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Special Projects Team Helps Address Architecture’s Ever-Evolving Design Complexities

Architecture is a fluid environment where design constantly changes, whether using new materials or the visual discipline itself. Architects, by nature, are continually challenging their design visions, and ultimately projects are becoming increasingly complex. A modern fabricator should be able to anticipate and react to these design trends and assist the architect in pursuing their vision.

Special Projects Team, CEI Materials, Manchester, Michigan

Jeff Henry, CEO of CEI Materials, says, “We need to constantly monitor design trends and address them with fabrication solutions that enhance the architect's vision rather than impede it.” He added, “Although we have built a robust design department here at CEI Materials, it was also necessary for us to create a Special Projects team that explicitly addressed these ever-evolving complex design trends and issues.”

The Special Projects team at CEI Materials can work at various levels. For instance, the team can work collaboratively with estimating to ensure that a project can be achieved regardless of its complexity.  Through ongoing research and development, the team can assist various departments to create new fabrication techniques and specialized machine coding.

Special Projects Team, CEI Materials, Manchester, Michigan

Henry adds, “The team is instrumental with new product launches. With CLADLOK, our modular panel system (MPS), we can diversify the various panel cassette designs to make our facade product offering genuinely inventive.”

The makeup of the Special Projects team is essential and must contain team members with various backgrounds, especially with new and highly automated machinery. It is not only necessary to have design engineers involved in the process but also individuals that understand the capabilities of the machines and fully understand the outputs they are expected to achieve. Also, the team needs individuals that are technologically savvy regarding writing and coding innovative software programs that determine and maximize the most accurate machine outputs.

Special Projects Team, CEI Materials, Manchester, Michigan

At CEI Materials, the Special Projects team is responsible for problem-solving and looking at new, exciting, and creative designs that utilize trending materials. In addition, the team is tasked with spearheading the Research and Development efforts for design and materials.

Special Projects Team, CEI Materials, Manchester, Michigan

These complexities can be seen in CEI projects around the country—for instance, a project in Florida utilizing the CLADLOK MPS. The building had been designed in the rough shape of an egg. The special projects team had to design a trapezoid-shaped CLADLOK panel to achieve the rounded sloping edge of the building.

Special Projects Team, CEI Materials, Manchester, Michigan
Another project utilizing the CLADLOK MPS was the Converse County Joint Justice Center in Wyoming. A heavier metal, the specified zinc material has a different rigidity, requiring specialized programming for the cutting and bending of the material on the machines.

The panels on this project were also tapered; therefore, extra attention had to be placed on the different face depth dimensions of the panels. The project also contained a nonstandard joint width which, again, required unique modifications.

Special Projects Team, CEI Materials, Manchester, Michigan

Each project demonstrated that architectural design is never standard. And that the modern fabricator has to be willing to invest not only in the latest equipment but also in having the specialized staff necessary to meet architectural design challenges.


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