Case Study / Mall

EIFS Creates Eye Appeal for St. Louis Mills Mall

The residents of St. Louis welcomed the World’s Fair in 1904, after spending nearly three years erecting palaces to agriculture, electricity and machinery, among countless other areas of human progress and civilization.

For the 100th anniversary of the World’s Fair, the architects and designers of the exterior of the St. Louis Mills Mall reinterpreted many of the fair’s attractions and exhibits with icons on the outside of the mall. The 1.1-million-square-foot mall ⎯ located in the city’s northwest section of Hazelwood about a 20-minute drive from the famous St. Louis Arch ⎯ contains retail and entertainment destinations, including 11 anchor stores, more than 175 retailers and a variety of theme restaurants and entertainment venues.

Twenty-first century innovations in exterior wall construction enabled the building team to pay homage to the original fair with an Exterior Insulation Finish System (EIFS).

Reliable and energy-efficient foam has recently been combined with powerfully accurate computers and taken the use of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam to a new level on construction sites. A project’s CAD drawings can now flawlessly reproduce an architect’s vision by entering the drawings into a computerized foam-cutting machine.

The design team at the architecture firm of Kiku Obata & Co. shared a vision to create forms reflecting the horticulture and haute couture attractions at the 1904 World’s Fair, including rose and fashion motifs at the two mall entrances.

“The EIFS system has a lot of flexibility,” said Kevin Flynn, vice president of Kiku Obata. “Anything you can imagine you can create.”

According to project manager Johnnie Crow, Grau Contracting installed single-story exterior panels for the base building and most of the anchor stores and two-story panels for the theatre. Grau panels cover about 8,000-liner-feet of the approximately 10,000-linear-feet around the mall. The average panel was 13’ wide by 25’ tall and Grau used 10” metal studs with 5/8″ sheathing. Grau’s subcontractor, JDR Construction, then applied 3” of EPS foam in the field.

Meanwhile, Atlas EPS foam was delivered to the mall and work proceeded on the forms and icons at each entrance, which were themed to reflect the shops or attractions inside. A rocket ship, trees and giant doghouse were placed on a landscape of green rolling hills and a blue sky with puffy white clouds as an introduction to a children’s entrance of the mall.

Atlas EPS manufactured the EPS foam used on all the mall entrance facades at its Perryville, Missouri plant, according to Corey Hemman, product development specialist for Atlas EPS, a division of Atlas Roofing Corporation. Before the EPS foam was delivered, Atlas EPS engineers and production team worked with the architects to determine the exact dimensions of each piece.

“We came up with a way to take their drawings and incorporate the design into the EPS foam we supplied,” Hemman said. “We basically took it from something that was very open to interpretation and labor intensive and made it into what was drawn on the blueprints.”

According to Product Specialist Rick Moore with Negwer Materials of St. Louis, the expertise of Atlas EPS in producing EPS packaging helped them with the intricate cuts they achieved to create the EIFS shapes.

“None of the other EIFS manufacturers around here indicated they could even do it,” Moore noted. Negwer provided the Senerflex Classic PB Wall System for the project, including the Senergy adhesive that bonded the Atlas EPS product to the panels fabricated by Grau.

According to Darren Skaggs of Atlas EPS, field fabrication can lead to a lot of interpretation. The cut-foam pieces are numbered and labeled and arrive similar to a jigsaw puzzle that comes with a chart resembling a paint-by-numbers set.

“We can produce it so it can be assembled efficiently on the jobsite,” Hemman said.

Many of the exterior walls received two or more layers of EPS to create a raised, three-dimensional finish, eliminating the need to paint any shadow effects onto the exterior. While the entrance shapes were as tall as 30’, some of the walls contained shapes as long as 300’. EIFS covered nearly 500,000-square-feet of the mall.

A fiberglass mesh was applied to the foam forms and then an EIFS base coat was applied before a finish coat completed the shape of the figures, which integrated more than 70 colors.

Niehaus Construction Services installed the 22,000-square-foot outside wall of the “Ice ZONE” skating rink that features the name of the rink with a St. Louis Blues logo below it. “It’s the most colorful building you will ever see,” said David Giulvezan, an estimator and project manager for Niehaus.

While the mall can’t compare to the grandeur seen in the Grecian architecture of the palaces at the World’s Fair, it has one similarity ⎯ it has integrated some of the most advanced technology available.

Electric light was the latest innovation at the turn of the century and was used lavishly for illumination and decoration throughout the World’s Fair. The mall has incorporated some of the latest technology available for creating eye-catching EIFS, which like lighting a century earlier, creates a buzz in the crowds that witness it.