Your Guide to Architectural Metal Cladding

Metal cladding is an appealing, modern way to enhance a building's aesthetics. There are many creative ways architects can use metal cladding in unique ways to create something that’s truly spectacular. For example, the titanium designs of Frank Gehry have received global accolades.

Metal cladding is a solution Architects love since they can choose the materials and finish according to the client’s needs. Metal also provides a sturdy cladding option that can withstand the wear and tear over the years and maintain a sleek appearance.

In this article we will explore the perfect cladding system for your next project.

Metal Cladding Systems

Metal cladding is a practical solution since it can protect your building from the elements while providing a beautiful finish. Metals are versatile, malleable and foldable and can be fixed to a building in many ways.

The metal cladding system best suited to your building project depends on the complexity of the design and the desired finish. Some of the most commonly used cladding systems are –

Standing Seam

You can easily identify the standing seam cladding by the string folded connection between the panels. Architects often prefer this system as it enables them to form sleek exteriors. Aluminium, zinc, titanium, weathering steel and galvanized steel can be incorporated to make a standing seam system stunning.

Snaplock

Snaplock resembles standing seam with the ribbed look however, Snaplock can be assembled without any special closing equipment. The installation is comparatively hassle-free, with Snaplock panels that snap together.

Interlocking

For a smooth appearance, you can go for an interlocking system. The width of the metal cladding panels can vary according to your needs. You can fit it to run vertically, horizontally, or diagonally.

Flatlock and Shingle

Flatlock or shingle panels are linked to form a thin and flexible façade. You can opt for reversed flatlock, for deeper express lines. Shingled metal façades deliver a stunning appearance. To create this appearance, shingle metal panels are folded into tile shapes so they can be interconnected when installed.

Cassette

The cassette system is suitable for huge metal panels. You fit the bent cassettes with invisible clips, which give you a flat look. Generally, the cassettes are fitted to an aluminium frame. This system provides a contemporary appearance.

Custom

The sky’s the limit when it comes to creating unique metal cladding systems. You can create something completely new by hiring a specialist manufacturer. An existing system can also be altered according to your requirements. However, consider the costs of the customization.

Metal Cladding Materials

Metal cladding can be made using a variety of materials. Each of the materials has its own strengths and weaknesses. The materials you choose to use will depend on the nature of your project including the environment, the weather, structural engineering, and the desired aesthetics.

Aluminium

Aluminium is currently a favourite with new projects. Aluminium has its perks, it is highly resistant to rust, it is lightweight, and has a great strength-to-weight ratio. Aluminium may get a few dents and scratches so it may not be ideal at ground level.

Titanium

Titanium is robust and light. Its aesthetic appeal comes from its glossy and reflective surface. During treatment, it gets covered by a thin oxide film which acts as protection against corrosion. Titanium needs maintenance, or it can develop brown stains.

Zinc

Zinc is known for its many amazing attributes. Zinc withstands the weather and corrosion very well. It is also self-healing. If zinc surfaces suffer a few minor scratches, they recover automatically.

Copper

Copper is light and durable when juxtaposed against other materials. It has a shiny surface that turns green due to oxidization.

Brass

Brass borrows its properties from zinc and copper. As it is quite malleable, it can be used for ornate sheets. With time, it takes on a greenish hue due to oxidization.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is layered by chromium oxide. It prevents oxidization due to this chromium coating. This is why stainless steel does not erode or rust. If you want a clean looking finish, stainless steel is a great option.

Galvanized Steel

Galvanized steel contains a thin coating of zinc that resists rusting. Galvanized steel gives off a mottled look with crystallites, which we often refer to as 'spangle'.

Weathering Steel

Popularly known as COR-TEN, it has a rusty appearance and acts as a barrier to corrosion. One perk of using weathering steel is that you don't have to paint it. Weathering steel is 'industrially beautiful' if you nail the detailing of the cladding.

Reliability

If you get the materials and system right, your cladding can enhance the life of the building. Here are a few factors worth considering when deciding on suitable materials for your project.

Durability

Generally, metals are quite durable. But metals differ in their durability. Softer metals are prone to scratches and dents. Location and climate conditions can affect the life cycle of a building.

Expansion and Contraction

Some metals expand or contract depending on the heat, humidity, weather, and pressure. Using unsuitable materials can ruin the building structure.

Fire resistance

Metals are fire resistant, but you should still discuss the fire-resistance rating with the manufacturers. Also, ensure that the metal cladding is compatible with the building envelope.

Acoustic Insulation

For acoustic insulation, you need to look at the RW rating, STC, and other whole-of-wall ratings. Typically, there is very little sound insulation between internal and external surroundings due to metal cladding.

Thermal Insulation

For weather and thermal resistance, you might get a sheathing board for the outer part of the infill walls. The U-Value requirements are taken into account. Metal cladding does not contribute much to insulation. Consult your manufacturer for appropriate insulation options.

Wind Action

Cladding systems need to be durable against the wind and ensure the primary structure is not compromised. You need to consider the wind of the location before selecting suitable metal cladding.

Environmental Aspects

While determining the right materials for your building, consider the impact your project might have on the environment. The manufacturing process, instalment and maintenance requirements should all be assessed. You should also consider the life cycle of all materials used. In many instances you may find metal cladding is a wise option for the protection and preservation of our environment.

Conclusion

As we have covered, there are many points to consider when selecting Architectural Metal Cladding for your building project. We highly recommend seeking professional advice from a manufacturing supplier who specializes in metal cladding. When selecting a manufacturer, you’ll obviously be looking for the right price but you should also consider their specialization, reputation and any other KPI’s you wish to set. There’s been some horror stories in the media about poor quality building materials. Many times, you can mitigate the risks by selecting the right manufacturers to partner with for your projects.

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