All About Metal Facades

Facades determine visual identity, character and expression of architecture. The design and enchanting exteriors of a building impart a character to it and becomes a huge parameter for building performance. Building facades lie at the convergence of the outward and inward environment; forming an integral part of the building. They are the most difficult to design since the perception of iconic and technologically advanced facades is changing frequently.

Besides technology, materials like metal, glass, concrete etc., used for the building’s skin are an integral yet singular aspect of the façade design. In my experience as Founder & Principal Architect of Cityspace’ 82 Architects, it’s often seen that whenever an architect is talking about metal in facade, it is always correlated with commercial or institutional architecture and few of the examples which will come to our mind will be The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao by Frank O Gehry done in titanium, Riverside Museum by Zaha Hadid or maybe The Sage Gateshead in UK by Norman Foster but no residence done in metal will come to our mind and if the same is proposed in a residence by an architect, most of the clients’ apprehension will be, “I hope it won’t look ‘commercial’”.

The facade combines attributes of both appearances as well as superior performance in a manner, unlike any other building system. I emphasise on the use of metal facades in residences due to the extremely beneficial properties of metals. Aesthetically speaking,  metal offers a unique modern rhythmic aesthetic to complement any building. Easily bent & configured to the specific design, it can be used as a lightweight decorative element or as a structural component in buildings.

Metal roofs and wall panels can also be curved to create a unique and dynamic building appearance, hence amplifying its versatility. Not only can metal withstand harsh weather environments, it can also resource depletion due to its recyclability. Being an eco-friendly entity, metal minimizes energy use, promotes sustainability, and invites innovation and creativity in terms of design.

Elaborating on the materials used for metal facades, Ar. Sumit shares how metal cladding encompasses a plethora of different materials, each with its own unique strengths and weaknesses. The choice of material will be influenced by a number of project-specific factors, including desired aesthetic, climatic conditions, chosen structural system, the nature of adjacent materials and the construction budget. The most common material options for metal cladding are galvanized steel, aluminium, stainless steel, zinc, copper, titanium etc. Designers are researching and experimenting with new and complex façade and fenestration technologies. Investing in technologies like BIM allows designers distil options down to a set of criteria that meet the aesthetic ambitions of the project and its tactical requirements, ensuring that these are met with optimized environmental parameters.

There has been a slow but very perceptible shift from the use of traditional masonry towards the use of compelling automation in façade and fenestration. Motorized shades, switchable windows that modulate daylight and solar heat transmissions, model predictive controls for optimized performance in the realm of end-user comfort, satisfaction, and acceptance of automated façade systems are the various ways automation is incorporated in facades. These tools enable designers to explore forms in real-time and derive key insights into the thermal, daylight and solar performance informing decisions pertaining to the building orientation, solar shading, glazing etc, while also reducing expenditure. Thus, metal facades combined with the right dose of technology can uplift the exterior of spaces & multiply their utility.