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  • Writer's pictureHighline Steel Systems


Updated: Jun 8, 2018

Perforated metal offers many design options, easy installation

When architects first started designing parking garages, many looked like big concrete boxes. Over the years, and as design styles evolved, many communities decided that while they needed parking garages, they didn’t necessarily want the buildings to look like a parking garage. Architects turned to perforated metal to disguise parking garages and create a facility with a unique and dynamic aesthetic.

Perforated metal is an extremely versatile product that offers design flexibility, durability and ease of installation. “You can change the hole shape, the hole pattern, the spacing, the open area, you can do images,” says Damon Henrickson, director of marketing at Accurate Perforating Co. Inc., Chicago. “You can do so much to the perforated metal that it can match the design aesthetic that you’re looking for.”

“Perforated metal offers a plethora of looks and finishes with a variety of hole sizes, designer options, corrugations and custom patterns that can be combined with other services such as anodizing, powder coating and durable paints,” explains John Farley, chief operating officer at McNichols Co., Tampa, Fla. “It offers a unique and long-lasting look to parking structures.”

Functional Aesthetics

Perforated metal gives a parking garage a dynamic aesthetic so it doesn’t appear as a plain, concrete box. Shawn Bowman, CSI, national director of sales and marketing at DAMS Inc.–D. Architectural Metal Solutions Inc., Alsip, Ill., says the architects they work with tend to design in a way that conceals or distracts from the box-like nature of most parking structures.

“Perforated panel systems can offer some unique design choices,” he says. “Custom patterns and shapes can not only distract the eye when viewed from the exterior, but can offer shading and interesting light dynamics within the structure. In addition, a decorative perforated panel system can often cover more visible square footage at a lower price point for the owner, yielding more look for less cost.”

Farley notes that perforated metal offers a wide range of options for individual projects. “Whether it’s material options, open area or hole sizes, they all impact the appearance of the project,” he says. “And because of the hundred of options available, architects can customize the look. For example, you can do different looks with corrugations, custom patterns or anodize. Perforated metal can give a lot of different looks and feels.”

In addition to creating unique façades that conceals cars, perforated metal allows for the required airflow throughout parking garages. During the day, a perforated metal façade allows light into the parking garage, while at night it blocks the cars’ headlights. “Perforated metal allows the building to still be naturally vented, yet protecting the vehicles and pedestrians from the weather and sunlight,” says Steve Kotecki, marketing at Hendrick Manufacturing, Elgin, Ill.

He goes on to say that one of the advantages of perforated metal is it allows visibility through the pattern, while not allowing direct sunlight to hit the building. “This allows for less fluctuation in temperature throughout the day. Which in turn is less strenuous on the heating and cooling systems and uses less energy to maintain a comfortable environment.”

Open Area

Kotecki says most parking garage designs require a minimum of 50 percent open area to be naturally ventilated. “Anything below that will result in mechanically vented systems, which raise the price of the project,” he explains. “Most times, there are other open areas not being covered by the perforated panels, which will help offset this number. Then we are able to lower our open area in the perforated panels, which will give us more flexibility in our design.”

Figuring out the open area is a mathematical calculation. “You have hole size versus stagger distance, which based on those two components give you a percent open area,” explains Mike Beck, sales engineer at Accurate Perforating. “You can have a 40 percent open area with a 1/8-inch hole, or you can have 40 percent open area with a 1-inch hole. The difference being, the larger the hole, you have a different [visual] effect. Or, the smaller the hole, you can have a different [visual] effect. The open area can be the same with various hole sizes, but the effect of how that visually appears can be much different.”

The open area also affects the wind diffusion. “From a static airflow, you can get a natural transition of air at 40 percent, if it’s a 40 percent open pattern, no matter what the hole size,” Henrickson adds. “But if you have a strong wind that’s hitting it, you’ll get much greater wind diffusion with a smaller hole than a larger hole. Either one will diffuse the wind in a vary dramatic way, so the inside area isn’t getting pummeled with wind like the outside area.”

Installation Tips

Installing perforated metal panels begins with the installation of the framing, which consists of slip connections and dead load connections. “The slip connections allow for individual floor movement within the structure, while the dead load connections hold the framing tight to the building,” Kotecki explains. “This means the connection anchor cannot be tightened down to the point where they don’t allow movement.”

Also important, Bowman adds, is making sure that the perforated panel system can accommodate the live loads and movement from vehicle and pedestrians that a parking garage can experience. And, since many garages have ramps, he goes on to say that there are often openings that are not straight or level. “Having a system to span unique opening shapes can reduce headaches on-site,” he says.

Once the framing is complete, the installer will install the perforated metal panels by following the installation details and guidelines in the architectural shop drawings supplied by the manufacturer. Kotecki recommends using solid stainless steel hardware with rubber washers. “The solid stainless steel fasteners allow for a more stable connection without being affected by the weather and the rubber washers allow for the panels to move due to thermal expansion,” he says. “Again, these fasteners are tightened to a certain spec to allow the panels to expand and contract throughout the day.”

A washer is necessary to prevent a reaction between dissimilar metals in the panel and fasteners. “If you have an aluminum panel and you want to use a stainless steel fastener, you have to put a neoprene, or plastic, washer between them to keep any reaction between the two dissimilar metals from occurring,” Beck explains.

Also when selecting fasteners, Bowman says it is important to consider their depth so they do not conflict with the concrete reinforcement. Most perforated metal panels can be installed with standard electric hand tools such as drills, impact guns and levels. Depending on the size and weight of the perforated panels, a crane or cherry picker may be required to raise the panels to elevation for installation. “We strive to create products that minimize the size of the installation crew needed, which saves the installer and customer money,” adds Kotecki.

Unlimited Options

Perforated metal panels offer an endless choice of hole patterns, sizes, shapes and finishes. Along with panel forming and corrugating, Kotecki notes that no two perforated metal garages will look alike. And, as Bowman says, using a unitized and ready-to-install system can save time and money in the field.

With manufacturers' capabilities today, and the flexibility of perforated metal, Henrickson notes that parking garages don’t have to be just a gray box. “Communities don’t want a gray metal box that’s covering a parking garage,” he says. “They want something that’s going to blend in with its environment. It could be an image that brands the neighborhood. It could be a parking garage façade that blends in the environment. You can change the colors of the panels, you can change the size of them, you can put images on them, you can layer them, do different hole patterns, it’s pretty flexible and your options are pretty much unlimited.”

To explore ways to better work with steel building contractors so they can better serve you during this unpredictable period, contact Highline Steel Systems.

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