Located in Houston, TX, Energy Corridor, Energy Center III is a 546,000-square-foot, 20-story, Class A office building with a lobby visible to those driving west on Interstate 10 in Houston, TX. As a result, architect Scott Cutlip, vice president of Kirksey Architects in Houston, wanted the 30-foot-tall lobby to have a stone wall, as well as a dramatic presence at night.

“We specified a ‘cable net’ curtain wall system on the wall opposite the stone,” he said. “This created clear views of the stone from the exterior — views unhindered by heavily mullions and structure. We also wanted the feature stone wall to have a heavy texture, something that would create shadows when grazed with light from the top and bottom. This led us to vary the thickness of the stone to create pieces that push in and out along the face of the wall.”

For the feature walls, which would serve as the dramatic backdrop for the lobby, a polished Persian Red travertine was used, supplied from Henraux in Querceta, Italy. The project called for 6,700 square feet of 3-, 5- and 7-cm-thick pieces. “The rest of the stone in the lobby, the limestone floor and marble accents, were selected to complement the red feature wall stone,” said Cutlip. “The stone was also selected on the basis of performance and durability. Flamed black granite was specified for the exterior flatwork, with some of this extending past the cable net curtain wall to the interior and helping to blend the outside with the inside.”

On the lobby walls and floors, 1,620 square feet of 2 cm polished Arabescato Ore marble was employed. Also on the walls are 2,500 square feet of 2 cm polished Calacatta Cervaiole marble, while on the floors 7,100 square feet of 2 cm honed Gascogne Beige limestone is used, all of it supplied by Henraux. “The client was familiar with the red travertine from a previous project, but was unable to use it because the color did not fit with the base building tenants branding,” explained Cutlip. “The client liked the red travertine and wanted to use it again. The red travertine worked well with what we were trying to accomplish in terms of dramatic views from the freeway as well as inside the lobby.”

A precise installation

All the stone was dry laid in Italy with each stone’s location preapproved. The fragile Persian Red travertine, having pieces in excess of 550 pounds and 7 feet in length, was rodded to avoid breakage during shipping and installation. Since each stone had a specific location, any breakage would make it next to impossible to match adjacent stones. “The extreme weight of some of the stones, coupled with the offset center of gravity and precise positioning, necessitated engineered mechanical anchorage supporting each piece individually,” said Ron LaRicci, vice president of Camarata Masonry Systems, the stone installation company for the project. “Normally, mechanical anchorage does not offer the precision of the marble setter’s preferred wire and plaster anchorage, but great care was taken to accurately locate the stones. The outward rotation loads of some of the pieces and the random locations of the anchor attachment dictated that the substrate be extremely stiff and more accommodating than the standard stud and sheathing backup. Accordingly, the stainless steel stone anchorage was secured to the solid grout filled CMU wall substrate that we designed, engineered, supplied and installed.” LaRicci performed an in-place mock-up prior to proceeding with installation of all stones. However, all stoners were dry laid at the fabricators facility, reviewed and approved by a stone inspector representing the owner to avoid any color issues at the site. As far as on-site supervision, Camarata Masonry Systems on-site supervisor, Alex Almageur, maintained the quality of installation that the company strives to achieve. Also, the general superintendent, Dave Richards, and LaRicci, were frequent visitors to the project to ensure that no surprises arose and that all stone was installed in its designated position. “We mainly reviewed after installation was complete,” said Cutlip. “There were a few corrections that had to be made, a couple of pieces had to be replaced because they were damaged or the color was not consistent. There were some floor stone [pieces] that got water damaged and we had to cull through some selections onsite. Overall, the stone arrived and was installed as specified.”

The entire construction for the project was about two years, but the stone installation was completed in about four months. “The project has been praised by everyone who has had an opportunity to see it,” said LaRicci. “Energy Center III has received multiple awards for the stone installation, including: Marble Institute of America’s Pinnacle Award of Excellence, Associated Builders and Contractors Houston Chapter EIC Merit Award, Associated Builders and Contractors National EIC Pyramid Award, Coverings Installation & Design Award in Commercial Stone category and the Associated General Contractors of Houston APEX Award – Silver.”

Energy Center III

Houston, TX

Architect: Kirksey Architects, Houston, TX
Installer: Camarata Masonry Systems, Houston, TX
Stone Supplier: Henraux, Querceta, Italy