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Custom Designs with Ultra-tec Cable, Fittings, and Hardware

Darrell Black and his company, Nor Cal Access Systems, located in the Bay Area, specialize in custom metal work, primarily for custom homes with exterior decks and patios, including pool decks. Most of his work is within a two-hour area of San Francisco — hence his namesake Nor Cal.  The area is ripe with picturesque views, and the results are stunning when the proper finishing hardware is coupled with gate or deck projects.

Darrell has been an Ultra-tec customer since 2006. “I discovered Ultra-tec at a trade show in Las Vegas,” he said. “I primarily use Invisiware fittings; it’s the cleanest system I have found and is hidden in the post.” He’s also a fan of Adjust-A-Jaw fittings for wood posts. “The new clevis design is nice,” he added.

Before starting Nor Cal Access Systems, he worked for another company that used other hardware and fittings. “Ultra-tec is the best I’ve used,” said Darrell.

Proper Hardware Equals Stunning Results

Darrell and his team have completed several exterior decks and interior stairways using Ultra-tec cable, fittings, and hardware. “We explain how Ultra-tec compares to other systems because not everyone knows the quality of the fittings, the sleekness of the concealed fittings inside the post.”

All my customers are thrilled and love the design ~ Darrell

A big fan of swaging his fittings to the cable, Darrell said it is a far superior system because he knows he can adjust on-site if needed, and the cable doesn’t have to be cut to the exact length. “I started out doing my own swaging,” he said. “You can tell the difference between hydraulic crimping — what I do — and crimping. It’s 100 percent worth it.”

Darrell uses Cable Art, Inc. for all his Ultra-tec cable, fitting, and hardware needs.

Check out Darrell’s Ultra-tec deck cable railing, and stairway projects. You’ll can also see his impressive breadth of gate and deck projects through the company’s Instagram feed.

The New Porsche Dealership in Austin: “Eight Levels of Endless Possibility”

Texas boasts the second-largest GDP in the U.S. behind California and boasts a young, fast-growing economy. Austin ranks as the #1 Tech Town and has several “Best” and “Hottest” labels, like U.S. Cities for Starting a Business, Places to Live in America, Hottest Big City Labor Market, and the list goes on. Considered the new high-tech corridor, Austin tech jobs represent more than 17 percent of all jobs in the area, compared to just nine percent nationally.

As Austin grows, so does the appetite for luxury cars, and the Hill Country is the perfect place to take a scenic and technical test drive. Hi Tech Motorcars, the Austin-based, family-run luxury auto dealer, expanded the Porsche dealership, and go big or go home could have easily been the moto. The tech workers are, after all, primary Porsche customers.

Ultra-Tec Railings in Austin

The new 186,000-square-foot facility, coined “eight levels of endless possibility,” is located in the Arboretum area of Austin. President and CEO of Porsche Cars North America, Inc. (PCNA), Kjell Gruner, notes the facility “is designed with the customer in mind.” The $40 million project is, at the time of its opening, the largest Porsche dealership in the nation. 

Designed by Gensler, the dealership captures the brand’s “design values through inventive details.” It features a sunken coffee and customer lounge with views of the 30-stall state-of-the-art service center. It also includes an impressive two-story showroom, including classic and vintage Porsche lines. From the outside, your eye wanders to the rooftop sales lot showcasing ten Porsche cars with a remarkable window and lighting display using halo LED colored lighting above each car.

The design details capture the changing culture of retail. “If you want to know what the future of retail looks like, here you can see a great example of what defines excellence,” said Gruner in a press release statement by the company. He noted that the dealership’s design is centered on creating Porsche Passion. The environment exudes luxury, and the open sightlines add to the experience like the addition of cable railing to define areas of the showroom.

The project initially called for a glass infill, and there was a last-minute design change to a stainless-steel cable infill. The design parameters called for six-foot spacing between posts. “The railing had to serve as a vehicle barrier to keep the cars from being driven off the balcony,” said Wayne Uecker, owner of Texas Railing Systems, the fabricator and installer located in Kerrville, Texas.

The railing was a one-of-a-kind design. The railing framework, made from custom stainless-steel extrusions, includes 400 linear feet of Ultra-tec 1/4-inch diameter cable with Invisiware® fittings for a concealed and sleek finish. 

Because the design called for six-foot spans with the cable infill, we had Ultra-tec's engineering do some work so we could make it all work. The end posts had to be extremely sturdy - Wayne Uecker

Texas Railing Systems was the last trade and installation in the dealership because of the extra engineering needed to ensure a safe and secure railing. Saving the best for last is on par with Porsche’s design values and details.

Ultra-tec: Made in the USA

Why it matters

“Made in the USA” is more than a patriotic slogan we use. We’re proud to be an American-based company. Our legacy—since 1998— has provided our customers, from architects, distribution partners, fabricators, to specifiers, with American-made stainless-steel cable infill, fittings, and hardware. Ultra-tec’s products are designed and manufactured in the USA with an emphasis on quality and function.

Why American-made is important to us

In a recent survey, nearly 70% of the respondents indicated that they prefer American-made products. Over 46% of respondents believe that products manufactured in America are of better quality than those manufactured in other countries. Buying from companies like ours is more than patriotism. By buying American you get better quality, craftsmanship, and a superior product over most imported products. You also support national and local jobs; help build communities, and create more demand for American-made products like Ultra-tec.

When ‘buying American’ is a requirement

Job creation and community building aside, if you’re a specifier for a federal government or military project you are required to use products manufactured in the U.S. Why? It’s the law. So, what does that actually mean? To the federal government, “American Made” products like ours means the product has to be “melted and manufactured” in the U.S.

Quickly, here’s what they say:

Produced in the United States means that all manufacturing processes of the iron or steel must take place in the United States, from the initial melting stage through the application of coatings, except metallurgical processes involving refinement of steel additives. The origin of the elements of the iron or steel is not relevant to the determination of whether it is domestic or foreign.

Ultra-tec meets these requirements.

Another component to be aware of when specifying for a federal government or military project is DFARS, or Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement. This is a list of regulations that the Department of Defense finds acceptable to use in Department of Defense projects.

The Ultra-tec difference

In addition to providing your clients with quality,  meticulous designs, and durability, you’re supporting and creating American jobs while meeting federal requirements. It’s a win-win for everyone. Our innovative American-made Ultra-tec line of stainless-steel fittings and hardware, designed specifically for cable railing infill, is a perfect choice for projects that require a guardrail.

When it comes to specifying pedestrian guardrails made in America, choose Ultra-tec. If you have questions about a federal or military project using our products, contact us and we will help guide you through the process.

From zoom zoom to relaxing lake front views, we’d like to take a moment to feature our top three winners of the 2021 photo contest.

Each project showcases Ultra-tec cable railing infill, fittings, and hardware in three Several of the 2020 photo contest entries made it into our inaugural Lookbook, and we look forward to including the 2021 entries and winners for our next one.

It’s always a tough decision, and we are excited to share the 2021 Ultra-tec photo contest winners. Congratulations!

The 2021 Contest Winner: Texas Railing Systems for a Porsche dealership in Austin, Texas, using 400 linear feet of Ultra-tec 1/4-inch cable infill, custom framework, and our Invisiware fittings for a one-of-a-kind seamless design.

Texas Metal Industries, Inc., our second-place winner, showcases Ultra-tec cable infill on a custom cedar home by Lindal Cedar Homes overlooking a lake in Traverse City, Michigan.

Homeowner Matthew Lukens from Logan Martin Lake, just east of Birmingham, Alabama, replaced his wood slat railings with Ultra-tec cable infill through composite-sleeved posts using our Push-Lock® system is our third-place winner. Matthew found Ultra-tec through a web search, viewed our YouTube installation videos, and installed it on his own. He can now overlook the lake and watch his grandchildren from the comfort of his deck.

Thank you to all who participated in 2021. Stay tuned for our second Lookbook and look for an announcement coming May 1st of our 2022 photo contest.

Please keep sending us your project photos. We’d love to feature them on our website and a testimonial blog. Click here to upload your 2022 project photos.

Lakefront deck and railing rehab

Homeowner, Matthew Lukens, built a second home located on Logan Martin Lake in east-central Alabama (just east of Birmingham) in 1989. His decking, overlooking the lake, was in dire need of an upgrade. The railing, made from 1 x 6 wood slats he cut down to 1 x 4 and installed in three horizontal rows, didn’t meet code. But his heart was in the right place. “I put the boards up like that so my grandchildren wouldn’t fall through,” said Matthew.

He knew he needed to replace the deck and complete a railing rehab, and so through the power of the internet, Matthew found a composite decking material he liked and Ultra-tec cable railing infill, fittings, and hardware.

“I found a YouTube video on installing Ultra-tec and thought, ‘I can do that,’” said Matthew.

Matthew installed gray composite decking, using 4 x 4 wood posts, and routed the edges and top to fit the top rail. He installed 1/8-inch stainless steel cable railing infill from Ultra-tec and used the ease of the Push-Lock® system to tension the cable. The Push-Lock fitting is swageless, meaning the cable attaches to the fitting using a locking wedge system, making on site assembly easy.

“I pre-drilled the holes for the cable connectors and stained the 4 x 4 before I put the cables through,” added Matthew.

His beautiful work came to fruition when he submitted his project to the 2021 Ultra-tec photo contest and winning the third prize of $125 gift card.

“It worked out great,” said Matthew. “It worked just like the video showed. I love how the new deck looks, and I did it all on my own.”

before deck rehab
Before
after railling rehab
After

Designing and specifying for multifamily in 2022

According to economists from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) new multifamily apartment production is expected to post modest gains in 2022, up 5 percent to 365,000 units. In other words, the market will continue to grow and with that growth, new trends will inevitably appear in what renters or buyers want in their multifamily homes, whether that’s a duplex, townhome, mixed-use city tower, or an apartment complex in the suburbs.

As a specifier or designer, you can help guide the conversation with your developer on what their buyers/renters want, from more security, modern tech amenities, and products that are attractive but won’t compromise your design.

Here are four multifamily trends we see that could drive what you are specifying in 2022 and beyond.

Outdoor amenities will continue to reign

COVID has had a deep impact on the rise of spending more time outdoors, whether that’s using a multifamily community’s trails to go for walks, enjoying the playground with children, or having an area on the property for tenants to grow their own food in the community garden. Outdoor “living rooms,” such as hammock parks, dog park equipment, firepits, and poolside lounges will continue to be more popular than ever.

These outdoor amenities all have one thing in common, too:  secured spaces. Personal safety has always been a top priority for multifamily residents and with Ultra-tec® cable railing hardware you can provide security that also meets design demands.  To take your design to the next level while meeting the project’s design aesthetics —and even more importantly—meeting code Ultra-tec offers cable, fittings, and hardware. Fitting types include exposed for a more industrial look to concealed for a sleek and clean appearance.

New tech in lobbies

Just a few years ago, most multifamily lobbies were spartan—mailboxes, maybe a reception desk, secure front door, and that was about it. Nowadays, developers who want to stay competitive are offering more amenities in their lobbies. In more urban, city properties, specify for spaces that allow for online shopping delivery, like Amazon lockers so tenants can have their packages safely stored and not piled up in the lobby’s corner. Another amenity gaining popularity is fridge “lockers.”  With the increase of online grocery shopping using apps like Instacart, tenants need their perishable groceries stored if they aren’t home to accept delivery. These are simple but attractive amenities to offer tenants.

Amazon Locker

According to Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2021, an annual report from the Urban Land Institute and PwC US, 82 percent of real estate professionals surveyed indicated that health and well-being will become more important across all sectors of real estate, and will result in projects that feature improved HVAC infrastructure and advanced technologies, such as sensors and touchless entry options to mitigate potential contamination.

For multifamily projects, this also translates into lobbies that offer more space, increased circulation, and fresh air. Beyond tech, safety will be communicated through more security, including fencing and railing products that complement the building’s design. And don’t forget about green amenities. Many multifamily lobbies are incorporating biophilic design— introducing elements of nature into a building’s architecture and design— from simple hanging houseplants to massive green walls.  Plants in a lobby not only look attractive, they also have real benefits such as encouraging the connection between people and nature while promoting wellness.

Co-working spaces on the rise

One trend apparently not going away soon (will it ever?) is employers offering workers the ability to work from home or work remotely. This presents a golden opportunity for developers (and for those specifying and designing) to provide a popular amenity: at-home workspaces. Indeed, many lobbies in older properties have been retrofitted by asset managers to offer more space in lobbies for work as well as new spaces designed with the look and feel of hip co-working spaces.  One noticeable difference in our post-COVID world will be private, individual workstations, more space between desks, and of course dependable, high-speed internet in lobbies.

Parting thoughts: Security ties it all in

Yes, COVID is helping multifamily amenities evolve quicker than usual (but, let’s face it, the amenities above would have emerged eventually) and developers will be looking for new ideas and options to keep their properties fresh and attractive.  Amenities aside, as always, tenants, whether that’s in a city core or in a submarket will always want security, safety, and well-being.

Interested in learning how Ultra-tec® can be used in your next multifamily project?  We offer numerous resources for architects interested in specifying and using Ultra-tec® including CEU courses, CSI Specifications, and CAD drawings. Get in touch today if you have any questions.

History of Bronze Metal

Bronze has a long history of use and is one of the oldest tin alloys dating as far back as 4500BC. It took the place of stone tools, marking the start of the Bronze Age. Bronze was used for weapon making, ornaments, and fittings because it was easy to cast and mold into shapes. As time passed, the most popular use was in bronze statues.

The oldest known bronze statue is the Dancing Girl Bronze Statuette from around 2500BC. Other well-known bronze statues and sculptures include The Thinker by Rodin and Bronco Buster and The Spirit of Detroit by Frederic Remington. The Statue of Unity is the largest statue built out of bronze (eight million pounds) created to honor ‘Iron Man of India’ by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Bronze is not only used for statues and sculptures. 

Olympic bronze metals made their debut at the 1904 St. Louis, Missouri summer games used for the first time as the third-place award in sporting competitions. Modern-day use of bronze has grown use in small electric motors (springs, bushing bearings, and car gearbox bearings), ship propellers, musical instruments, and more.

Bronze is made of 85-95% copper and other metals, and the most common is tin. Considered a red metal, it can bring a rich aesthetic to architectural design. A luxurious material, bronze can carry a higher cost yet will stand the test of time because it is corrosion and weather-resistant, and highly durable.

Bronze in architecture and design

In architecture and design, bronze is used in various applications, including some stunning interior and exterior applications. Consistently used in interior design for a warm and glamorous look and feel, bronze is featured on high-profile exterior applications.

The recently completed Northeastern University’s six-story Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex featured curved bronze fins on the exterior façade. Bronze is on Brooklyn’s first 74-story supertall skyscraper. It took its design nod from the Dime Saving Bank at the base of the building with its opulent interior and exterior, with bronze accents, designed to resemble a neo-classical temple.

bronze metal
Photo by Clark Van Der Beken on Unsplash

Five years ago, Architectural Digest featured a how-to decorate with bronze in a winning fashion, and Sherwin Williams awarded bronze — Urbane Bronze — like the color of the year for 2021 to “tap into nature with a hue whose warm and comfortable breath down-to-earth tranquility.” Something we were all yearning for after a worldwide lockdown. It’s safe to say that bronze will continue to make its mark in architecture and design in various applications.

Bronze offers a warm, rich, and upgraded look compared to tother "cooler" metals, so we typically reserve it for the "front of house" area," said Liang Wu, senior associate and LEED AP at Kirksey Architecture in Houston.

Liang recalled his first extensive use of bronze on a project in 2014-2015, and he is still using it today in an active project. “We typically dress up elevator door frames, all doors and millwork hardware, light fixtures, and furniture accents using a bronze look in the front of the house,” Wu added.

Phosphor Bronze

According to the Copper Development Association, the addition of phosphorous — from 0.01 to 0.35% — increases the corrosion resistance and strength of bronze. In addition, it offers spring-like qualities, a high fatigue resistance, strength, and high wear resistance.

Phosphor bronze is used most in electrical components because of its great electrical conductivity. It is also applied where its other properties are ideal, including fasteners, springs, fuse clips, cable railing, and fittings.

Make a statement with bronze cable railing

Phosphor bronze cable offers a contemporary color option for design projects looking for an alternative to the traditional stainless-steel cable options. Ultra-tec recently introduced its new phosphor bronze cable railing and fitting line, a first of its kind.

The phosphor bronze cable railing is available in 1/8-inch diameter, in 1 x 19 strand cable. It is engineered to hold static loads without stretching, is relatively stiff, and is corrosion-resistant. Concealed receivers with beveled washers are also available for a seamless and modern design.

Ultra-tec’s phosphor bronze cable railing is a 2021 Architizer A+Product Awards Finalist in the New Materials category. Recognized as one of the world’s best products is a true testament to product viability.

The Future of Bronze

Warm metals like bronze will continue to be popular with designers well into 2022 and beyond. Bronze pairs well with marble, glass, and other metals colors like black. “We try not to mix cooler metal — such as stainless steel or aluminum — with bronze, but mixing bronze and black is acceptable,” said Wu. “We typically use bronze along with wood and marble (or porcelain with a stone look), and bronze is more of an accent even when we use larger sheets of it,” he added.

Asked if Wu would use bronze cable railings in a project, “I would consider using bronze cables, probably more towards a decorative fashion.”

Check out Ultra-tec’s new phosphor bronze cable and fitting for your next project.

bronze cable railing

The Phil Hardberger Park Conservancy sits on the old Voelcker Dairy Farm in north-central San Antonio. The 330-acre natural park is well-known as an urban oasis featuring a nature center, outdoor classrooms, dog parks, play and workout areas, walking, hiking, biking trails, and a managed wildlife habitat. 

A masterplan community called Churchill Estates with moderately priced homes sits adjacent to the park. The property owner’s house was built on a bluff overlooking the park and is not included in the neighborhood homeowner association.

 

The current homeowner spotted a Texas Railing Systems truck at a Home Depot parking lot in Kerrville, about an hour northwest of San Antonio. “He took a picture of our truck door, and two years later, he called for us to provide the railing for his home,” said Wayne Uecker, owner of Texas Railing Systems. 

The Texas Railing Systems crew also completed a tree top skywalk in Hardberger Park as part of a 150-foot land bridge for wildlife crossing over Wurzbach Parkway, connecting the two halves of the original dairy farm land.  

Uecker uses CR Laurence as the framework and Ultra-tec Invisiware® as part of their in-house product designs on most projects. His team installed both for this project. “The ease of use is great because it’s incorporated into our standard fabrications, and we understand the Invisiware system,” said Uecker.

Texas Railing Systems is a leading architectural, contemporary railing specialty company with more than one thousand projects throughout the Texas with long-standing commercial, residential, and manufacturing relationships, including their long-time supplier, Cable Art.    

Much of the country’s workforce is transitioning back to office spaces after more than a year of working from home, and workers’ expectations have changed. In response, business and commercial property owners, designers, and architects are now modifying their approach to better accommodate the preferences of their staff and tenants.

Even well-respected brands like Steelcase are acting on recent studies explaining the shifting outlook of employees. They’re now reimagining their offerings to ensure that companies create spaces where their staff can feel most comfortable and productive.

Here, we’re sharing four office trends that you’ll want to consider.

The Rise of Resimercial

According to the experts at Wayfair, Resimercial workplace design is here to stay. Employees expect a comfortable place to spend their workdays; for employers, creating these hospitable – even fun – spaces help to ensure happy, more engaged workers.

Millennials and Gen Z, now most of the nation’s work population, are leading with a “work any time, any place” mindset and want a workspace they can feel at home. Typical Resimercial contains breakout spaces with a style that involves a mix of textures and silhouettes, house plants, comfortable seating, durable upholstery, and natural fibers.

A Room with a View

Gone are (or should be) the days of working in an office made of four solid walls. Creating additional outdoor spaces, bringing the outside-in by integrating biophilic elements, or emphasizing daylighting by implementing walls made of windows, has the power to transform the work setting by reducing stress and enhancing the mood.

While windows certainly play a central role in helping to lighten up an environment, there are other ways to reimagine a conventional office space, create open areas and improve line of sight. Get inspired by checking out how Ultra-Tec cable railing was used to bring both an aesthetic design and an open, up-to-date feel to office and commercial spaces

Add Texture: Combine the Old with the New 

Incorporating various textures and textiles in the design or accessorizing of an office can add life and a sense of interest to a space. According to Parterre, blending old and new elements – including a mix of different metal finishes – can create an alternative style that delivers a warm feeling to what may have traditionally been a run-of-the-mill atmosphere.

Ultra-tec’s mix of finishes and accessories (including bronze) pair beautifully with wood, stone, and other natural materials that offer a diverse range of design options.

Opt for Sustainability 

The choices you make when planning your space matter to your team. According to Allwork and a survey by Fast Company, sustainability is an important criterion for today’s workforce. The cable railing from Ultra-Tec is environmentally friendly, there is little waste in the product, and it is 65% recyclable. Selecting alternatives that support the environment demonstrates to employees that you’re a company that cares.

Are you considering simple ways to update your commercial building designs in response to these workplace shifts? Contact us to see how our solutions can simplify and enhance your projects. 

A Systematic Approach to Enhance Value, Lower Cost and Maintain Function

One of the most misunderstood processes in the building industry, from construction to engineering to product manufacturing, is value engineering. Value engineering is “a systematic approach that seeks to enhance value by eliminating unnecessary cost while maintaining function.” 

For most, the term value means low cost or budget-cutting, thereby reducing quality when defining the value is different for everyone and doesn’t always mean cutting costs.

The main objective of value engineering is to achieve the best value —maintenance, durability, long-term viability, aesthetics, and more — not just cutting costs.

 

Value engineering is not a new trendy term. During World War II, the country experienced material, parts, and a skilled labor shortage. At the time, General Electric engineers set out to source alternative and acceptable materials and components to continue manufacturing without compromising the integrity of the products.

Lawrence Miles, touted as the father of value engineering, lead the charge at General Electric, and today his value engineering techniques are used throughout the world. The Lawrence D. Miles Value Foundation advances the value engineering methodology with educational programs, international conferences and forums, new applications, and a research library.

Today, engineering and construction firms and product manufacturers employ a value engineering process. Each follows its standards and phases to achieve the end goal: to increase value at a low cost while maintaining optimal functionality. Value engineering is required for almost all government and military projects as well.

The process of value engineering is best when performed in the design phase. The subject matter expert involved in the project can incorporate the best options to improve the value from both the project and product perspective.

 

Value Engineering and Cable Railing Specification

There are many components to consider when specifying cable railing — number of posts, stainless steel cable, fittings, hardware — and installation, whether it’s new construction or a retrofit. Maximizing post placement and the frame integrity can significantly change the fittings and hardware used on the project and affect the bottom-line cost.

Using a rooftop deck as an example, install a double post in each corner opposite the building (or other structure) and a terminating post offset about two- to three-inches from the building for easy tensioning. This combination offers the most support and a smaller, concealed tensioner fitting option using our concealed Invisiware® receivers for a clean and seamless appearance. It also enables the cable to run continuously through the length of the run and through all posts, in most cases, — even around corners — without stopping and starting at each post.

In contrast, if using a single corner post option, the cable will typically terminate at each corner. In this scenario, the cable stops and starts at each post increasing the number of fittings required. Stopping and starting more often not only drives up cost, but it also changes the aesthetics and most importantly the integrity of the frame. That significantly increases the amount of tension on that single post, which jeopardizes the strength of the frame and its ability to maintain properly tensioned cables adding to the overall cost of the project.

At first glance, double corner posts may not seem aesthetically appealing until you compare it to the added exposed fittings required for a single termination post. See for yourself how you can achieve the high-end look with an unobstructed view using a double corner post setup for a cost-effective, seamless, and modern finish.

Value Engineering is not a one-size-fits-all process that simply cuts costs to save the budget. A holistic view of the project and the specifications are necessary to offer a beneficial solution that meets the customer’s goals without compromising functionality.

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