Not sure which rainscreen cladding material to choose for your next creation? This article explores the top materials available and some key factors about each.
Written by Omnis and also published in Architects Datafile, September issue which you can view here.
Rainscreen, delivering beauty and protection.
Rainscreen is not only used to help protect the structure of a building from the effects of nature, it also contributes to (if specified correctly) delivering great insulation and a beautiful aesthetic look to the building envelope.
Rainscreen has come a long way since its initial Norwegian development in the early twentieth century; we now have the choice of beautiful natural materials such as; timber, stone, metals and the hardwearing, flexible composites such as; re-constituted stone, high pressure laminate (HPL) and fibre cement composite panels. This vast choice provides architects and designers with an almost endless combination of finishes, colours and design possibilities.
There are many factors to consider when choosing the right rainscreen panel for your project, here are the core properties you will need to consider;
- Use – is it suitable for internal or external use?
- Colours & textures – does it offer me the design flexibility I need to meet my aesthetic aspirations?
- Technical flexibility – does the material allow me to meet my technical design needs?
- Longevity – does it have a long life expectancy?
- Resilient – is it impact, graffiti and pollutant resistant?
- Practicalities – is it easy to install?
- Safety – is it suitably fire rated?
- Green – does it help me achieve my green ratings?
- Building regulations – do they meet the necessary building regulations?
- Low maintenance – is it easy to maintain, and therefore will still be looking good in years to come?
- Colour management – is it UV stable and will the finish remain bright and intact?
- Budgets – which panel offers the best value but doesn’t compromise on design?
Here we are going to delve a little deeper into the more popular panels available.
ACM panels are lightweight and provide you with the ultimate flexibility in terms of shape. If you’re looking for waves, curves, domes, or any other kind of shape, these panels are a good choice for your project. You can pre-coat the panels, usually with PvDF prior to fabrication and then assemble on site to bring your desired designs to life. Another feature of the ACM panel is that is provides a perfectly flat, smooth finish which encompasses the building like a second skin. Find out more about our Alubond ACM Panels
A fantastic material which will deliver a high quality, natural finish. Choose from all types of natural stones including; Sandstone, Limestone, Granite, Slate, Marble, and Norstone to name a few, each one with their own unique charm. Stone is usually more costly than other panel options and due to the weight of the product it can increases the install costs.
A very versatile and high performing cladding panel which has a decorative coating which is fused to the fibre cement sheet. Along with the impressive colour and design options, you can have through coloured boards, an iridescent surface; translucent and opaque coatings and visible cement textures. Find out more about our fibre cement rainscreen cladding panel, Swisspearl.
High pressure laminate (HPL)
Designed to perform, HPL is highly durable, aesthetically appealing and extremely resilient. Most HPLs are manufactured using a high pressure lamination process incorporating natural fibres and double hardened acrylic resins. The feature which makes this panel unique is the ability to print on any designs you wish, the nature of the material and process allows any design, picture, pattern to be printed onto the boards in either the same or each panel having a different print which creates one large design. Along with this and the unlimited number of lightfast colour options, HPL really does give you maximum creative freedom. Find out more about our HPL rainscreen cladding panel, Bauclad.
These stone based panels can provide a look which is almost identical to natural stone. Not only are these man-made panels more durable and impact resistance compared to real stone, but they are extremely lighter which has significant impact on the installation costs. Reconstituted stone cladding panels deliver on performance and also on aesthetics. The end result is a visually stunning finish which simulates the colour and texture of natural stone, slate or terracotta. Its versatility means you can utilise this unique rainscreen cladding material to enhance or complement the natural environment, or create an imaginative style statement. Find out more about our re-constituted stone panel, Petrarch.
These clay based panels provide a raw and natural finish. Very suitable to designs which require an earthy and natural aesthetic look. Usually produced from ceramic material which is taken through the old-age kiln process of being fired at a relatively low temperature. The end result is a hardwearing panel with an expressive textured surface. Adding colour pigments to the process means that you can create the exact tone and shade to match your design ideals.
Timber is a sustainable choice due to it being renewable, recyclable, biodegradable and having minimal embodied energy. There are many choices and variations of Timber options – from the softwoods such as the popular (due to its extraction method) Western Red Cedar to hardwoods like Oak. As it’s a natural material it will weather over time, require a treatment and more regular maintenance than other panel materials. In addition to these there are thermally modified timbers such as ThermoWood, Accoya, and PlatoWood. These timbers are created using a (patented) process which typically involves thermally modifying the properties of the timber to improve its lifespan, strength, durability and stability. Timber panels offer great thermal efficiency, sound insulation and a beautiful authentic wooden finish. The image to right shows the beautiful Timber cladding on the famous Velodrome in London, copyright Nathaniel Moore/Hopkins Architects.
Manufactured in a large format panel process these panels can provide a high gloss modular glazed appearance and can represent the look of stone or quarried materials. Performance under impact can sometimes be an issue, however this is usually dealt with by bonding a glass fibre based mesh to the rear of each tile.
GRP (Glass re-enforced plastic)
This product lends itself to a building with a façade design that involves a repetitive three dimensional modular appearance. It is a versatile product which is often used when other materials cannot meet the required specifications such as fire ratings an durability. It’s manufactured by combining plastic and glass strands with pigmented thermosetting UV resins. The end result is an impressively strong, durable and attractive panel.
This form of cladding panel has been used for many years, and in the past has been installed as part of a structural load bearing system with can be part of pre cast concrete building. In recent years we have seen the introduction of acid etched concrete panels and which again are pre moulded and tend to be load bearing as well. However a form of light duty concrete panels have now appeared on the market.
So, as you can see you have a plethora of decorative rainscreen cladding panels to choose from, but you don’t have to choose just one. Stretch your creativity by combining two or more materials, colours and designs to create a unique and breath-taking façade.
To help you pick the right panel for your next project its worth getting a technical expert in at the very start. Use their technical and product knowledge to help you turn your design dreams into reality.
Need more help and advice on the right rainscreen panels to choose?