Durability, resistance, and great aesthetic potential: why choose metal cladding for your projects’ façade.
Choosing to clad building facades with durable and resistant materials like aluminum is always a smart choice. It helps minimize maintenance interventions over time, adding value and prestige to the entire property. Opting for a ventilated facade or cladding with good thermal insulation characteristics can significantly reduce the building’s heat dispersion, offering substantial benefits to internal comfort and air conditioning expenses.
Explore this article as we delve into the features and benefits of metal (aluminum) cladding for facades.
Aluminum in Construction
Aluminum is a relatively recent metal in industrial use, despite being the third most abundant element on Earth after oxygen and silicon. It emerged industrially just over 100 years ago, with patented techniques transforming bauxite into alumina laying the groundwork for modern aluminum production methods still used today.
Aluminum boasts high performance properties such as lightweight, durability, electrical and thermal conductivity, workability, aesthetic value, hygiene, corrosion resistance, fire resistance, and recyclability.
These attributes make aluminum widely utilized across various sectors, including construction. For instance, the European construction industry utilizes approximately 1.2 million tons of aluminum annually. This material finds its place in various construction elements like roof cladding, facades, windows, stairs, parapets, and other structures.
Especially within the context of facade claddings, aluminum offers immense flexibility and innovation in design choices. Although its pure form is less durable, the addition of binding elements and appropriate production processes enables the creation of aluminum alloys with desired physical and mechanical properties.
Alloys used in aluminum construction products form a surface oxide layer providing water resistance, corrosion resistance, and protection against harmful UV rays. This protective layer can be further enhanced through the anodizing process, producing anodized aluminum.
Based on specific dimensions and characteristics, aluminum claddings for facades are divided into:
- Sheets – large-format elements, particularly suitable for large structures, available as:
- Plates – smaller-format elements with greater thickness compared to sheets;
- Slats – smaller in width but considerably long in length, reaching up to 13 meters.
These panels can be fully customized in shape and finishes, offering options such as shaped sheets, stamped and plastic-shaped plates and slats, with anodized, painted in various colors, satin, matt, brushed finishes, etc.
To choose the most suitable finish for the project among the many available options and to have full control over the aesthetic choices of the facade, using a 3D software for building design is recommended. These tools offer valuable assistance in avoiding wrong choices and evaluation errors. By creating a 3D model of the building, complete with materials, textures, and finishes, it’s possible to realistically visualize it as if everything were already built. With renders and virtual tours of the model, you can avoid unpleasant surprises on-site by evaluating choices appropriately and beforehand. Add textures, visualize, and modify them until you find the solution that best suits your needs.
Aluminum Cladding for Facades
While serving a decorative function, facade claddings are primarily used to ensure thermal insulation and protect buildings from weather conditions. However, the market now offers facade claddings with many significant performance characteristics like fire resistance, impact resistance, self-cleaning properties, ecological features, etc.
The most commonly used materials for facade cladding are metal, stone, and wood.
Metal claddings are known for their exceptional durability. Apart from aluminum, other commonly used metals for facade cladding include titanium and bronze.
Stone claddings (natural or reconstituted) have good durability, varying based on thickness and exposure to extreme weather conditions.
Wood claddings (natural or processed) are suitable for rustic-style houses but are relatively expensive and tend to deteriorate over time if not adequately treated.
Depending on the installation type, facade claddings can be:
- Single Skin if directly fixed to the building’s envelope;
- Double Skin (ventilated facade) if composed of multiple layers, including insulation and an air chamber.
The Ventilated Facade
The ventilated facade is a construction system designed to enhance building thermal performance through effective heat management, reducing heat load, and improving thermal insulation. This system comprises various layers, each serving a specific function, and using aluminum claddings significantly optimizes the building’s thermal behavior.
This system is based on a concept of stratification, where an external aluminum cladding layer acts as a protective barrier against weather conditions. The ventilated facade creates an air space between the cladding and the building’s support structure, allowing natural air circulation. This thermal separation helps insulate the building, reducing external and internal heat loads. Aluminum cladding, besides offering a modern aesthetic, provides corrosion resistance and weather protection. Aluminum sheets, plates, or slats, customizable in shape and finish, are fixed to a micro-ventilated substructure, usually made of wood, aluminum, or stainless steel.
The use of ventilated facades in combination with aluminum cladding not only improves energy efficiency and building thermal performance but also offers extensive design flexibility, allowing customized and sustainable solutions over time.
The technology of ventilated facades, associated with aluminum cladding, enables the use of this material in both new constructions and renovations, significantly contributing to enhancing building energy performance, comfort, and safety.
The aluminum ventilated facade comprises at least 4 layers:
- External Aluminum Cladding: This cladding serves as the primary protection against weather conditions like rain, wind, snow, and UV rays. Aluminum’s lightweight and oxidation resistance make it ideal, ensuring durability over time and an appealing aesthetic;
- Air Cavity: An air gap is created between the cladding and the building’s support structure, facilitating air passage. This ventilation layer creates a thermal barrier, reducing external and internal heat loads. Moving air aids in dissipating accumulated heat, maintaining a more stable internal temperature and limiting the risk of mold and condensation formation;
- Thermal Insulation: Inside the ventilated facade lies a layer of thermal insulation. This additional layer helps reduce heat loss from the building during winters and limits external heat ingress during summers. Thermal insulation is crucial for ensuring optimal thermal comfort and reducing energy consumption related to heating and conditioning;
- Internal Support Layer: At the base of the ventilated facade, there’s an internal support layer connecting the system to the building’s supporting structure.
The utility of a ventilated facade for the building’s thermal behavior lies in its efficient thermal flow management. Ventilation reduces summer overheating and prevents thermal bridging, while thermal insulation maintains a constant internal temperature in winter. This approach significantly contributes to reducing the building’s energy consumption, improving its overall energy efficiency. Moreover, the ventilated facade can be an integral part of sustainable design strategies, offering thermal comfort to occupants and reducing the building’s long-term environmental impact.
Why Choose Aluminum for Facade Cladding?
Aluminum is increasingly used in construction for facade cladding due to several reasons:
- Lightweight: It’s a lightweight metal, simplifying the cladding installation process and reducing the load on the building’s infrastructure. This characteristic is particularly advantageous in terms of material transportation and handling;
- Corrosion Resistance: It’s naturally resistant to corrosion. The formation of an oxide layer on the surface protects the metal from weather conditions, making the cladding more durable over time, especially in marine environments or adverse weather conditions;
- Design Versatility: It’s extremely flexible and can be shaped into a variety of forms. This allows designers to create facades with unique and creative designs, customizing the building’s aesthetic appearance;
- Finishes: Aluminum claddings are available in a wide range of finishes, including painting, anodizing, and other surface treatment techniques. This offers many customization options in terms of color, gloss, and texture;
- Low Maintenance: Aluminum requires minimal maintenance over time. Its corrosion resistance reduces the need for frequent maintenance and painting compared to other materials;
- Recyclability: Aluminum is highly recyclable without significant loss of its properties. This makes it a sustainable and environmentally friendly choice, aligning with growing concerns for sustainability in building design and construction;
- Thermal Insulation: Some aluminum claddings are designed with insulation characteristics, contributing to improving the building’s energy efficiency and maintaining a comfortable indoor environment;
- Durability: Aluminum is durable and can withstand adverse weather conditions without degradation. This durability translates to a longer lifespan for the cladding.
Overall, the combination of lightweight, strength, design versatility, and sustainability makes aluminum a popular choice for facade cladding, meeting aesthetic, functional, and environmental needs in modern building construction.