coils were rolled decades ago, manufacturers lacked the technology to consistently produce material thicknesses to the tolerances regularly achieved today. Therefore, a relatively large tolerance range was established for the MSG system and this tolerance determines what range of thicknesses qualifies as a particular gauge. For example, as you can see in the table below, 24-gauge panels can range from 0.0269-0.0209 inches.

As time went by and technology improved, coil manufacturers could produce material down to the thousandth of an inch of thickness, and the MSG system was considered outdated by many in the industry. Instead, the Standard Decimal System was introduced. This system defines gauges by specific minimum thickness expressed in decimal numbers instead of a range, eliminating the tolerance. Although widely accepted throughout the industry, the architectural community has been reluctant to adopt this system when specifying building products.

Because the architectural community is still specifying buildings using the MSG system, manufacturers still list their products by it as well. This leads to some manufacturers taking advantage of the MSG system’s large tolerance and producing panels with the minimal thickness allowed to qualify for that gauge. For 24-gauge panels, for example, they might roll it to 0.0209 inches, instead of the nominal 0.0239 inches. Although still technically allowed it seems misleading to me, especially when you consider other manufacturers who spend more money to achieve the specific gauge advertised true to the intent of the MSG system. In addition, this difference in thickness, even in the thousandths decimal place, leads to a difference in structural performance and strength. This can potentially lead to inaccuracies in architects’ specifications or even worse, under expected performance. That said, I think it’s worth the extra effort to take a closer look before selecting products and that it is the manufacturers’ responsibility to present their products honestly.

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Building in the public eye

Government spending is always under scrutiny. I currently live in a construction zone (prime real estate, I know), and I catch myself judging the new road plan, project timeframe, resting construction workers, etc. This very same principle can be applied to the construction of public buildings. It’s important to be efficient with your costs and timeframe. It wasn’t until I joined the metal panel manufacturing industry that I realized how much they can help contractors and facility owners with both.

DCTATake for instance the Denton County Transit Authority (DCTA) in Denton, Texas. Their operations were expanding so rapidly that they were in need of new facilities to house their growing fleet of buses. As a provider of mass transportation, DCTA was already focused on reducing fuel costs and eliminating carbon dioxide emissions. Rightfully so, they were environmentally conscious and wanted their new facility to reflect the same. To help achieve this sustainability, Huitt-Zollars Architectural Firm selected insulated metal wall panels, single skin metal roof panels and soffit panels.

DCTA’s new facilities consisted of two offices and a maintenance and fueling building and used over 5,000 square feet of metal panels. MBCI supplied 1,300 square feet of eco-FICIENT® Grand H insulated metal wall panels in Stucco White, 1,200 square feet of 7.2 exposed fastening panels in Silver Metallic and 2,500 square feet of FW-120 concealed fastening panels in Snow White.

MBCI’s eco-FICIENT® Grand H insulated metal wall panel provides the durability of metal while its non-CFC foamed-in-place polyurethane core delivers the energy savings of DCTAinsulation. The panel can achieve an R-value up to 8.5 per inch of panel thickness. Additionally, since the panel and insulation are manufactured together and delivered as one piece, it reduces installation time.

The 7.2 Panel and FW-120 concealed fastening panels have been tested by a certified independent laboratory in accordance with ASTM test procedures for Air Infiltration and Water Penetration. The test results show the FW-120 panels have no air leakage at 1.57 PSF and no water penetration through the panel joints at 6.24 PSF differential pressures. The 7.2 Panel’s DCTAtest results show no air leakage at 6.24 PSF and no water penetration at 13.24 PSF.  Furthermore, the symmetrical rib of the 7.2 Panel offers excellent spanning and cantilever capabilities.

Using metal panels increases energy efficiency while reducing energy and maintenance costs, driving a building design’s success and making you and taxpayers happy!

Posted in eco-FICIENT, Green Building, Metal Roofing, Metal Wall Panels, Opinions, Project Showcase | Leave a comment

Metal roofs offer energy-efficiency, durability and recycability

Metal roofing material is known for its durability, but it also offers two other sustainable attributes that are sometimes overlooked: enhanced energy-efficiency and high recyclability.

When coated with a light-colored reflective paint, metal is a superior material for a cool roof. A three-year study on the energy efficiency and service life of metal roofs by Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Buildings Technology Center found that the high solar reflectivity and emissivity levels of cool metal roofing can greatly mitigate urban heat island effects. The study used a solar spectrum reflectometer and an emission meter to test the efficacy of cool metal roofs.

Oak Ridge found that white coatings on other roofing materials displayed a 25% to 40% drop in their initial reflectance, but the metal roof tested retained 95% of its initial solar reflectance during the length of the study. Depending on the color of a painted metal roof, the reflectance ranges from 10% to 75%, which compares very favorably with the 5%-to-25%-range of an asphalt roof.

Metal is also highly reusable, and metal roofing material rarely ends up in landfills. Many metal roofs contain up to 40% recycled steels. Their material is also 100% recyclable. Research conducted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection found that metal is one of the best eco-friendly roofing materials from a waste-reduction standpoint.

All in all, metal is among the most sustainable roofing materials, especially when you consider that metal roofs can last more than 60 years.

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“BUILDING” the future of an industry: How collaboration, creativity & ignorance can change the face of the built environment

As the design and construction industry moves forward and we all (product manufacturers, designers, and clients alike) start to seriously consider the ideas of legitimate “differentiation” (among our peers, designs, and products) the ideas of multi-industry collaboration and mass customization come to mind…

CU Denver HOZHO House

Photo courtesy of Rick Sommerfeld

Should we decide to go down this road, there are most definitely very real challenges that await: raw material costs, set-up and tooling charges, time/schedule and testing for starters. Then there’s the seemingly insurmountable challenge of multi-company and multidisciplinary coordination… At company A) “x” means one thing, while at company B) “x” means the exact opposite… How do we ensure that our products/designs/buildings don’t in a sense have two left feet after navigating this process? At the end of the day, however, should we rise to the challenge and navigate these obstacles successfully, the pay-off will be enormous. Below are a few key ways to make this happen.

Secretly, many architectural designers fancy themselves as inventors of sorts (I know that I did/still do). They are often times quite literally creating something out of seemingly thin air in order to correspond with the client’s/owner’s hopes and dreams. The only problem is when you run out of time, money or needed/interesting “building blocks”.

Earlier this year, I was approached by a senior-level principle of a world leading design firm, regarding the possibility of partnering up with MBCI in order to bring new products to market. The basic gist of the conversation was: “We have the design know-how and experience, while you guys [MBCI] have the manufacturing and testing experience. Why not partner up and bring new stuff to the market that no one else ever possibly could?” Why not indeed? Currently that is a topic that is still on the table. It is through conversations like these that true progress is really made, and I am greatly encouraged by the future of this relationship.

In order to move forward we must each take risks, we must look to the future as a real opportunity for change and we must embrace both ignorance and naivety for it is by only not knowing one’s “limitations” and what is (and what is not) currently “possible”, that innovation can occur.

While in graduate school at NC State, I was fortunate enough to have had more than my share of inspirational conversations with some of the world’s finest architectural and design minds, not the least of which was one particular discussion with Michael Rotondi of RoTo Architects. “I look for design inspiration in everyday life, but most importantly from my thirteen year old son and my interns. I’m too set in my ways to ever think about things much differently than I already do, but by keeping an open mind, I am always exposed to a fresh perspective.” How many of us out there are open to such a philosophy? How many of us could benefit from such a strategy? I would be willing to bet nearly everyone (and every industry).

Embrace the enthusiasm of people eager to learn. Architecture/Design School is many things, but it is most assuredly anything but easy. Mental toughness and the ability to solve complex problems quickly are unspoken but very real prerequisites for graduation. Most disciplines have tests with one “right” answer. Design education takes a drastically different approach. There are quite literally countless “right” answers to the same exact problem. If you put one hundred designers in a room and ask them each for a solution to the same exact design problem you will get one hundred different answers. There are legitimate reasons for each of these answers, and throughout their education students are continuously thrust into this situation. Students must not only provide their answer but must also present their solution to a jury of their peers, professors and practitioners. This is their test… This process helps to create the strongest of work ethics (no one ever wants to be embarrassed repeatedly in a room full of their colleagues/friends), the ability to take constructive (and sometimes unconstructive) criticism, the ability to think on their feet (you can never know what they’ll ask or focus on), as well as the ability to not only come up with creative solutions but also to SELL them. Any company looking to innovate can benefit tremendously from their share of employees with this background and experience. Why not start that process earlier with direct relationships with the schools/students themselves? I challenge any company or industry to consider this approach. I can promise you that you will see tremendous results.

I am very proud of MBCI’s commitment to this ideal and to have had the opportunity to have worked with many such students during the past year. I am even more proud of MBCI’s contributions of both time and materials to two design-build studios (North Carolina State and CU Denver) this past summer as both of those projects are not only beautiful, but also support great causes (see links below). As great as these two particular projects are, I am hopeful that that they are only the beginning and that we will continue to seek out and respond to similar opportunities in the future.

North Carolina State University: Floating Lab project for Durham Public Schools
About Durham Public Schools HUB Farm:

University of Colorado Denver: HOZHO House, DesignBuildBLUFF
About DesignBuildBLUFF:

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Gold Medal for Metal Stadiums

We’re a little less than two weeks away from the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, and I must admit, I’ve caught a bit of Olympic fever. I’m getting updates on my phone, I’ve got my DVR set to record my favorite events, and I have a countdown to the opening ceremony running on my desktop. (As of this post, we have 10 days, 1 hour, 39 minutes, and 40 seconds to go!)

Sochi Stadium, courtesy of

Aside from the Olympic events and the incredible athletic prowess displayed by the competitors, one of my favorite parts of the Olympics is the stadium, or stadiums, since the Games usually require multiple. Most host cities end up building additional stadiums and venues, and they have yet to disappoint. They’re always beautiful architectural achievements, works of art really. From the first Olympics in Athens to Games within the last decade, the stadiums steal the show, for me anyway.

We’ve got our share of beautiful Olympic stadiums here in the States, too. The Weber County Ice Sheet in Ogden, Utah was constructed for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games. It served as a venue for curling matches, and since Ogden is only about half an hour outside Salt Lake City, it was an effective answer to the question of stadium space. The Ice Sheet continues to be an immense asset to the town of Ogden and has even had a Sports Complex added to it, serving as an athletic facility for both Weber County and the local college, Weber State University.

The Weber County Sports Complex
Ogden, Utah

The Sports Complex addition features nearly 22,000 square feet of MBCI’s 7.2 Panel, an exposed fastening roof and wall panel, and 3,000 square feet of flat sheet panels. The combination of these panels achieves a sleek, industrial presentation – perfect for an athletic center. The color selected for both the 7.2 Panels and the flat sheets is Silver Metallic, further adding to the building’s streamlined appearance.

Whether they’re in Athens, Salt Lake City, or Russia, the Olympics are always worth watching. Everyone has that one thing they love about the Olympic Games. It might be the Opening Ceremony, the actual competitions themselves, or if you’re like me, the breathtaking environments in which they all take place. Whatever it may be, we all have one common goal – bringing home the Gold. Good luck, Team USA!

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