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The Growing Market for Facades: Recent Products to Enhance Face Value

Posted by
on September 28, 2019 at 05:36 PM

© Courtesy of internet resources

There can be no end to the quest for the ultimate beautification of our face – it is one that has transcended millennia and will continue to do so for ever. So also in architecture is the quest for innovative ways of projecting an impressive façade. Even the brutalists, with all their material honesty, have been conscious of the visual appeal of their structures. What, then, to say of lesser mortals? With growing sustainability concerns of the new age, the face of the building is expected to step up its game further than a mere cosmetic brief and provide solutions for ventilation, energy conservation, and even energy production. As facades play increasingly critical roles in a building’s scheme, manufacturers and researchers have been on their toes churning out innovations that are exciting to use for the building industry. Here’s a sampling of some of those.

Perforated Panels

In recent years, the materials market has experienced thrust on breathable exteriors and the demand in tropical regions for perforated skins of buildings as one of the passive tools of energy optimisation and hence, sustainability. This has led to tremendous research and innovation activity in the manufacturing industry, producing perforated façade panels in a variety of materials which compete in terms of their strength, durability, maintenance, customisability, resistance to weathering, ease of installation and other virtues.

© Courtesy of Perforated Polymer Concrete Panels

Some market leaders in manufacturing façade panels like Spain based ULMA Architectural Solutions have offered an innovation that uses a mixture of silica, quartz and basalt with polyester resins to give what they call Polymer Concrete Panels which are moulded to form and coated with SHEILD PLUS technology. These panels have been made available in customisable sizes and formats as well as customisable perforation patterns which can be complemented by a wide variety of textures and colours. The horizontal and vertical installation systems boast of concealed fixing of panels weighing a maximum of 33 kg/sq m leaving joints of not more than 3 mm in between. The product lays claim to an impressive list of virtues like high resistance to traction, compression, shock, industrial/ saline environments, chemicals, temperature, freezing and thawing environments, etc. Being made of totally inert, non-contaminating materials makes the product eco-efficient. Having already been used in several projects globally, the best news about these panels seems to be that they have distributors in India.

© Courtesy of internet resources

Perforated Metal Panels

Perhaps the oldest among the presently available variety and hence, the original perforated screens are the metal ones. With aluminium and copper being the oldest and most popular metal sheets being used for these screens, stainless steel and carbon steel have been enjoying popularity as well, and the latest trends show the industry adding many exciting, new metals to the list. These façade systems have considerably evolved installation procedures and globally active manufacturers and distributors have created an extremely accessible market for them. Laser technology ensures a wide variety of customisable perforation patterns on the menu to be executed with precision and finesse. Optimising the balance between strength and low weight features makes these panels an increasingly popular choice for facades which perform functions like passive ventilation, providing privacy, optimising daylight, combatting wind pressure, etc. while delivering elegant aesthetics.

© Courtesy of internet resources

Perforated Terracotta Panels

Facade panels of terracotta finish have become extremely popular due to their virtues of ecological friendliness, easy availability and fine aesthetics coupled with evolved installation systems and basic ventilating properties which are a result of assembling them by skipping intermediate units to create perforations/ porosity. These panels can be perforated in various patterns, too, and are available in format variants like small and large panels and tiles, shingles, baguettes and louvres. Further than the naturally matt brick coloured finish they can be customised into glazed and coloured finishes as well as textures like grainy, ribbed and grooved. They are typically popular as terracotta rain-screens as the method of assembling these assures that rain water is deflected off the surface towards the outside.

© Courtesy of internet resources

Fibre Cement Panels

As façade panel material, the history of the use of fibre cement dates back to the era of modernists like Walter Gropius, though the panels then were coated or treated. The material is creating waves again currently in an untreated or uncoated avatar which offers exciting textures, grains, colours, perforations and even 3D patterns which are exciting designers no end with their raw, untreated character.

© Courtesy of internet sources

Metal Mesh Media Surfaces

‘Illumesh’ is a building exterior surface made of metal mesh fabric which can be illuminated by programmed LEDs with practically invisible wiring systems embedded in the installation. The result is a Media façade which can be partly or fully lit up by controlling the illumination span through the angle of the LED lights and can be programmed and internet controlled. The product, manufactured by GKD Metal fabrics, boasts of features like weather and temperature resistance and high resolution imagery.

© Courtesy of internet sources

Dynamic tinting electrochromic glass

A smart glass used for openings, skylights and facades, this tinting of this glazing can be electronically controlled by the occupants of a room or building to optimise the sunlight radiation and shade according to need. In fact, the advanced algorithms used in these smart glass systems facilitate the control of light, glare, energy use and colour rendering by the users through even their mobile apps. The added advantage of the system is that it can be installed in existing buildings and integrated into the existing operation of control systems. Sold under the brand name of Sage Glass by Saint Gobain, this product has also gained immense popularity.

© Courtesy of internet resources

Wood Alternatives

Wood panelling for exteriors has been a coveted choice for its warm and elegant aesthetics as well as sturdy weather resistance offered by some varieties of hard and soft woods. The concern for depleting resources due to deforestation led to engineered wood as an alternative that recycled used and discarded wood and also added value to its strength and longevity. Recent wood alternatives which offer the same visual qualities while addressing environmental concerns include glass fibre reinforced cement boards or panels which are manufactured in India as well as imported from international brands. These come in various grains, textures and colours which mimic real wood variants and possess a baked ceramic coating to ensure strength, weather and impact resistance, UV rays and chemicals resistance and thermal insulation. There is also an alternative manufacturing process for these faux wood panels by digitising real wood ones and feeding a 3D printer the digitised data to enable printing out some sort of cloned panels using engineered materials.

© Courtesy of internet resources
© Courtesy of internet resources

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