GSM installed 36 panels on two walls at the hotel parking facility.
GSM installed 36 panels on two walls at the hotel parking facility.

Sail-Shaped Panels Transform Modest Structure into a Graceful Landmark

General Sheet Metal transformed a modest structure in Portland, Oregon, into an eye-catching landmark.

"The "before" and "after" picture sequence traditionally found in magazine ads certainly applies here to this Portland project. SMACNA member General Sheet Metal recently brought that to life by transforming an unassuming structure in Portland, Oregon, into an attractive landmark appreciated by residents and visitors alike. And they are contributing to the city’s building boom along the way.

In the past, General Sheet Metal (GSM), based in Clackamas, Oregon, might not have bid on a parking facility project. However, now, with expanded equipment, craftspersons, and prefabrication capacity, GSM bid on and won the contract to install 36 graceful perforated panels on two exterior walls at a parking facility for the new Hyatt Regency Hotel in Portland.

The installed panels, which look like sails, have created an eye-catching sight in the city, which is highly visible to Portland visitors and residents, including GSM employees.

“This garage is across from our convention center, next to the light rail line, and it is seen by a lot of people,” said Danny Knudsen, GSM’s architectural production manager. “It's great to drive by and say, 'Hey, we did that.'”

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Each sail is 48 feet high by 7-1/2 feet wide.

The Hyatt parking garage turned out to be a beautiful project in other ways for GSM. It demonstrated that the company can be successful with architectural projects that demand significant prefabrication, especially if the jobsite does not have the space for fabrication in the field.

“We are looking at fabrication in a way where we do as much as we can in-house and ship to the jobsite,” Knudsen explained.

“Moving the labor from the field to the shop allowed us to be more efficient and accurate, thus leading to large cost and time savings,” Knudsen added. “With this prefab mindset, we reduced field hours, had better quality assurance and quality control and a more consistent product. Field conditions and site access have always been a major cost impact to the general contractor and to the subcontractors.”

GSM recently hired Knudsen to “drive the lean process.” He said their new $1 million Mitsubishi 4000K fiber laser cutting machine was a big asset to the parking garage project – allowing the fabrication team to cut pre-painted materials into 36 sails, each 48 feet tall and 7-1/2 feet wide.

The in-house fabrication process involved laser cutting all pre-perforated rectangle aluminum sheets to the determined shape per design screen. GSM then laser cut all materials, other than the structural square tubing. Frames were welded to shape after the galvanizing process, and the perforated screens were screwed into place on frames. With so much work completed in the shop, GSM staff only had to hang the sails in the field.

Knudsen said he hopes GSM can continue moving to more of a “manufacturing-feeding-construction” model, rather than a “construction-feeding-construction.”

Such a move will be beneficial in Portland, which is experiencing a construction boom. Contractors such as GSM often face challenges related to multiple projects underway at the same time. Jobsites typically have limited space for field fabrication – as was the case at the Hyatt parking garage.

“We found out that the general contractor had a very limited staging areas that could manage the size of the sails,” Knudsen said.

In addition, Knudsen and his GSM team were able to utilize a crane that was already on-site to install the panels. The average install per frame was one panel per hour.

GSW’s new shop equipment and prefabrication success will likely result in more work for GSM, as the “City of Roses” is undergoing a construction boom.

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