9651 Hawkins Drive Manassas, Virginia 20109 Tel: (571) 292-5900

Signal House at Union Market

Previous Project Next Project
  • Masonry MaterialsHand-Set TerraCotta Rainscreen
  • LocationWashington, DC
  • General ContractorMoriarity & Associates
  • ArchitectGensler
  • Property OwnerCarr Properties

Project Overview

The Signal House project is a 10-story office building located in the Union Market District, of approximately 228,000 square feet.  The exterior façade incorporates Terra Cotta panel inlays, ornamental piers, spandrels, sills and soffits.    Although designed as a rainscreen system, this Terra Cotta project was far more focused on very small and/or narrow pieces to accent horizontal and vertical façade elements surrounding the window walls (see Figure 1), as opposed to large format, horizontal wall panels that make up traditional rainscreens.  For example, a typical pier on the project contains six (6) outside corners and two (2) inside corners; some outside corner piers contain eight (8) outside and four (4) inside corners (see Figure 2). 

Another example of challenging details were the corbelled “capitals” at the 5th, 7th, 9th and 11th floors of the corner piers, which are made up of seven (7) pieces with an average width of 5+ inches per piece (see Figure 3). The manufacturer (Shildan) designed an internal box support to allow the outermost piece to set at 11-inches beyond substrate, and a combination of pre-assembled and field installed units were utilized for installation access and to insure proper alignment. 

The piece sizes were also not typical, with varying widths dependent on their position within a pier or spandrel, and their alignments with adjacent window wall elements. As a result, this 10,000 square feet Terra Cotta installation required over 175 pages of shop drawing details, 39 unique section profiles and over 200 unique piece size/shapes (“piece marks”); in comparison, we have completed multiple 30,000 square foot terra cotta rainscreens with much fewer drawings and unique piece marks.   

Our field mechanics overcame numerous obstacles to successfully meet and exceed project expectations.  The pier design at several column locations required minimal space between terra cotta and substrate, leaving little to no room for in/out adjustments to account for substrate tolerances and waterproofing thicknesses, and field modifications and/or alternatives to the support members were required.  Some column pier situations required the terra cotta face to “grow” slightly to accommodate the substrate, which meant alignment/adjustment of all pier inside and outside corners accordingly.  Several of the pre-assembled units needed to be pulled apart, modified and re-assembled due to field conditions and factory issues.  Also, almost half of the spandrel/soffit detail tiles required the bottom connection clip locations to be channeled out in the back of panel, creating a blind connection and a very challenging pre-installation of the connection clips (see Figure 4). 

Calvert Masonry is very proud of our team of mechanics, field supervisors and project managers for overcoming all challenges to deliver a project of excellent quality and appearance, and we are proud to submit this project for a WBC Craftsmanship Award.