Corporate Architecture & Fabrication

Cover of ISFA Countertops and Architectural Surfaces Magazine featuring ASST's thermoformed spiral staircase project
Photo of complex thermoformed spiral staircase fabricated by ASST

Photo by Chuck Choi Architectural Photography – click to enlarge

A Project WIth a Twist

Fabricator conquers complex commercial construction of KRION® solid surface stairway

By Andrew Dreves, ASID

Spiral staircases are certainly nothing new but fabricating an enormous one in solid surface with compound angles, well that is new. And that’s exactly the project that renowned architectural firm Payette had in mind for an atrium in the building that would connect both 75 and 125 Binney Street, in the heart of Boston, that when completed would be the home of Ariad Pharmaceuticals.

The design for the monumental stairs was inspired by the red spiraling spool of thread depicted in the Ariad Pharmaceuticals logo. However, the design was highly complex with two surface planes meeting along a rising curve (see Figure 1). The difficulty of fabricating the project was nearly as massive as the project itself, so much so that most fabricators wouldn’t even attempt it. However, Payette already knew a company that would be likely to take on the challenge.

Figure 1

Figure 1 – click to enlarge

The Architectural Firm

Payette was no stranger to complex projects. Although it is based in Boston, it has completed advanced architectural projects around the world.

The firm was originally most well known for the many hospital and healthcare facilities it designed centered on enhancing patient experiences. It created architecture with an intimate connection to the landscape coupled with an abundant use of color and natural light to help orient patients and visitors. Through the promotion of the same humanistic values and fundamental design approach, over time the firm broadened its focus to include high-technology buildings, bringing deep technical expertise, commitment to rigorous research and
dedication to beauty to a new class of projects. Today, the practice has advanced as an international architectural thought leader, providing planning and design services to leading institutions across the country and abroad.

And it is that reputation that led to Payette being selected to work on this project. Similarly, the high regard that fabrication company ASST, based in south central Pennsylvania, was held in based on the positive outcome of the previous work it had performed with Payette, was the motivating factor to bringing the fabricator onboard for this difficult project. ASST had previously worked with Payette on the Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital and so the architect was familiar with the well-developed thermoforming capabilities ASST possessed. While other fabricators were invited to bid on the project, ultimately it didn’t necessarily come down to price, but rather ASST was selected because of its thermoforming experience and clean safety record combined with its ability to provide an adequate bonding on a large complicated project such as this to reduce owner and general contractor risk.

The Fabricator

So who was this fabricator daring enough to take on such a difficult project? If you ask anyone familiar with ASST, they likely won’t be surprised that the company stepped up to the plate. ASST is an award-winning specialty surfaces fabricator and manufacturer. As an industry leader, it specializes in complex fabrications and complete Division 6 millwork and casework solutions for the healthcare industry.

However, its work spans a variety of markets beyond healthcare, such as the education, retail and corporate/public space arenas. Known for its innovative (and patented) thermoforming technologies and product designs, ASST takes on project challenges others avoid. It brings to the table a passion for excellence — to go beyond and to build what some initially thought was impossible. Since its founding in 1998, ASST has developed an impressive portfolio of successfully completed projects with high-profile contractors, architects, interior designers and end users.

The company’s headquarters encompass 52,000 sq. ft. and includes both offices and fabrication facilities, including a very large thermoforming workshop. Among the equipment at the disposal of the 31 employees of the company are three thermoforming ovens and two vacuum tables, as well as a 60-ton proprietary press and a vacuum press related to patented ASST technologies. It also has three CNC machines: one 5-axis KOMO CNC machine, one 3-axis KOMO CNC machine and one 3-axis Heian CNC machine. For cutting parts the company also has a Schelling panel saw. The shop is set up into typical “line work” areas for more common flat fabrication work, but also has various open workshop areas for custom projects.

It seems ASST was custom-made for this highly custom project. But once they had been selected for the work, the venture had to be realized.

The Process

The architectural team underwent many design variations, but the main design intent was for the stair to appear to be fabricated from continuous solid surface.

The Porcelanosa Group’s Krion solid surface material, a relative newcomer to the U.S. solid surface market, was chosen by the architects because of its excellent thermoforming capabilities. According to the manufacturer, Krion is a “new generation of solid surface” and has a unique proprietary blend of approximately 75 percent ATH to 25 percent resin. This makes the material easier to thermoform, according to the company, and also best ensures color consistency throughout each sheet. Of course, each manufacturer touts a variety of properties that make it stand out from the rest, but as we all know, beauty (or in this case thermoformability) is in the eye of the beholder.

One of the main complexities of the project, beyond its size, was a result of the stairs having two curved and rising surface planes with cut angles that, by nature, constantly changed as the material pieces were routed to the correct dimensions. So, before any actual fabrication work could be done, modeling was required. Once an initial design was put together, a mockup of one landing was built in the ASST shop to verify the geometry (see Figure 2). Once it was created, the design could then be tweaked according to the architects input, with regard to the lighting and tread termination locations, etc.

Figure 2

Figure 2 – click to enlarge

 

Figure 3

Figure 3 – click to enlarge

To improve the flow of information between the fabricators and architect, a co-location work arrangement was established on-site in Boston to speed up the final design process and to improve communication among team members. With everyone working in one location for two weeks, design revisions were realized faster and coordinated across disciplines (see Figure 3). The group utilized 3-D modeling extensively when it came to determining the aspects of the steel substructure, built by DeAngelis Iron Work, for the plywood support ribs (see Figure 4). When all was said and done, 80 hours of design work were required.

 

Figure 4

Figure 4 – click to enlarge

 

Then came the 2,000 hours of fabrication, which included 196 hours of CNC programming and run-time on the 5-axis KOMO machine. And once all of the parts were fabricated, glued up and sanded, the panels were numbered, labeled and prepared for shipping to the site in Boston for assembly. Unfortunately, though, this wasn’t the end of the challenges involved in the project. As is the case with Northeastern winters, Boston was hit by weekly blizzards during installation. The extreme cold temperatures delayed the schedule by four weeks, and Boston officials even declared a state of emergency at one point with mandatory traffic shutdowns preventing deliveries to the site.

In spite of the challenges and compressed schedule, in the end 215 sheets of ½-in.-thick Krion solid surface in “Fire Red” and “Snow White” were installed using z-clips and the project was completed (see Figure 5). The final result is nothing short of an amazing accomplishment for all involved, and is another spectacular project for Payette and ASST to proudly hang their hats on. The author would like to offer special thanks to Payette’s Gordon Grisinger and Hillary Barlow for their design vision, steel fabricator DeAngelis Iron Work and ASST’s team (in no particular order): Nick Buckley, Josh Cowden, Brian Magness, Bob Hannigan, Mike Henry, Jared Shearer, John Sulc and the entire ASST production team.

Figure 5

Figure 5 – click to enlarge

About the Author

Andrew Dreves, ASID, is the director of marketing and Products Workshop for ASST, 350 South St., McSherrystown, PA 17344; www.asst.com. He is responsible for strategic business development, marketing, branding and product design initiatives for the company and can be reached by email at andrewdreves@asst.com or by phone at (717) 630-1251 ext. 305.


Reception desk design trends

Reception desks are a hub of activity for most businesses. This is often the first interaction a current or potential customer has with a company and will likely contribute to his or her first impression of the organization. As a result, it is crucial that the front desk demonstrate the organizational skills and dedication to great customer service found at a business. To do this, the right combination of materials and design trends can be used. 

Hidden workspaces create streamlined reception desks
Too often, stacks of paper, appointment books, technology and coffee cups can stack up on a reception desk. Therefore, it's important to create a workspace that hides these typical workspace attributes without blocking an administrator or secretary's face from a customer's view. This means that the partition or scale of the desk should be high enough to create a barrier so all of these items are hidden from view, but not so high that the reception desk creates an impersonal space. According to the HOUZZ.com front desk trend's page, creating a shelf that overhangs the desk will block most people from looking directly at a potential eye sore, while providing them somewhere to use as a flat surface to write appointments down or use as a ledge to dig through a purse. 

Create an engaging space
What type of office is this reception desk serving? The interior design of a front desk can provide a potential or current customer with a more concrete opinion about the brand of a company. For example, a pediatrician's office may want to use bright primary colors to accent key features and attract the attention of children. In contrast, a law firm may find it better to use more modern earth tones and textured materials that give off a more serious vibe. 

Using strong, versatile materials
By using the right combination of materials, a reception desk can better demonstrate the personality of a brand and allow a company to artfully handle clients as they walk through the front door. At ASST, we understand the reception desk needs of a company. What may seem like a trivial detail in the greater scheme of an office design is actually a crucial component for ensuring customers are treated well and business is handled in a productive manner. 

SCULPTCOR® by ASST is a thermoformed architectural wall panel system that has already proven successful in a number of corporate environments. The wall panels are available in three standards patterns: Twist, wave and smooth, and in five standard colors, including: Pure white, cream, warm white, frozen white and white lotus. It is the ideal solution for crafting the ideal reception desk workspace. 


Selecting the right color or combination of hues for a corporate space is crucial for worker performance. The right color scheme can help decrease the stress felt in an environment and help create the right kind of office environment. While some people may believe the science behind picking colors is complicated, it truly is not and rests more on common sense and understanding that one color over another will incite a reaction. Colors work together to create an environment and are the foundation for a strong interior design. 

As a result, it is important to ensure that the materials being selected for a corporate office fit within the desired color spectrum. Often the designers and companies that offer fabricated materials for work spaces have already thought about the colors of the product they create and how those hues fit in with an office environment. 

The science of color
Surrounding an office with a softer color will produce a calming reaction and encourage workers to concentrate on tasks at hand. As a result, lighter colors are better for design studios, research and development space and other areas that do not require bursts of frantic energy. In contrast, spaces like gyms and common areas often will use bright blasts of accent colors because they are energizing. Because color can make or break a space, it's important for an interior designer to use the right combination of hues to both stimulate and relax workers. 

ASST solutions come in a variety of work-oriented colors
SCULPTCOR™ by ASST provides a patented thermoformed architectural wall panel system that is versatile and durable. A corporate office will benefit from the non-porous, durable, stain-resistant and easy-to-clean solid surface. The solution comes in five standard colors that are perfect for creating a relaxing environment in an office, where workers will be able to concentrate on tasks at hand. Panel reveals are available in either straight or curved frames in five standard colors: Pure white, cream, warm white, frozen white and white lotus. Additional colors and special panel sizes are available for those who ask. The wall panel sizes are 24"x64" nominally and are presently available in three standard patterns: Twist, Wave and Smooth. The largest uncut pressed panel size available is 29.5" x 72" Please contact ASST at 717.630.1251 x305 for architectural support or x307 for specific project estimating assistance. 


As the economy continues to improve, businesses are beginning to expand offices and redesign older corporate locations to meet new modern standards. Trends in office design and configuration are having an impact on commercial investments and changing how the world looks at the traditional corporate office. 

At ASST, we understand the changing needs of an office environment. A corporate location must meet the needs of many different people who have very different job descriptions and responsibilities, which means it must be designed as a versatile space. Our SCULPTCOR® solution is a patented thermoformed architectural wall panel system that is fabricated from a non-porous, durable and easy-to-clean surface. As a result, it is the ideal solution for an office environment because of its aesthetic qualities and functionality. 

Here are three office design trends impacting corporate locations and how SCULPTCOR® is applicable:

1) Shared private enclaves. Gone are the days of large private offices in every office environment. Instead, many more companies are organizing the creation of private enclaves or sections of the office for teams so that everyone can work together in a collaborative environment. One team is sectioned off in one area of the office, while others are likewise using private areas for their work. The SCULPTCOR® wall panel system can be used to section off these various alcoves for a comfortable and sophisticated look. 

2) Technology friendly. Mobile technologies and data wiring is crucial in any office environment. As we have seen over the past two decades, advances in technology occur every day and offices need to remain friendly to changing needs as the expansion of mobile devices in the workplace continues to thrive. In addition, all meeting areas should be outfitted with the appropriate support technologies to handle streaming video, conference calls, projections and wireless. 

3) Conversation areas. With the decrease in private office space being a key trend in design, there has been a rise in need for meeting rooms. Create organic conversation areas that are both comfortable and private so that business can be conducted without the hassle of struggling for a meeting room. SCULPTCOR® can help line the walls of these meeting rooms and provide a modern look to conference areas that will be used for a wide range of purposes. 


Office spaces are getting facelifts across the nation as building operators and businesses look to incorporate new materials for greater efficiency, durability and style. Retail Design Blog reported that many of the older factories and brick buildings present in mill communities or in older sections of cities are being renovated for office space. The large square footage of these structures provide architectural features of previous decades that make them unique and sought after. 

Diverse use of textured materials in office designs
Many designers are working to incorporate portions of the original building's features in office spaces. For example, concrete columns, steel-roof beams and brick accent walls are all style components of these modern spaces. The use of a wide variety of materials allows for greater texture to enter the design. The mixture of concrete, steel and wood creates warmth in the design and provides it with both modern efficiency and historic flare. 

The CREATIVE OFFICE! REPUBLIC is an office that was constructed last year to include wood and solid white walls with fun accent colors on the floors and walls of bright red and blue. The source reported that the structure was outfitted with a partition system so that workers could have a stable environment in which to conduct business. 

Invest in proven surface performance
Regardless of the design aesthetic an office is trying to achieve, there is a durable, stylish solution available to businesses. SCULPTCOR™ by ASST is a durable wall panel system with proven performance characteristics. The versatility of the material provides someone with the ability to achieve a unique design, which means various textures and hues are available to pick from. SCULPTCOR™ is a patented thermoformed architectural wall panel system. It is fabricated from a non-porous, durable, stain-resistant, and easy to clean solid surface. This provides an office with a wall unit that is both aesthetically pleasing and highly durable. 

The wall panel sizes are 24"x64" nominally and are currently available in three standard patterns: Twist, wave and smooth. Panel reveals can be specified as either straight or curved in five standard colors: Pure white, cream, warm white, frozen white and white lotus. The color selection available, combined with the various patterned options, really makes designing a multi-textured office space easy to attain. 

Please contact ASST at 717.630.1251 x305 for architectural support or x307 for specific project-estimating assistance.


As we learn more about the impact of interior design on health, architects, contractors and designers have been altering their projects. Contract Design Magazine reported that Americans on average spend 90 percent of their time indoors. As a result, it is crucial that these spaces are designed with our health in mind. There's a growing focus on promoting good health with proper design, which can include ensuring natural light is present in a space and the compositional use of healthy building products.

Incorporating natural light in office spaces
Various organizations, like the Illuminating Engineers Society of North America, have set a minimum level of footcandles appropriate for a work surface in an open office environment at 30 fc, with a maximum recommended level at 50 fc, according to the source. This standard is often considered the bare minimum by those who support healthy lighting practices. 

Light impacts human health and performance in four main mechanisms, according to Health Design Magazine, including:

  • Boosting performance on visual tasks
  • Controlling the body's circadian system
  • Impacting mood and perception
  • Facilitating the appropriate absorption of critical chemical reactions with the body

Improper lighting in an office space can create a number of health issues for a worker. Eye strain, fatigue and headaches are all common, as well as sleep disorders and dementia, reported Control Design. Studies have been and are currently being conducted on how to build better office spaces in terms of allowing the most natural light in a business without negatively impacting productivity. 

Incorporating healthy materials in office spaces
The inclusion of healthy materials in the office is another crucial component to designing positive structures. By including SCULPTCOR® by ASST, an office space will feature healthy building materials that are also aesthetically pleasing. The patented thermoformed architectural wall panel system is fabricated from a non-porous, durable, stain-resistant and easy-to-clean surface. The material is both durable and sustainable because it will not negatively impact the health of workers who spend a considerable amount of time in a space. SCULPTCOR can be used in a variety of project applications for an office space, such as wall panels, column covers, retail facades, elevator cladding, casework, ceiling panels and furniture. Complete Autodesk 3D REVIT file and 2D standard details and specifications are available for download to those who wish to see how the solution can be incorporated into a space.

Please contact ASST at 717.630.1251 x305 for architectural support or x307 for specific project estimating assistance.


The growth in interest in green construction is changing the way commercial property owners are looking at design. No longer is an office space intended just for meetings and conference calls, now it is also acting as a corporate sustainability statement. Companies are being asked by stakeholders and the greater public about how green their offices are. As a result, green construction is on the rise across the nation as interior designers, architects and contractors look to install features into office buildings that are durable and economical. 

How much is the green construction market worth?
According to the McGraw-Hill Construction's 2013 Dodge Construction Green Outlook report, the value of green building has seen considerable growth. In 2005, approximately $10 billion was spent on green construction, by 2011 this had risen to $78 billion. In 2012 the green share of the construction market increased more to $85 billion and by 2013 it is expected to be worth between $98 and $106 billion. By 2016, this number is predicted to rise even more to between $204 to $248 billion. 

"We're seeing tremendous growth in green building, providing a bright light in an otherwise uncertain economy," said Harvey M. Bernstein, vice president, Industry Insights and Alliances for McGraw-Hill Construction, according to the press release. "Not only does this mean a strong outlook for green building, but also the benefits that go along with that: more jobs, greater financial benefits from green and high performance buildings, stronger competitive positioning for those firms that build green, and healthier work and learning environments for our population." 

Invest in smart, durable materials with ASST
Bathrooms are very obviously some of the more disease and bacteria-prone areas in an office. The number of people using the space, plus the presence of water can result in the growth of mildew and mold and the spread of viruses. ASST's Modular Vanity™ System can help reduce this and promote greater sustainability in an office environment. The durable solution utilizes a sturdy aluminum and polyethylene support structure and a solid surface material for the backsplash, side panels and integral sink bowl. The construction of this innovative solution is solid, which leads to increased durability and thereby increases sustainability. To learn more, contact architectural support at ASST: 717.630-1251 x305 or go online and visit www.asst.com.


The corporate lobby is the front of a business and is an important element to the reputation of any organization. According to Buildings.com, an online contractor magazine, if your lobby is outdated or looks tired, it could impact your business. Clients who show up for meetings or potential employees are going to judge the quality of your operations and the corporate culture by the look and feel of a lobby. As a result, it is important to ensure that this space is impressive, practical and sends the right message.

"Your lobby is your front door – it's the first and last impression for your employees, tenants, and their customers," explains Charles McClafferty, chief operating officer with Sage Realty Corporation in New York City, according to the news source.

The Economic Times reported that a lobby should incorporate the right blend of materials, practical and personality. The space should catch the eye of a visitor, but it shouldn't be so filled with personality that the lobby is shocking or insults potential clients or partners.

For most businesses, the lobby should be reflective of the goals of the brand. "Which style you emulate depends on your business goals," said Mark Stumer, principal of Mojo Stumer Associates, according to the news source. "What kind of tenants are you trying to attract? Or are you hoping to appeal to existing ones? If you're looking for corporate clients, you want a traditional lobby look. If you hope to attract a young company, like a Google or an Apple, then you may go with a more creative feel."

Both types of office lobby spaces might benefit from a wall panel system that is both professional, yet visually stimulating. SCULPTCOR® by ASST is a thermoformed architectural wall panel system that can offer the right blend of durability and beauty. The wall panels are available in three standard patterns. This durable and easy to clean solid surface system is a highly practical solution and has been used in DuPont's corporate offices in Wilmington, Delaware. As an ideal solution for both new and renovation properties, the wall panel system is easily incorporated into almost any space and it can quickly transform a simple, outdated area into a one-of-a-kind space.

"You want to keep your lobby upgrades in line with your building's existing architecture, particularly with respect to a historical property," adds Scott Spector, principal for the design firm Spector Group, according to Buildings. "There are easy ways to blend in new and modern trends without being at odds with the original design."

Branding experts recommend that business leaders keep in mind the classic design elements. Using overly trendy features throughout the space will date the design in just a few years. However, a mix of modern and classic will allow the space to remain fresh.


The traditional corporate spaces are getting a makeover. Offices, lobbies and meeting spaces are being transformed into innovative spaces that promote a happy, successful corporate culture. As a hub of innovation, meeting spaces are especially important because they are "social generators" intended to be inspiring spaces for creating strategies with co-workers to support the success of a business.

Heavybit Industries office in San Francisco, California, has undergone a renovation and interior design overhaul that makes their meeting spaces unique, sparking the imaginations of workers. Retail Design Blog reported that the second and third floor meeting rooms have been placed in an open environment and feature geometric ceiling designs amidst the lights that are both artistic and practical. Workers in the office are able to look up and brain storm about new client solutions and procedure updates.

SCULPTCOR® by ASST is a patented thermoformed architectural wall panel system that takes inspiration from diverse elements and forms found in nature. Perfect for creating inspiring accent walls in meeting spaces, the panel system is fabricated from non-porous, durable, stain-resistant, and easy to clean solid surface.

The wall panel sizes are 24"x64" nominally and are presently available in three standard patterns: Twist, Wave and Smooth. Panel reveals can be specified either straight or curved in five (5) standard colors: pure white, cream, warm white, frozen white and white lotus. Additional colors and special panel sizes are available. The largest uncut pressed panel size available is 29.5" x 72".

SCULPTCOR by ASST can be utilized in a variety of project applications such as wall panels, column covers, retail facades, elevator cladding, casework, ceiling panels and furniture. Complete Autodesk 3D REVIT file and 2D standard details and specifications are available for download.

Please contact ASST at 717.630.1251 x305 for architectural support or x307 for specific project estimating assistance.


More and more companies are looking to put their branding mark on the office spaces they are inhabiting. Take for example Google's office in New York City, New York. This tech-giant is known for its over-the-top perks, but did you know the company also outfits its offices with unique features that are intended to stimulate the imaginations of workers and create a fun atmosphere?

Google's New York City office has desirable features like a make-it-yourself snack and sandwich bar, an open-area recreation room, a computer museum, a LEGO wall and a scrolling screen showing recent searches people are making on the search engine. While all of these characteristics are fun, not every office can have such an out-of-the box appeal. Typically, companies in the financial industry or other, more traditional industries, try to take a much more conservative design approach.

Regardless of design style, selecting a durable wall panel system with proven performance characteristics such as SCULPTCOR™ by ASST will provide exceptional versatility because of its various textures and characteristics. SCULPTCOR is a patented thermoformed architectural wall panel system that takes inspiration from diverse elements and forms found in nature. The system is fabricated from non-porous, durable, stain-resistant, and easy to clean solid surface. For more traditional offices, even a simple accent wall with SCULPTCOR wall panels can bring a modern twist to a typical interior office space.

SCULPTCOR by ASST can be utilized in a variety of project applications such as wall panels, column covers, retail facades, elevator cladding, casework, ceiling panels and furniture. Complete Autodesk SEEK™ 3D REVIT file and 2D standard details and specifications are available for download. Please visit the Autodesk SEEK website for more information.

The wall panel sizes are 24"x64" nominally and are presently available in three standard patterns: Twist, Wave and Smooth. Panel reveals can be specified either straight or curved in five (5) standard colors: pure white, cream, warm white, frozen white and white lotus.  There are no minimum orders. Please contact project estimating for pricing. Additional colors and special panel sizes are available. The largest uncut pressed panel size available is 29.5" x 72" Please contact ASST at 717.630.1251 x305 for architectural support or x307 for specific project estimating assistance.