Insulated Metal Panels Breathe New Life into USA's Longest Operating Wharf

The Project


Washington D.C. is known as a concrete town to many in the design world, but it is metal being used to make a statement at the historic District Wharf. One of the main attractions at District Wharf is the Maine Avenue Fish Market, which dates back to 1790 and is the oldest continuously-operating fish market in the country.

District Wharf recently underwent a $25 million redevelopment project, adding several new, unique buildings.  


Incorporating New Construction into a Historic Site


A challenge faced in the design of District Wharf was incorporating new construction into a historic site, which had been significantly altered over time. The design team needed a material that would unify the metal barges with the older buildings and decided that insulated metal panels were the best option for five of the new buildings – a distillery and a bar; a doughnut shop and coffee shop; two restaurant buildings, and an operations building.


Steel columns from one of the historic sheds were refurbished, and together with metal panels, defined the architectural character of the new structures, connecting the old and new in an understated manner.


Building with Sustainability in Mind


Performance was an important factor in selecting materials for District Wharf. The owners are pursuing LEED Silver certification by taking a campus approach, which captures the economies of scale in the certification process. The campus approach allows an owner or developer to use the boundary of the entire site in pursuing a LEED certification.


At District Wharf, new, smaller buildings contribute to the points of the bigger buildings, which allows the developers to utilize the benefits from the R-values of the insulated metal panels throughout the site and apply that to the overall energy efficiency score. Buildings under a certain square footage don’t get their own certification but can contribute in this campus approach.



Metal Panels Provide the Finishing Touch


The project utilizes more than 25,000 square feet of Kingspan insulated metal panels (IMPs), including Optimo, a flat wall panel available in a variety of finishes, and KarrierPanel, a universal barrier wall system. The architects put a premium on using the panels in a way that added depth and shadow to some of the buildings. The windows were set in and the panels pushed out in a variety of instances, an application not often done when designing with IMPs.


Other IMPs at the District Wharf are vinyl-wrapped, some have a granite finish, and some are even painted with vendor murals to relate to the carnival-like neon signage of the barges. For instance, the interior of the Tiki TNT bar includes a tropical mural painted directly on the Kingspan panels.


Kingspan products used on this project:





Architect: StudioMB



Washington, DC



Kingspan Insulated Panels

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Build Legacies: Metal