- Associated Press - Sunday, December 13, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A six-story apartment complex coming to Des Moines will feature a brick facade like many of its neighbors. But it also will feature large swatches of steel panels, each tarnished orange from exposure to the elements.

In Des Moines’ East Village, rust is the new black.

The apartment complex is one of several new buildings in the district being constructed with weathered steel panels. The material is intentionally left to rust, resulting in a rugged, industrial look. The rusted panels will cover the back of the apartment complex and parts of the sides and upper levels.

The Des Moines Register (https://dmreg.co/1OiCYuh ) reports that another apartment complex that opened last year at also used weathered steel panels. So did a new office and restaurant building.

“Within architecture circles, I would say it is a popular material,” said Khalid Khan, a partner with Neumann Monson Architects, which designed the new apartment complex, “It has a proven ability to withstand use over the long term, is low maintenance, and cost effective.”



Weathered steel has been used for decades. The Ruan Center, which was constructed in the 1970s and ‘80s and includes Des Moines’ second tallest building, was built with the material.

The rusty panels are now enjoying a renaissance thanks to the demand for urban, industrial-looking living spaces, local architects say.

Khan credits downtown revivals. As more historic buildings have been renovated into apartments and condos, consumers’ appetites have grown for distressed materials like exposed brick walls and wooden beams.

Weathered steel “gives a building a certain character and texture that is timeless,” he said.

Tim Rypma, one of the developers behind the new $27 million apartment complex, said weathered steel is a good fit for the East Village because the rusty patina helps marry the area’s historic brick buildings with the wave of modern structures.

Some have questioned the durability and aesthetics of the rusty steel panels. If installed wrong, rust can eat through the metal or drip onto the ground, staining sidewalks orange.

But those working on the East Village project say the material is durable and cost-effective. If installed property, weathered steel develops a thin layer of rust that actually protects it from further damage. It doesn’t require fresh coats of paint or other maintenance. And special trays will be installed at the base of the building to cleanly collect rusty runoff water.

“It’s a really quality product,” Rypma said “In terms of longevity, it’s a material that is going to be there in 50, 100 years, versus something like stucco that will fall apart.”

The new building will feature 98 apartments, about 17,000 square feet of street-level retail space and a pocket park. It is part of a larger project that includes the development of a parking ramp and commercial space in an adjacent block just east of Des Moines City Hall.

The city’s Urban Design Review Board approved the apartment project Tuesday.

“As far as the material palette, I think it’s great,” said Carey Nagle, a local architect and member of the Urban Design Review Board. “I appreciate that it is a different approach than some of the other contemporary projects we see.”

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com

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