The Alexandria GradLabs Biotech Campus building is a dramatic and visually-impressive break from the ordinary office park structures in San Diego, CA. Strategically positioned in University Town Center, in the heart of the golden triangle — an area known as a regional hub for research institutes and high-tech, clean-tech and bio-tech businesses — the GradLabs offices provide nearly 100,000 square feet of space for growing life-science companies that have matured beyond the incubator stage. The five-story building is intentionally designed to house a community of innovators; providing collaborative spaces and labs, along with common administrative and scientific services.

Shortly after the workspace became fully operational, tenants occupying the labs and other interior offices positioned along the front elevation of the structure found themselves forced to work with their blinds closed, unable to enjoy natural light or an outside view offered by the expansive windows and doors. The position of the southwest-facing building, resulted in extreme sun glare that was disruptive. 

As a result, Alexandria GradLabs enlisted the expertise of SOSO, an experience-design firm, and a local fabricator, California Sheet Metal to help solve the problem. Through the ingenious design and skilled fabrication and installation of a vertical sun shade — made of 4mm Perforated ALUCOBOND® PLUS — occupants now enjoy their collaboration space through filtered daylight while Alexandria GradLabs’ commitment to innovation is proudly on display.

The Design

Determined to give the building a façade that represents the groundbreaking biological and genetic work that’s being conducted inside Alexandria GradLabs, SOSO’s Director of Innovation, Justin Manor, found inspiration in his research on the genes involved in human communication and collaboration. In his exploration, he found FOXP2, a gene that produces a protein essential to the development of speech and language. This actual genetic code, created from the scientific imagery relating to this collaborative element in human DNA, became the perforation pattern for the building’s exterior sun shade panels. 

These perforated ALUCOBOND PLUS panels allow for the sun to shine through, providing for a healthier work environment while elevating the curb appeal. Furthermore, because the sun shade is seen from both the front of the building as well as its interior spaces, Manor specified that both sides of each panel be finished with a custom white that coordinates with the building’s exterior color. Doing so, provides an elevated appearance for occupants to appreciate, as well as passersby. 


Fabrication and Installation

Precise execution of Manor’s vision was critical to the finished look of the Alexandria GradLabs project. Upon review of the design, California Sheet Metal selected ALUCOBOND® PLUS as the best material for the job due to its weight, durability and cost. 

Carefully following the detailed schematic provided by SOSO, each 4 ft. x 15 ft.  ALUCOBOND PLUS panel was custom perforated and meticulously organized and installed to ensure the accuracy of the FOXP2 protein code design. The structural integrity of each panel with its inconsistent perforation pattern, was ensured by creating a 3.5”perimeter along all four sides.  

“It was satisfying to see our design vision come to life on the GradLabs building,” said Justin Manor, Director of Innovation, at SOSO. “ALUCOBOND PLUS made it possible to execute our renderings at scale, with precision. Each panel is unique, with tight specifications to ensure the legibility of the overall form. The results are beautiful, functional and they align with the critical work being conducted by the teams inside.”


The Possibilities

Think bigger than soffits, screens and column covers. By incorporating perforated metal panels as an architectural design element in commercial and high-rise buildings, it’s possible to create textured patterns, incorporate a dimensional component and deliver a signature, eye-catching look. ALUCOBOND® PLUS, with 90 stock colors and a plethora of available custom colors, provides architects and designers with a wide range of options, enabling design freedom and innovation.    

Exclusively designed and engineered to enable architects and designers to meet the fire performance requirements set by the International Building Code (IBC), ALUCOBOND® PLUS — the original aluminum composite material (ACM) — consists of two sheets of smooth .020" aluminum which is thermo-bonded to a solid, fire-retardant core. 

Perforating ALUCOBOND® PLUS panels allow for unique design flexibility while maintaining quality and performance. Download our Perforation Guide.

For more information about ALUCOBOND, visit, call 1-800-626-3365 or email