External Cladding Materials are essential elements of a building that ensure the exterior is protected from damaging sources. Building cladding systems extend the lifespan and longevity of the facility. They also provide other benefits, including strength to the structure and thermal insulation, resulting in better energy efficiency. These exterior materials not only protect the construction envelope but also enhance the aesthetics of the building. Thus, the facade design and the correct finish choice of the external cladding materials must have the right balance of functionality, efficiency, and aesthetics.
Latest Trends in External Cladding Materials (Glass, Metal, Cement, etc.)
In experts’ opinion, the building facade reflects the nature of architecture at a specific time. Thus, it demands aesthetic quality and excellent functionality equally. Among all the exterior cladding solutions dotting the construction industry, dynamically electrochromic glass systems are game-changers. They maximize the light and cut glare significantly, resulting in better visual and thermal comfort. These glass claddings can be controlled directly by occupants and reduce energy costs.
When there is a need for the beauty of classic stones on a building facade, the ultra-thin and large-format porcelain slabs can be the best. Due to the flexibility radius, the cladding panels can be applied to buildings that have convex and concave surfaces. They are incredibly resistant to weather changes, tear and wear while requiring almost no maintenance.
Building materials marketers believe that in recent times, the building market demands more usage of metal claddings such as aluminum siding systems, ceramic, fiber cement, stone, etc. Metal cladding systems or Aluminum Composite Panels (ACM panels) with wood pattern finishes are being used more frequently nowadays due to their near-identical beauty and given the prolonged lifespan of the building facade. Moreover, claddings for ventilated facades have been a subject of discussion in modern cities.
According to modern engineers and architects, the latest trends in external cladding materials are using 3D printing technologies and devices. These super modern systems open up possibilities that were unthinkable in the past decades. Thus, architects and builders can use this freedom to integrate air conditioning, shading, and ventilation functions.
The Major Challenges in the Industrial Cladding Systems
Exterior cladding materials dictate how a facility appears and how the building forms part of an overall urban area. Thus, the suitable choice of cladding materials and building design are the essential factors for deciding if the facility is ultimately fit for purpose or not. Thermal and sound insulation, fire resistance, and protection are vital challenges to consider, from concept designing to maintenance. With this said, the more ambitious the project, the greater need for precision in details.
The northern American market has always been a challenging arena due to its geographical location. Access to different exterior cladding materials from across the world has never been an obstacle. However, changing the mindset of consultants and developers due to classic insulation materials for buildings by default has been a challenge. The good thing is that there has been a shifting in the understanding of thermal construction dynamics more recently, resulting in newer and more modern process developed by various building material manufacturers, architects, engineers with constantly updated and standard designs with details. For example, metal claddings such as modern aluminum siding are regaining popularity since they are upgraded to be more efficient and functional.
Smart Building Cladding Technologies for Sustainable Constructions
External cladding materials are getting more innovative and more energy efficient nowadays. For many years, builders and architects have been using concrete panels, metal screens, and timber panels as cladding systems. However, the focus is shifted on sustainability to provide cost savings to the client and help reduce a facility’s carbon footprint.
Recently, architects and builders in Canada have used various external cladding materials such as modern ACM panels, perforated screens, WPC boards, and timber panels which are perfect for high-rise and low-rise buildings. Additionally, mineral fiber panels’ usage is also increasing while replacing the old traditional metal panels.
Fritted glass double glazing is another cladding system that sees resurgence due to its versatility and the fact that it provides beautiful transparency and reduces the solar gain of the facility from thus reducing additional costs. Since the introduction of fire safety and new building codes this year, the only alternative options such as glass mineral wool to replace polystyrene removed from the approved cladding material lists are ACM or aluminum composite panels.
The choice of non-flammable and code-approved external cladding materials also applies to retrofit, as does the new constructions’ energy efficiency requirement. The selection and choice of building materials can contribute hugely to the overall insulation of the built form to reduce infiltration, which is one of the primary reasons for increases in HVAC loads, and any action or measure taken to reduce the infiltration will lessen the load resulting in the overall electricity usage reduction.
Current concerns over the increasing power consumption of the economy and energy have led the local codes and authorities across the globe to introduce ‘Green Building’ regulations. Thus, building material suppliers encourage the use of sustainable and durable exterior cladding materials, including aluminum composite panels which are environmentally friendly, carbon-neutral, and recyclable materials. Sustainable metal cladding systems, solar fitted facades, and even stone GRC have been emerging more durable options.
Researchers have designed multi-functional cladding elements that can be fabricated digitally to allow architects to create freely and provide easy installation methods for ACM panels. The new building facades characterized by their clarity and beautiful surface texture are the first functionality cladding elements from a 3D printing technology that provides ventilation, shading, and insulation.
Key Factors to Consider When Designing and Choosing External Cladding Materials
When choosing an external cladding material, there is often a misunderstanding between the service life and design working life. Cladding service life can be shorter or longer than the design life. The design working lifespan of the facade is the fixed period during which the material will meet required design parameters, subject to specific maintenance without repairs or damages. On the other hand, the service life is when the materials can be utilized economically without abuse, with or without repair or maintenance.
The key factors to consider when buying or designing external cladding materials are structural performance, water tightness, thermal resistance, corrosion resistance, permeability, aesthetics and artistic finishes, and reduction in carbon footprint. Other factors influence the design working life, including temperature, dust, wind loads, rain, and other weather conditions.
Role of Exterior Cladding Systems in Controlling the Internal Environment
The primary function of building cladding systems is to split the interiors of a facility from the exteriors so that the outdoor area will not affect the indoors. They are also perfect for regulating the light penetration and controlling the sunlight and conduction of heat, protecting interiors from fading and dull. Moreover, perforated panels and sunshades allow the reflected light to enter the building, enhancing the comport rather than direct sunlight.
Building claddings’ thermal properties and insulation characteristics decide how efficiently the facility’s temperature can be controlled. Modern industrial cities have regulations as to the minimum performance parameters of the cladding system, which needs to comply with the green building codes.
Rainscreen Exterior Cladding Materials and Their Advantages
Rainscreen claddings are the most efficient materials for construction envelope and facades purposes. This building material perfectly fits into the current architectural trends. Rainscreens are easy to install, and they favor energy saving due to their air cavity on the building’s facade. When combining the rainscreen with an insulation system, builders can provide numerous advantages, such as the thermal and acoustic insulation increment.
These functional external cladding materials reduce humidity and condensation coming from both outsides and inside of the facility. The continuous air circulation inside the air cavity provides additional protection payer and removes the water filtration that can infiltrate the building cladding joints.
One of the primary reasons designers and architects of rain-screen cladding materials are generally appreciated is the aesthetic flexibility that allows builders to create claddings with any shape, color, and dimensions. Apart from this, extended lifetime, ease of installation, durability, sustainability, and thermal performance are other few benefits of these metal cladding systems. Here is the list of rainscreen advantages that most people seek:
- Lifetime Extension
- Structural Movement Reduction
- Thermal and Acoustic Installation Improvement
- Energy Efficiency Increment
- Require No-Maintenance
- Adds Value to the Facility