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The form and function of an architectural ‘sail’

Features | November 1, 2013 | By:

Iconic Newport Beach Civic Center designed with expanded PTFE

The city of Newport Beach is one of the most attractive communities on the west coast. Its beaches, peninsulas and islands host a bustling residential community and is a popular tourist destination. The community is sectioned into “villages,” each full of amenities, and the city limits contain the largest recreational harbor on the west coast with a variety of arts and cultural institutions.

Yet until this year, Newport Beach’s own City Hall reflected none of this beauty or vibrancy. For a number of years, the city, which encourages green building, operated out of an obsolete, sprawling building that failed to meet seismic safety and ADA standards. Four buildings and three office trailers with elements dating back to 1947 comprised the site and were difficult to navigate and utilize.

In 2008, citizens of Newport Beach approved a measure that called for a City in the Park. The measure called for more than a new city hall building; it called for a Civic Center as well as 12 acres of park space for trails, playgrounds, picnic areas and the community’s first dog park. Plans also included a library expansion, a 450-space parking garage and a two-acre “civic green.” The civic green is a space that connects the library, City Hall, parking structure and the park and serves as a gathering place for community events.

Completed in May 2013, the new 17-acre Newport Beach Civic Center and Park complex now matches the surrounding community’s coastal lifestyle, beauty and commitment to sustainability, thanks to its beautiful and functional design.

The centerpiece of the Civic Center is the new two-story City Hall building and adjoining council chambers, designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson architects. The building’s roof forms a wave that provides shelter and overhangs that shade the sun for indoor occupants. Eyes are immediately drawn to the curved fabric sail façade made from SEFAR Architecture’s 4T20HF Tenara fabric, which envelops the adjoining double-height council chambers. The shade sail provides a clean, modern and striking aesthetic and serves as the preeminent design feature of the complex.

The sail’s fabric is woven from PTFE yarn and coated with PTFE. This composition is unique in that it allows four times the light translucency of traditional PTFE-coated materials and is highly resistant to blemishing and degradation.

Tenara fabric transmits high amounts of light required for today’s architects to increase daylight without glare or heat. Its translucent expanded PTFE scrim is made of PTFE, which means the polymer is inherent in the material. This unique technology, exclusive to SEFAR Architecture, of PTFE yarn coated with PTFE surpasses other materials of its kind. In addition, it is ASTM E84–Class A fire-rated.

The new LEED Silver-certified City Hall epitomizes the city’s identity as a sustainable community. The expanded PTFE fabric facade allows for up to 40% visual light translucency, making the space feel more open while reducing solar heat gain into the building’s interior. Moreover, the fabric is free from potentially toxic plasticizers. A lack of plasticizers reduces environmental impact and provides sustainability through longevity.

In addition to the fabric façade, other sustainable features of City Hall include an advanced rainwater capture system, innovative climate controls, intelligent lighting, raised-floor HVAC systems and shading, operable windows, and venting to reduce utility costs between 13-24%*.

In terms of design, the City Hall now epitomizes the city’s identity as a waterfront community. The exterior of the building offers an elaborate, seaside resort-style look. When viewed through the fabric facade, the sheen of the chambers’ zinc cladding creates an effect reminiscent of light shimmering on the ocean.

One of the most important members of the project team at the Newport Beach Civic Center was Eide Industries Inc., the Cerritos, Calif.-based fabric designer and engineer. Eide worked with Bohlin Cywinski Jackson and SEFAR Architecture to ensure that the curved fabric sail façade was designed appropriately and installed seamlessly in what proved to be a difficult, ambitious tensile architecture application.

“Expanded PTFE fabric is flexible and robust, which made it very easy for us to complete the work in a timely manner.” says Erik Jarvie, sales engineer for Eide, the design engineer on the project. “The installation went off without a hitch. We were provided with all of the technical information and support we needed, ensuring that the ambitious facade look and perform as it should.”

Eide boasts more than 75 years of experience in fabric and metal architecture, with the factory, engineering, heavy equipment and skilled manpower to meet the requirements of the most difficult projects.

The Newport Beach Civic Center was built by the community for the community. When citizens voted to move forward on the measure that called for a City Hall in the Park, they voted on a scope of work that would completely rejuvenate the area, make it a gathering place, and make it worthy of the community it serves. Now that the long-overdue Newport Civic Center is complete, it is not only a visual icon in form but also a high-performing resource in function for residents and visitors of this gorgeous coastal city.

Peter Katcha is director of North American sales for SEFAR® Architecture.


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