Rainscreen System

Case Study: Entrance to Luxury New York Condo Embellished With Custom Terra Cotta Rainscreen System

Flashing and Drainage

Rainscreen System

The Western Specialty Contractors Facades Division (Ridgefield, N.J.) has helped to transform the discreet entrance to one of Manhattan’s most luxurious condominium high-rise buildings into a functional work of art.

Rainscreen SystemLocated at E22nd Street in the Flatiron District is the entrance to an award-winning, modern high-rise featuring some of Manhattan’s most luxurious condominiums (prices start at $10.5 million for a 3-bedroom apartment and $72 million for the penthouse). Its private entrance was made up of concrete columns and spandrels with large windows covering the majority of the south elevation. Its lobby often features commissioned artwork.

Western Specialty Contractors was hired by Lend Lease Project Management and Construction to install a terra cotta rainscreen system on the entrance’s façade at a total cost of $1 million.

Work began with a laser survey of the concrete structure. Boston Valley Terra Cotta would use the survey to custom-design a terra cotta façade for the building. Multiple trips were required by Western crews to Boston Valley’s manufacturing plant in Buffalo, N.Y., for dimension verification and revisions to the shop drawings to ensure that the system would fit a variety of conditions.

Rainscreen SystemOnce the terra cotta rainscreen system design was finalized and its fabrication complete, Western crews began waterproofing/insulating the building’s entrance using a Sika Air-Vapor Barrier and Roxul mineral wood insulation, hung with aluminum pins. Western then installed the rainscreen metal girt and track support system to carry the terra cotta façade, then sealed the window mullions at the perimeters.

The challenging work for Western began with installation of the decorative, vertical terra cotta fins, which were supported with a steel tube spine system outboard of the wall tiles, some of which spanned over windows from floor to floor to create a “floating fin” effect. The terra cotta tiles were then set on the support system at columns, spandrels, window returns, soffits, floating fins and the entrance return. The runs spanned from the sidewalk level to the top of the structure, which is approximately 65 feet tall. Lastly, Western crews installed colored aluminum sills to complete the system.

Each terra cotta tile, which had a natural color finish, had to be meticulously installed by Western crews based on the architect’s specified color pattern. Multiple site visits with the architect were required to confirm the colors and final tile placement.