From Aluminium to Zinc: What’s Next for Building Facades?

facade design

Exterior design is moving away from one-dimensional towards a two-dimensional approach that uses contemporary minimalistic material to create a simple, uncluttered façade.

Traditional cladding has always involved a composite aluminium or stone but this is now being replaced by an array of exciting new materials. In the last decade, architects in Dubai have been experimenting with different materials and we have seen a few new types of cladding materials such as aluminium and zinc which are low maintenance, fire-resistant and durable. We are also starting to see an increase in the use of mineral fibre panels replacing the old traditional metal panels.

Sustainability will play a major role in the selection of materials in the future. Apart from controlling the heat gain and providing a good acoustical and thermal break, cladding companies will manufacture materials which can be easily recycled. We have seen a significant development in the use of building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV). The potential of BIPV to seamlessly integrate into the cladding or double glazing of a building not only preserves its aesthetics but also produces energy and offsets some of the electrical usage. However the high production costs are a major challenge and so the efficiencies of incorporating BIPV into building design need to be carefully considered.

Looking ahead, one area that is set to grow is smart facades and the ability to implement strategies to manage and reduce radiant and convective heat loads outside the building before they can reach the building interior. A high performing facade or double skin façade can have a significant impact on reducing the loads on the building interface and, I believe, sustainability will play a major role in deciding the cladding material for future buildings.

By Avinash Kumar, Associate Partner