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Located in New York City’s South Street Seaport, Pier 17 anchors an extensive redevelopment project that is focused on transforming the historic Lower Manhattan neighborhood into a thriving cultural, retail and entertainment center. Yet, for FGIA members, PPG Industries and Spectrum Metal Finishing, the project is serving a secondary purpose as the proving ground for New York City’s first application of a special kind of powder coating in a challenging marine environment. [photo credit: Francis Zera]

The Challenges

As the firm selected to rehabilitate Pier 17, a once-thriving festival pavilion that had devolved into a dreary indoor mall, SHoP Architects had four essential demands for the metal coatings supplier.

  • The first was that, due to its location on the East River five miles from the Atlantic Ocean, the coating had to include a long-term warranty covering film integrity, chalk and color fade.
  • The second was that the metal coating must be solvent-free to help the project earn points toward LEED® certification for the exterior curtain wall components.
  • The third and fourth requirements were that the coatings applicator had to be certified by both the ISO (International Standards Organization) and the coatings manufacturer.

The Solution

To meet the first objective, Scott Moffatt, Market Manager, Building Products, suggested a powder topcoat, but only if it could be applied over a robust liquid primer.

“One-coat powder systems are increasingly popular and a good option for metal building components in normal building environments,” Moffatt said. “They are not a good choice for applications like those on Pier 17, which are vulnerable to failure because they are constantly exposed to moisture and salt-air. The only solution to achieving the warranty the architect required with a powder coating was to apply it as part of a two-coat system over a proven primer to optimize corrosion protection.”

photo credit: Francis Zera
photo credit: Francis Zera

To fulfill the rest of the demands, the company turned to Spectrum Metal Finishing, which in addition to being ISO-certified and a long-time PPG/CAP certified applicator through their Certified Applicator Program, is one of the few companies of its kind to operate liquid and powder coating lines in the same facility. This enabled the company to finish the job in turnkey fashion under one roof.

The company also worked extensively with the architect to develop a custom color for the aluminum curtain wall extrusions on Pier 17. Neil Chrisman, president of Spectrum, said the architect wanted mill-finished aluminum with an industrial look and a clear top coat.

“They could never really achieve that look and still get the adhesion and warranty they wanted, so [the company] came up with a silver color that looks like a weathered mill aluminum,” Chrisman said. “I can’t tell you how many different submittals they did, but they eventually got the look the architect wanted.”

Another unusual aspect of the Pier 17 project is the application of the coatings, which are designed primarily for exterior metals on more than 500 interior wall panels. They are visible through two stacked rows of 20-foot-tall light boxes that compose much of the building façade.

photo credit: Francis Zera
photo credit: Francis Zera

“[The company] developed this very unique stencil, basically a dot matrix pattern, to diffuse sunlight as it comes through the light boxes,” Chrisman explained. “We painted the metal panels with a silver-grey coating, then applied the stencil and painted them again with a bone-white coating. After the second coat dried, we peeled off the stencil.”

During the day, the sunlight coming through the light boxes strikes the dot pattern and diffuses. At night, the dot pattern helps disperse the spray of colors projected onto the building, giving the façade a bright, carnival-like appearance.

“Everything looks beautiful and there is no risk of the panels inside the glass chalking or fading from UV exposure because they are finished with PPG DURANAR® coatings,” Chrisman said. “The metal panels also eliminated the need for the expensive glass frits that were originally specified for the job, which was a significant cost savings.”

The company’s powder coatings are based on the same 70- percent polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) formulation as their liquid coatings. In addition to being environmentally friendly, the company’s powder coatings provide hard surfaces that are resistant to damage during fabrication, shipping, installation and use. When applied over a liquid primer, they are ideal for harsh seacoast and industrial environments.

Opened in the summer of 2018, Pier 17 is seen nationally every night as the waterfront broadcast studios for ESPN, the building’s first major tenant. Surrounded by a vast riverfront esplanade, the building’s rooftop also houses an open-air marketplace and concert venue with panoramic views of many New York landmarks.