El Centro – Northeastern Illinois University

  • Location: DSM Design Group
  • Architect: Hospitality; New Construction; High-Rise
  • Building Typologies: 2018
  • Year Constructed:
  • Porcelain Cladding Used: 62,000 SF
  • Colors: Town White & Town Niquel

Here’s a link to see more images and details about this building project that has become an integral part of the university’s campus, and a staple of the Latino community.

But you don’t have to take our word for it… Here’s what the architect had to say about this project’s challenges, choosing exterior porcelain cladding, and working with our team:

“My main concern about using porcelain panels as an exterior rainscreen cladding was simply a lack of knowledge. [This project] was one of the first significant US projects to use exterior porcelain panels in a ventilated façade application. So, it was a newer product in the US market and new to me…

…For the [project], our design intent was for the building’s base to appear heavier. And the building’s geometry was a little complex, as the base sloped outward as it cantilevered up and out of the ground. Before considering Porcelanosa Facades, we’d looked at a couple of options. One was precast concrete; the other was a fiber cement rainscreen cladding.

Fiber cement cladding was a product we’d used before. However, the contractors involved at this stage in the job had some reluctance due to lack of experience and cost. They wanted a fully engineered cladding system. Ventilated facades were not as common at that time in the Chicago market. Which made both the owner and contractor a little reluctant. Especially since most of the ventilated facade claddings on the market were supplied just as you would any other common construction material – without much support for installers that were not familiar with them. They’d sell you the framing and panels, and let the installer figure it out.

What we all found especially attractive about Porcelanosa Facades was that they were providing a fully engineered cladding system, including shop drawings, and they were precutting the tiles to fit the complex geometry. They were still very competitive with the cost of other ventilated facades as well, which made it an especially attractive solution. Also, you get the added value that the porcelain panels are a very durable product that is scratch and graffiti resistant – which was important because this was a school building.

One additional challenge we had was, since this was a public project, we were required to specify at least 3 equivalent products. On the market at the time was just one other competitor who was just introducing their ventilated porcelain façade on the US market. And they hadn’t yet figured out how to modify their system to work with local methods of construction. The third specified manufacturer had to be a product not yet available from US suppliers. Luckily, the contractor who won the bid and ended up installing all the façade systems realized quickly which was the right supplier!

…Sometimes you take a chance on a new product and get lucky. Other times you discover a lot of headaches. I got lucky with Porcelanosa Facades and I recommend them to other architects and building owners. It’s a quality product. It installs easily and it looks very sharp when it’s up.”

Cosmin VrajitoruArchitect

JGMA Architects. Chicago, IL

Do you have a great project you’ve worked on with us that you’d like to see featured here?

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Until next time, keep growing your garden with beautiful building facades…

Thank you,
Your Partners in Design at

1) Sign up for our Virtual Online Lunch & Learn CEU presentation.
Sign up here for our presentation called, “Ventilated Façade System for Buildings.”

You’ll earn 1 AIA HSW CEU, and you’ll learn more about when & how to use a ventilated façade, as well as the advantages you’ll get using a ventilated façade over using other cladding systems.


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Go here to schedule a no-obligation call. Get to know us and share your vision for your project. If this project isn’t a great fit, we’ll just let each other know. And part as new BFFs looking forward to the next chance to work together.

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3) See if your project is a good fit for our Design Assist service.
Check out our two-page Design Assist Services description here to help understand a bit more about this awesome way we can work together.

The TL;DR version: If your project meets just two simple requirements, our complimentary Design Assist service will help ensure your façade design’s success, while saving your design team time, money, and headaches.

Check it out today!

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