St. Mark’s School of Texas seems to take its home state’s “everything’s bigger in Texas” reputation seriously – at least when it comes to its campus facilities. In the past decade, the Dallas-area preparatory day school for boys in grades 1-12 has spent more than $50 million in completed construction. Its Winn Science Center, dedicated in 2019, has become a signpost of the high quality of the new and upgraded buildings, with its classic copper roof and dome now serving as signature design elements for the upscale campus – and they’ve also proved to be models of survivability in the face of severe weather.
The copper roof was part of the plans for the 50,000-sq.-ft. science center from the start for the design team of Robert A. M. Stern Architects as design architects, and the Dallas office of GFF Inc.; the combination of copper roofs and red-brick façades is a feature of all the school’s buildings.
“Copper was a given – any exposed part of the roof had to be copper,” says Xavier Spencer, AIA, a GFF project architect during the project and now architectural project manager with The Beck Group, the project’s Dallas-based general contractor. The dome, however, was seen as a way to give the building that little something extra the client was looking for. “We wanted it to fit into the context of the campus – to stand out, but not dominate other buildings.”
The designers delivered an open specification for the roofing material to the installation contractors Texas Roof Management of Richardson, Texas. There, director of operations John Wayne Whitten immediately turned to Petersen for sourcing the copper roof panels. “They’re the best-quality of products, and the finishes are the best in the business,” Whitten says. “I’ve known them a long time – if I’m putting the roof on and I have a choice, it’s going to be Petersen.”
In all, more than 16,000 sq. ft. of the company’s Snap-Clad panels in 16-oz. copper were used in flat roof portions of the project, but the dome was a complete custom job for Whitten’s crew. “All the panels were made in the shop, and all the locks were handmade on the site,” he says, of the dome’s construction. His team received assistance from Petersen with shop drawings for the roof, like they typically do. “We usually just say, let Petersen do them.”
The center opened to raves, Spencer says. “It was a great feeling to me, to see the looks on the faces – they seemed to really admire the building,” he says. But the roof proved its own worth soon after it opened when, on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, a tornado swept through the St Mark’s campus. The Winn Center’s roof was the only one left in place on campus by the storm’s end, remaining fully intact despite winds of almost 150 mph. Only two panels had to be replaced because they were penetrated by flying building materials.
“In terms of performance, the panels did just what they were supposed to do,” says Whitten. And, he added, when it came to replacing the roofs that had been torn off, the Winn Science Center served as a model – the new roofs were all PAC-CLAD products from Petersen, as well.