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UB's new medical school begins taking on its terra cotta look

The University at Buffalo’s new medical school building is beginning to show its terra cotta look.

Five thousand terra cotta panels are making a visible statement on the University at Buffalo’s new Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences building under construction on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

“A lot of it is going up, and on Main Street, it’s visible now,” said Willard Pottle, international sales and marketing manager for Boston Valley Terra Cotta in Orchard Park, which manufactures the panels. “There is a lot more to go up.”

Construction crews expect to install the remaining 22,600 panels by late June. Once that’s done, a total of 27,646 panels will be on the building, which is slated to be completed later this year. The terra cotta panels will make up about half of the UB Medical School exterior, acting as a high-performance “skin” of the new building.

The terra cotta panels were designed to connect with Buffalo’s rich architectural history. The panels feature two custom colors designed to invoke Louis H. Sullivan’s Guaranty Building downtown and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin D. Martin House in the city’s Parkside neighborhood.

[Photo Gallery: Building on tradition at Boston Valley Terra Cotta]

The project is significant for the Orchard Park terra cotta manufacturer. It is the largest project the company has done in Buffalo and among the largest it has done with the terra cotta cladding, Pottle said. About half of the company’s revenue is from newly constructed buildings. The company also does historic restoration work.

“We don’t get to work in our backyard very often, and it’s been great to be able to do another substantial project in Buffalo,” Pottle said. “Square footage and dollar value, it’s the biggest project we’ve done in Buffalo.”

Boston Valley Terra Cotta also made panels for 250 Delaware Ave., the Peace Bridge and the new Scott Bieler Center for Clinical Sciences at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

UB’s medical school will be covered in 105,000 square feet of terra cotta panels, each weighing 70 pounds and measuring 1 foot by 5 feet. With their durability comes longevity. Pottle said they are designed to hold up beyond 25 to 30 years.

“They’ll last for generations,” Pottle said.

UB and general contractor LPCiminelli expect to complete the $375 million medical school building in the fall. Once complete, the new school will move about 2,000 students, faculty and staff to the Medical Campus from the current location on UB’s South Campus.

Boston Valley’s terra cotta cladding extends far outside Buffalo.

“We do that kind of work all over North America and some internationally,” Pottle said.

The Orchard Park company’s first major terra cotta cladding job was in 2006 for a university building in downtown Los Angeles. Since then, Pottle said the company has built about 200 or 250 similar projects using the same process.

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