Sustainable Architectural Zinc

New Headquarters for Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in Phoenix, Arizona

by Daniel Nicely, managing director at VMZINC-US & Umicore Building Projects

From Architectural West Jan/Feb ’15

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in downtown Phoenix, Arizona, is one of the nation’s largest sheriff’s offices.  Led by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, more than 3,400 people in the office work to patrol and protect an immense 9,200-square-mile county, roughly the size of Massachusetts.  In 2011, construction began on a $92.5-million headquarters to accommodate the office’s continued growth and expansion.  Completed in March 2014, the new building accommodates the administration, 911 emergency call center, data center, and information technology unit.

         It was imperative for the building to represent the office’s strength and prowess within the community it serves, and that required a massive, eye-catching design.  To match these qualities, the architectural firm, Gabor Lorant Architects Inc., Phoenix, Arizona, designed a six-story, 132,000 sq.ft. headquarters building incorporating a modern and unique aesthetic.  Zinc was selected as the primary metal for the building’s exterior walls.

         The building’s façade is covered in 30,000 sq.ft. of perforated VMZ Composite panels from VMZINC® in QUARTZ-ZINC.  The pre-weathered gray patina has a matte finish that is reminiscent of mineral tones, hence the term QUARTZ-ZINC.  It is specially treated to provide the same color that will last for decades, and it does not need to be painted, as zinc naturally protects itself against the elements.  Because the headquarters has a flat substrate, without any curves, the VMZ Composite panels were an ideal and striking choice.  The perforations create a transparent, ventilated effect, which doubles as a shade to the Arizona sun.  Installed on a wall-mounted framework, the VMZ Composite panels are multilayered, made up of two sheets of zinc and thermo-glued on both sides of a fire rated core.  In addition, the Composite panels increase the panel flatness, especially since there are many perforations.  They allow for strong protection of the interior from the elements, while also adding a contemporary appearance.  Together, these features provide a bold civic presence that is compatible with adjacent buildings in downtown Phoenix.

         Because the center sought LEED® Gold certification, it needed to use materials that were 100% recyclable, such as zinc, for construction.  As the 24th most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, zinc exists naturally in air, water, and soil.  Zinc also surpasses most other metals in its environmentally friendly capabilities.  Architectural zinc, in particular, is fully recyclable, from construction scrap to end-of-use, which lowers the energy required for manufacturing.  Additionally, zinc develops a protective layer, called zinc hydroxy carbonate, which blocks moisture and chemicals from penetrating it.  If that protective layer is ever scratched, the hydroxy carbonate will reform over time, typically taking two to five years depending on the climate, making zinc naturally resistant to corrosion.  For utilizing zinc as a building material for this project, Gabor Lorant Architects Inc. received an Arizona Forward Environmental Award of Merit in the category of civic buildings and structures in 2014.

         The new Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office headquarters is a testament to how architectural zinc can be used to achieve an innovative, modern design that captures the client’s qualities and characteristics.  In addition to providing a striking aesthetic, the material also contributes to the building’s overall sustainability.

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