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Apartment Residents Live In Full Color With Gleaming Alucobond® Spectra Color-Shifting Cladding

© Mark Kempf
Project NameExo Apartments
LocationReston, VA
AlucobondSpectra Ocean
ArchitectsR2L: Architects, PLLC
General Contractor John Moriarty & Associates of Virginia, LLC
Fabricator/InstallerCustom Walls & Windows, Inc.
Photography© Mark Kempf Photography

Marketing materials for the Exo apartments – which feature a gleaming contemporary façade – encourage residents to “live in full color” in this 457-unit multi-family residential community that opened in July 2018. Located in Reston, Va., Exo residents live less than 25 miles from Washington, D.C.

Consisting of two identical 16-floor towers connected with a single-story reception-area link building, the 530,000-square foot Exo is clad in ALUCOBOND® PLUS aluminum composite material in the Spectra Ocean color-shifting finish by 3A Composites USA. The ALUCOBOND® Spectra was selected as a complementary building material to the Exo’s color-changing smart glass technology that adjusts window tint to allow optimal natural light in.

R2L: Architects, PLLC, of Washington, D.C., was tasked with designing Exo for Greystar as the first multi-family residential community in the United States to feature View Dynamic Glass by View, Inc., of Milpitas, Calif.

“Our design was driven by smart glass technology,” said Sacha Rosen, AIA, principal, R2L: Architects. “This was to be a world demonstration project, serving as the first all-residential building using View Dynamic Glass. Incorporating smart glass technology required an extensive design process.”

The pre-glazed windows utilize electrochromic technology, which requires that wiring be directed to each window for electrical control. (The windows are powered by a photo array on the building’s roof.)

Apartment residents can control the windows in their apartment through an app that lets in natural light while reducing glare, lowering energy costs and eliminating the need for shades or curtains. Apartment managers also have access to an overall building control for the windows.

To aid in this intricate window design, Custom Walls & Windows, Inc., of Jessup, Md., began work with general contractor John Moriarty & Associates of Virginia, LLC, based in Arlington, Va., and R2L: Architects in early 2017.

“It was Custom Walls & Windows’ suggestion to clad the building with ALUCOBOND® Spectra panels,” said Rosen. “The thought was: If the glass changes colors, why not use metal panels that change colors?”

The project features 150,000 square feet of 4mm ALUCOBOND® PLUS in the Spectra Ocean color-shifting finishing system. ALUCOBOND® Spectra colors allow architects to incorporate a unique, ever-changing color spectrum in the cladding of sophisticated building designs. ALUCOBOND® Spectra panels change colors as different wavelengths of light are reflected back to the audience, depending upon the viewing angle.

(ALUCOBOND® PLUS consists of two sheets of 0.020” aluminum thermobonded to a proprietary fire-resistant core and is manufactured in a standard 4mm thickness. ALUCOBOND® PLUS provides extraordinary flatness and rigidity, excellent formability, low weight and outstanding weather resistance. ALUCOBOND® PLUS wall panels have a flame-spread index of less than 25 and a smoke-developed index of less than 450 when tested in accordance with ASTM E 84, and have a Class A interior finish classification.)


“The color of the overall design was generated by the smart glass, so the cladding color had to look good with the glass,” according to Rosen, who said the smart-glass technology offers residents’ four tints ranging from clear to darkening shades of blue. “Custom Walls & Windows suggested the ALUCOBOND® Spectra Ocean color. The color was perfect, so there was no need to pursue custom colors.”

The Exo’s twin 16-story towers rise above a landscaped parking plinth featuring 646 parking spaces and are connected by a link building designed completely in smart glass. The building facades, according to an architect’s statement, are “modularized, designed to leverage efficiencies in fabrication and construction, while scattered balconies punctuate the elevations.”

While the box-like design of the residential towers may be straightforward, the color-changing building materials make them stand out, according to Rosen.

“There are so many new developments on the market in the Washington, D.C., area, you have to differentiate your offering,” said Rosen. “The Exo is very contemporary and different from everything else out there. We used the building materials to make it striking.”

Custom Walls & Windows worked in conjunction with John Moriarty & Associates of Virginia to fabricate and install the ALUCOBOND® Spectra Ocean panels.

“They wanted something special for this project, so we suggested ALUCOBOND® Spectra,” said Alex Bennefield, vice president, Custom Walls & Windows. “We needed a panel color that would complement the color of the electrochromic glass, which darkens four shades. So, we suggested the Spectra Ocean because it wouldn’t be a dramatic change in color from the windows.”

Approximately 16,000 ALUCOBOND® Spectra Ocean panels were fabricated and installed with a male/female interlocking system by Custom Walls & Windows.

“The ALUCOBOND® Spectra fabricates easily just like standard ALUCOBOND® panels,” said Bennefield.

Custom Walls & Windows designed a three-piece panel system with the glass and ALUCOBOND® for easier installation, according to Bennefield, who said special rigs were required for installers to move in and out of the balconies scattered on the façade.

“We used a swing on every floor to support equipment for all of the trades,” according to Bennefield, who said installation was completed two months ahead of schedule.

“The owners are very happy with the Spectra panels,” said Bennefield. “We’ve heard more comments about these panels than anything else on this project. The color shift really follows you.”

 “The Spectra looks fantastic,” said Rosen. “It’s even more intense than I had hoped.  It’s very striking and contemporary.  Often you have a vision for a design and then have to figure out how to make it a reality. It’s very rewarding as an architect to have access to a unique and special material like Spectra and to work with a contractor who knows how to use it.”  

The Exo is Targeted to Achieve LEED Gold Status

With the inclusion of sustainable building materials and techniques, including smart glass technology and recyclable ALUCOBOND® – which is manufactured with both post-manufacturing and post-consumer content – contributing LEED credits to building projects, the Exo is targeted to achieve LEED Gold Status.

Introduced in 1969, ALUCOBOND® is the original and world’s best-known aluminum composite material. ALUCOBOND® is manufactured in the United States in the Benton, Ky., plant of 3A Composites. The 3A Composites USA headquarters are based in Davidson, N.C. For more information about ALUCOBOND® ACM, call 1-800-626-3365, email info.usa@3AComposites.com or visit www.3ACompositesUSA.com.   


About 3A Composites

3A Composites has developed, manufactured and marketed high-quality aluminum composite panels, structural composite material, plastic sheets and lightweight foam boards for architecture, visual communication and the transport and industry markets since 1969.

3A Composites is part of the international 3A Composites Group, which belongs to the listed company Schweiter Technologies headquartered in Horgen, Switzerland. 3A Composites has approximately 4,400 employees worldwide. 3A Composites’ well-known brands ALUCOBOND®, DIBOND®, FOREX®/SINTRA®, GATOR®, KAPA®, FOME-COR®,ALUCORE®,AIREX® and BALTEK® are the category leaders in the markets served.

® ALUCOBOND is a registered trademark of 3A Composites USA.

© Mark Kempf Photography courtesy of 3A Composites USA

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