United Composites and the East Fishkill Project

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United Composites and the East Fishkill ProjectStenniTM Aggregate panel is lightweight, attractive and convenient

By Jim Tallia


Aesthetic requirements for a self-storage project led to the choice of a stone-finish aggregate panel.

The town of East Fishkill, N.Y., is a fast-growing community within commuting distance of New York City. People are finding the area attractive to live in, and property values are rising. The town just celebrated its 150th birthday. On the Fourth of July, the American flags are all out and waving. The community has a lot of civic pride.

As the community grows, so does the need for other facilities, including self-storage centers like the one built recently by Guardian Self-Storage. But when Guardian came to East Fishkill with its plans, the company encountered a town bylaw that states "no more metal buildings." And it isn't the only town imposing architectural restrictions on self-storage construction. The solution? StenniTM lightweight, attractive architectural-facade panels that combine the look of stone with the convenience of a panel system. The supplier? United Composites of Mount Bethel, Pa., and Inglewood, Ontario.

No More Metal?

Bob Klein is the chairman of the Architectural Review Board for the town of East Fishkill. He recognizes architectural aesthetics can be very subjective. "We've made a decision that, in our community, there will be no more metal buildings in certain areas," states Klein. "But that doesn't mean we won't look at alternatives."

The Architectural Review Board was established in the early 1980s to assist in ensuring an aesthetic-quality standard be maintained in the town. In the last four years, it has been given the power by the Town Council to exercise its mandate. No commercial or industrial building gets the go-ahead before the review board approves it.

The board's job is to review applications for construction. People bring forward their ideas and know up front what the town won't accept, so they come with aesthetically pleasing approaches. "Just as people are concerned about the environment, they realize part of the environment is the architecture," says Klein, a resident of East Fishkill for more than 25 years. "It's much nicer to live and shop in an attractive place than in an ugly one."

While originally seen as a restriction, the board's approval process is now appreciated by people attempting to build in the area, says Klein. "It's more of a collective activity. Everyone realizes these guidelines help to make our community more attractive--and more valuable. We're happy if people want to show us how their alternatives can work," says Klein. "The cladding is certainly a significant improvement over steel siding, aesthetically."

An Owner's Perspective

Kelley Redl-Hardisty is a partner and co-owner of Guardian's East Fishkill facility, which operates as a family-run business. Guardian, based in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., built a number of self-storage facilities that traditionally use metal siding. Redl-Hardisty chose an aggregate panel for the facade of the Fishkill project precisely because of the town's bylaw prohibiting the use of metal buildings.

She knew she would have to come up with a design that would please the town's board. Working with an architect and her contractor, she looked at different scenarios for the color and texture of available siding materials. In the end, they chose an aggregate panel that would fit the project's budget and design criteria. "The Stenni aggregate panel was recommended by our contractor," explains Redl-Hardisty. "Obviously, we considered cost, as well as the durability of the panel and its maintenance." She says that while they had not worked with this kind of panel before, the contractor was knowledgeable of the product. The material arrived on time and the project proceeded smoothly.

"The quality is great," says Redl-Hardisty. "We're very happy with the project. We think Stenni is a very attractive alternative to our regular metal buildings. We will definitely consider it for other self-storage projects in the future," she says.

About the Panel

Stenni aggregate panels are one of a series of architectural and industrial cladding products manufactured by United Composites. The company's other products include Stennex, a smooth aggregate panel; Excelclad (formerly Chemclad), a corrosion-resistant industrial siding; Exceliner, a moisture-proof protective panel; and Excelite, a translucent daylighting sheeting.

Stenni aggregate panels combine the attractiveness of natural stone with the convenience and low cost of a panel system. Natural stone aggregate is embedded in a reinforced polymer to produce a composite panel of tremendous durability and versatility. This particular type of architectural facade panel is lightweight, fire-resistant and durable, and can be easily installed over wood or metal framing, concrete, masonry units or even existing construction.

Panels are cut to length to minimize waste and field labor; however, they can be field cut if needed using a carbide or diamond-tip saw blade. They are attached to the building with special color-matched fasteners so the screws become almost invisible. Aggregate panels come in different textures and colors, offering a wide variety of options, and they are adaptable for building interiors and exteriors.

Jody Clayton is vice-president of operations for Kearney, Mo.-based CTI Building Systems Inc., the contractor for the Guardian project. The company constructs self-storage facilities nationwide, and Clayton, who has been working with aggregate panel since 1995, is very familiar with Stenni. He says it was a natural fit for the Guardian project in East Fishkill. "This is an excellent alternative to metal siding," says Clayton. "We didn't have to change our footing design. It adapted to the framing easily."

Clayton sees zoning boards increasing their pressure for storage facilities to conform to aesthetic guidelines. "They want to see brick, stone and EIFS [exterior insulation and finish system]," says Clayton. He acknowledges there are lots of alternatives. "But Stenni is one of the best ones we've seen."

He says the aggregate panel method costs more than steel but is more cost-effective than EIFS--and a lot more durable. "It's a good-looking product that really holds up. We did a project a few years ago in Kansas City with this panel and it looks as good today as when we put it up," Clayton says.

Because of the way the panel is made--using high-quality raw materials in a continuous manufacturing process--it is impervious to attack from chemicals, mold or fungus and can be installed below grade. The reinforced composite structure of the panel gives it high-impact strength and abrasion resistance.

Ross Litteral, operations manager at CTI and the overseer of the East Fishkill project, says he liked the way his team could work with the panels on-site, and that it took his installers little time to get used to installing the panels. They ordered the panels from the manufacturer bundled "per building," which saved time when working on the installation of the self-storage complex.

Because Stenni does not use a wet application system, installers could work during the cold weather. Litteral explains that although they were cutting and installing the panels in February, their workers had no difficulty handling the material. "It attaches well, and the stone gives it an attractive appearance," he says. CTI has plans to use the product again on a nearby project.

Durability and good looks are definitely factors in what tenants seek in a self-storage facility. "The stone panel not only has a nice look," says CTI's Clayton, "it gives the whole facility a look of solid security." If a self-storage project calls for a solution that's attractive enough to meet the town's needs and secure enough to meet the needs of self-storage tenants, United Composite's aggregate panels provide a winning combination.

Jim Tallia is general manager of United Composites, manufacturer of StenniTM and StennexTM aggregate panels for architectural facades and siding. For more information, call 800.933.8700; visit www.unitedcomposites.com; or contact Mr. Tallia directly at jtallia@vp.com.

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