Founded in 1823, the academic program at Union University has been ranked “One of the top tier institutions in the Southern Region” by U.S. News & World Report for the past 19 years. Dedicated to an “Excellence-driven, Christ-centered, people-focused, and future-directed" curriculum, the Jackson, Tenn-based institution has spent nearly $120 million on campus facilities within the past decade alone.

Among these projects was the design and build of a new three-story, 53,616-square-foot academic center featuring expanded library holdings, study and meeting rooms, administration offices and archives. Designed by TLM Associates with H&M Construction as the lead contractor, the new library named “The Logos,” or Greek for “the word,” doubled the size of the college’s previous library and now serves as a state-of-the-art resource for the college’s 21st century academic community.

“Our goal was to blend the elegance of collegiate Georgian architecture with the iconic look of the old south,” says Frank Wagster, the project’s senior architect and a partner at TLM. ”For the library, we replicated the design of a classic southern-style mansion with majestic white columns. Red brick and bright white trim envelope the building. Numerous large windows permeate the structure to provide an abundance of external lighting and sense of openness. And on top, a large 58 ft. wide and 33 ft. tall dome with smaller 10 ft. diameter dome above centers the entire project at a 72-degree angle that can be seen for miles around.

“In fact, the dome was the centerpiece of the entire project. We spent months searching for the right materials. We knew we needed a stainless steel outer core that wouldn’t corrode and offered the necessary protection from high-winds and severe storms. The metal also had to be malleable-enough for shaping to the dome’s curvature. Plus, we definitely did not want the surface to have that shiny, reflective look of most metals or even a chrome demeanor. Painting the dome was certainly something we didn’t even want to consider. We were driven to design and build something that would look magnificent for the next 100 years. It was a true real challenge finding the proper materials.”

After researching the design and construction of numerous dome structures found both domestically and internationally, TLM learned of a relatively new stainless steel roofing product recently introduced to the U.S. marketplace. Roofinox, a leading manufacturer of architectural stainless steel in Europe, began supplying the American building industry with Terne-coated steel products after the only other domestic manufacturer of this product left the market several years ago.

Terne products are specifically-produced by Roofinox to ensure long-term sustainability and corrosion-resistance for wall-cladding, flashing, rain ware, interior design and virtually all forms of roofing applications. This also includes combining superb mechanical and surface properties with an architecturally distinctive matt finish for roofing and roll-forming.

Originally developed to withstand the harsh climatic conditions found in Switzerland and Austria, Tin-plated Terne is also ideal for applications ranging from rural, urban and light industrial areas to historic and commercial sites and extreme coastal environments. Consisting of a 100 percent layer of tin covering a base of either a 439 or 316L stainless steel, these products are also 100 percent recyclable and 20 percent more malleable than comparable stainless steel roofing systems. Another extremely key benefit to TLM and Union University was Terne’s characteristic change to an elegant matt grey patina after about a year-long ongoing exposure to the elements.   

“We knew exactly what TLM and the university wanted to achieve, but wasn’t immediately sure how to make it happen,” explains Erno Ovari of Fine Metal Roof Tech in Murray, Utah. “Many stainless steel shingles are too brittle for a project like this. However, as we increasingly learned about Tin-plated Terne we found it had the very characteristics that we needed to complete the dome in spectacular fashion. It’s softer than many forms of stainless steel making it easier to bend, stretch, fold and shrink around corners and other architectural details. But rigid enough to provide a high level of protection against the wet, muggy Tennessee weather and turbulent high winds that often accompany tornadoes.”

With the selection of Tin-plated Terne finalized, the construction of the library’s dome was performed in four sections described by Ovari as “old world.” Each of the 16” x 16” were interlocked at a 72 degree angle to withstand wind uplift and ensure longevity on tall building tops. In fact, there are still many turrets, domes and large roofs constructed with this roofing technique 800 to 900 years ago in Europe that are still standing.

“Both domes look magnificent,” offers Wagster. “Everyone is thrilled with the results. The Tin-plated Terne provided the exact look we wanted. Within about a year of installation, the stainless steel turned a very elegant shade of grey to place a dramatic centerpiece atop of the entire project.”

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