ARCHITECTURAL: Styling Sheet Metal Into Bold Canopies

Multi-component systems at two retail grocery sites required attention to detail, careful coordination and a dedication to teamwork.

Liberty Sheet Metal uses aluminum composite material as a longer lasting and lower maintenance alternative to wood and stone for retail canopies.

Liberty Sheet Metal has evolved and grown with the expanding architectural sector, embracing the growing range of specialty products, a variety of finishes and demand for sheet metal that makes a statement. This was the case on a national retail grocer’s two Michigan sites that called for a multi-component cantilevered Mapes canopy system—with detailed specifications on a tight timeline.
Liberty’s architectural sheet metal projects are generally developer-driven, says Justin Becker, project manager and estimator. For this project, the general contractor had partnered with Liberty on previous projects, so the company was a natural fit when awarded the contract. 

“The client came with specific details on what was required, and it was very important to follow all of those,” Becker says. One of the critical specifications included a custom brand color. “We had to be sure all measurements and instructions were coordinated and cross-referenced, as well as gather all the dimensions and know how different sheet metal products tied in together.”
The back-to-back projects were a testament to Liberty’s teamwork, attention to detail and the company’s knowledge of the market’s architectural products. “Most jobs, you can do a shop drawing and start off with the field team, communicate in the beginning and then it’s on coast,” Becker relates. “This one, it was the daily details. And we planned for it nearly a year ahead of time.” 


A Combination of Components
“The metal world is evolving, and clients are liking aluminum composite material (ACM) and what it can do, so we are seeing a transition from wood, stone and finish carpentry into ACM on exteriors and interiors,” Becker says. 

Sustainability is one reason, and maintenance is another. “We can introduce aluminum products that look like other materials — whether it's an insulated panel with a tough stone look to it or an aluminum panel with a nice, woodgrain finish — and you’re getting sustainability and a great finish warranty,” he explains. “If you were to use real wood, your longevity is lower, and the owner is really looking at long-term maintenance. Some of these pieces are installed at high heights, where maintenance could be difficult.” 

The retail grocery sites called for several components: Stonewood architectural panels (compact laminate), an insulated backup system, furring and hat channels, concealed fastener corrugated panels with an insulation system, and Mapes canopies. 

Additionally, the projects required custom cart corrals that mimic the look of the canopies. The traditional steel-framed roof structures required specialty pieces such as 6-inch soffit panels. “We coordinated with other manufacturers to make that happen,” Becker says, emphasizing the level of organization necessary to complete these projects on time and on budget. 

Working in Concert 
The 95- and 45-foot-long Mapes canopies project 5 feet off the buildings. Specifically, the product is Mapes’ Super Lumideck all-extruded, pre-engineered canopy for high-load applications. They include cantilevered, custom-color fascia on soffit panels.

Becker explains, “There is a good amount of parts to the system, and being cantilevered, we needed outriggers or posts coming out of the building every 4 feet that attach to the structural steel,” he describes. “We had more than 100 holes for just one canopy that were drilled at ½-inch diameter and 12 inches long through tube steel into the building. Those were challenging to work through.” 
At one point, eight field team members worked on just the Mapes canopies. 

The products are fabricated by the manufacturer and delivered in parts to build on-site. “Once you know how to put them together, you get into a rhythm and understand the system’s nuances,” Becker says.

The field team worked in concert on the first building’s system and then applied what they learned onsite for the second location. “When you get to do something twice, you can work out the kinks, and that rarely happens in this business,” he points out. 


The depth of the canopy system was critical. “It ties into the Stonewood panel system, so the reveal on that was important,” Becker adds, relating that the sequence of installation was vital for insulation, furring and panels. 

When attaching the Mapes system, holes were drilled, and the piece was bolted in. “The drywall contractor had to wait for us, and overall there was a lot of on-site coordination with different contractors,” Becker relates. Sometimes, this was a drag on productivity. But it was necessary. 

The crew, shop and contractors were constantly reviewing architectural and shop drawings. “It took a lot of coordination between me, the shop that was fabricating the trims and custom components, working with different manufacturers, field superintendents, foremen and having all hands on deck to push to get this done,” Becker says. “It confirmed that there is no project we can’t tackle.”