Project developer Cyrela asked the design/engineering firm Clamom to determine the best way to build the composite overlays for the balcony bottoms and 16 J-shaped forms that create a visual link between every other floor. Concrete would have required additional structural support, and aluminum composite materials would have required too many pieces, making it difficult to achieve the continuous, flowing lines that Cyrela wanted.

So, Clamom contacted Gatron, a composite manufacturer with experience in wind power, transportation, agriculture and other industries.

“The challenge was to be able to manufacture a piece with a sinuous design that was, at the same time, lightweight, weather resistant, with high dimensional stability, a minimum number of amendments [connections] and perfectly aligned to the balconies,” says Jean Zolet, executive director at Gatron. The maximum tolerance gap was 2 millimeters.

“Cyrela sent us the 3D drawings, and we worked together with them to adjust the drawings so that it was possible to produce the composite parts,” he adds. Gatron manufactured 47 molds to manufacture the balcony covers and the J-shape forms – each with a distinct geometry – using chopped strand fiberglass mats and a resin that met the required flammability standards. The forms were made using an infusion molding process.

The company produced 755 pieces, all with an automotive Class A finish. The largest piece was approximately 19.6 feet long, 1 foot wide and 13 feet high. The other pieces averaged 26.2 x 1.6 x 1.8 feet. Gatron produced an average of 20 pieces per day, which were then attached to the building using a special metallic fastening system that was embedded in the composite during molding.

Zolet says everyone involved in the project was pleased with the aesthetics and the performance of the composite components.

“We understand that the success of this project will bring new business, and we continue to work hard to close new business in this market,” he says. “We believe that in the next five years we will see a significant increase in the architectural market.” 

Project: Residential home

Location: Berkeley Hills, Calif.

Composite components: CFRP pedestrian bridge

A homeowner in northern California had a seemingly simple request: He wanted a walkway from the house’s back deck to the garage. But a deep gully stood between the two. Since there was no simple way to employ heavy construction equipment in the residential neighborhood, the walkway’s components had to be lightweight enough to be carried through the house by the installation crew. A CFRP bridge was the solution.