Charleston student building makes history

Fiber cement panels line the façade of this student housing building in Charleston, South Carolina. Photos courtesy Nichiha
Fiber cement panels line the façade of this student housing building in Charleston, South Carolina. Photos courtesy Nichiha

Maintaining a historical aesthetic while providing good longevity were the main requirements behind the design of a student housing project in Charleston, South Carolina.

Located in the city’s downtown area, 400 Meeting Street Apartments presented its project team code and design challenges, which were largely dictated by the Charleston Board of Architectural Review (BAR).

To achieve an acceptable aesthetic that would fit with the historical architecture of other structures in the area, the team turned to proprietary fiber cement panels, which are a viable option for projects requiring durable materials and operating on tight budgets.

According to Stuart Barber, project architect for Charleston-based McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture, explanation regarding the benefits of these panels was required on the part of the architectural review board, which was unfamiliar with the material as an effective and cost-efficient alternative to wood siding.

Although historic preservation was first and foremost, neighboring buildings were also of new construction, which helped in the design flexibility of this project. Barber said the fact the project was a student housing building also lent itself to more design flexibility.

The use of fiber cement helped meet the area’s historic preservation needs.
The use of fiber cement helped meet the area’s historic preservation needs.

To enhance the building’s contemporary architecture, the project team chose three shades of gray for the wall panels—50 percent of one color, 25 percent of another, and 25 percent of the third color—and arranged them like a checkerboard to cover 2137 m2 (23,000 sf) of the façade.

At the time of installation, this area of South Carolina experienced a large amount of rain. Further, the state’s damp environment made the building’s wood construction shift, as is often the case with wood-built structures in this region. As such, the shift affected panel installation, since the walls were no longer level. To accommodate this challenge, the panels’ manufacturer suggested the use of shims to level the walls.

Leave a Comment

2 comments on “Charleston student building makes history”

  1. Where is the rest of the story? A building “shifting” sounds like a real concern and we were just left hanging. Shims don’t solve a “shifting building.” As a veteran builder, designer and specifier I find this story rather amateurish for such a publication as “The Construction Specifier.” The quotes stated certainly can’t be so: “explanation regarding the benefits of these panels was required on the part of the architectural review board, which was unfamiliar with the material as an effective and cost-efficient alternative to wood siding”. Fiber cement panels have been around for eons and anyone sitting on an architectural review board should be familiar with this product. Historical preservation was used out of context as the building is clearly contemporary. I would hope the BAR is composed of experienced design and construction professionals in such a great city as Charleston. The writer of this article is clearly not experienced enough in this field to even use jargon in context. I would expect this from BHG and HGTV but not “The Construction Specifier.”

  2. I agree that the article was not well written since the modern style is not classic Charleston. The article should have mentioned whether any special rain screed was provided behind the fiber cement siding. If this is a new building why would shims be required to start with, and if the architect felt wood studs would not be straight enough to maintain a clean finish then maybe he or she should think about using metal studs.

Leave a Comment

Comments

Your email address will not be published.