Architects in Chicago rely on Tuschall Engineering to keep them up to speed on the hottest trends in metal panels.
OPERATING IN ONE of the United States’ most architecturally driven cities takes vast experience and an eye for the next best material that will be in demand. Jim Tuschall has seen it all as the second generation at the helm of Tuschall Engineering Inc. in the Chicago suburbs, and he is the go-to person for architects of a variety of projects looking to stand out in a city with high expectations for design.
“I want our company to be the architects’ resource for metal panels,” says Tuschall, who took over the family business in the early 1990s. “We’re primarily installers, but we do bring different products and systems to architects as we travel quite a bit throughout Europe to look at their markets and materials.”
Tuschall’s father, John R. Tuschall, launched the family business in 1937, originally performing heating and air conditioning work throughout the Chicago area. He transitioned into decking and siding in the late 1950s and early ’60s, eventually dropping heating and air conditioning in the late ’60s.
Tuschall Engineering then began working on industrial parks that required insulated metal wall panels, which since has evolved into the installation of high-end natural metals and specialty products. The company is adept at installing metal cladding on a variety of structures, including universities, high-end residences and high rises throughout Chicago and its surrounding suburbs.
Designing to Demand
A major trend in today’s industry is perforated metal panels, which Tuschall says is extremely popular. These panels are particularly well-suited for parking garages as architects and developers are always on the lookout for new ways to gussy up an otherwise bland structure.
“The orientation of most panels has always been vertical, then the trend went to horizontal, and now we’re back to vertical installations,” Tuschall says. “Some architects like to see panels skewed or on an angle, as long as it is something totally unique.
“It’s just an adaptation, so we have to do things a little differently,” Tuschall adds. “The whole staff is very open-minded about solving challenges we face with what architects want to do.”
As for material composites, Tuschall says zinc panels are in demand, as well.
With countless mandates for natural, recyclable and maintenance- free products, zinc is an affordable alternative to copper, which offers many of the same attributes.
“In Europe, zinc has been used for over 200 years,” Tuschall says. “In Russia, zinc has been around for 100 years or more. Zinc is somewhat less expensive than copper, so it is being utilized more than ever in the United States today.”
The Zenith of Zinc
One such project that utilized zinc in this manner is a residence in Chicago’s famed Lincoln Park neighborhood. According to Tuschall, the entire home was designed in glass and structural steel, and the architect wanted to wrap steel elements in zinc.
“We came up with a way to make that happen, make it stay in place and make it attractive,” Tuschall says.
It was far from easy, however, as Tuschall Engineering hadn’t applied zinc to structure steel in shapes previously. Tuschall says his company – which is credited for zinc cladding on the columns and sunscreens of the home as well as the side louvers, according to Architectural Record magazine – took extra care during the mockup stage of the project to make sure everything fit exactly.
“This called for a lot of building preps and seeing what worked and what didn’t work,” Tuschall says. “We had to determine how to attach it and had to build some new extrusion pieces, which we designed on our own for the project. There is a lot of design in the nature of the attachment behind all the zinc.”
The mockup stage of the project eliminated all surprises for Tuschall Engineering, making installation as simple as possible once crews arrived on
the job site.
“Once we started the project, pretty much everything flowed very smoothly,” Tuschall says. “We did build small models of everything, which took all the guesswork out of the construction portion.” As Tuschall has learned countless times over the course of his four decades in the business, there is no getting around an architect’s demand for a design. The Lincoln Park residence proved once again that Tuschall Engineering is up to any and all challenges.
“When the architects want to do something, and you tell them it hasn’t been done before, you have to find a way to do it,” he says. “This is a time not to be shy or afraid of creating new techniques.”
Tuschall understands what it takes to grow a company organically, so Tuschall Engineering is in a slow, steady growth mode as it looks for new types of specialty work to undertake.