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A Guide to Architectural Cladding

Table of Contents

Ask any veteran architect the importance of cladding and you’ll be amazed to find out how such a simple thin layer outside or inside the walls of a building works wonders. Cladding is nothing but a layer of skin that protects the building from harsh environmental conditions. On top of it, it improves the appearance of buildings while providing thermal insulation and ultimate weather resistance. Residential housesskyscrapersapartments, schools, cladding have become so common and important these days that you can find them on almost any type of building.

While architectural cladding can be classified into many types, the ultimate goal remains to protect the building and the people inside. Architectural cladding can be done with materials like bricks, vinyl, stainless steel, aluminium, wood, etc. You can either go for the wooden cladding for the best weather resistance or aluminium cladding to give your building a modern and aesthetically pleasing look.

What is the Purpose of Cladding? 

The primary purpose of cladding is to shield your building from outside weather. It serves as a protective skin for your building by enhancing its thermal performance significantly. However, one can also choose to install cladding just to enhance the look of the building. No need to blame them, cladding can transform the look of a building and make it practically unrecognizable.

There are various types of claddings available to suit your needs, each with its own set of pros and cons. Let’s discuss some of those to get you to decide which one will suit the best for your building.

Types of Architectural Cladding

Architectural cladding can be classified based on the material used, the 6 most common and the most popular types of cladding are:

  • Stone Cladding: Stone or brick cladding is naturally very strong and thus requires little to no maintenance. It’s made of smoothened stones or hardened brick and gives your building an elegant look. However, it’s one of the most expensive types of architectural cladding, and producing it causes a lot of air pollution and other environmental harm. Moreover, the chipped stones can decay over time and fall to the ground, this may cause serious harm to a pedestrian or a vehicle parked near your building.
  • Metal Cladding: Metal cladding holds the crown of the best protective cladding for any building. Metals can survive extreme weather conditions. As metals are both malleable and ductile, it’s easier to construct and install metal cladding than any other type. The metal cladding is known to effectively provide all-weather protection. At the same time, its shiny, glossy appearance gives the building an aesthetically pleasing look. However, these benefits do come at a hefty price tag and high maintenance. Furthermore, the risk of catching fire is highest for metal claddings.
  • Wooden Cladding: Wooden cladding is by far the most effective architectural cladding. Wood is an extremely good insulator and also quite easy to install if compared with other materials. There is no need for additional processing of wooden cladding, the natural texture of the wood is enough to provide an unmatched elegance to the walls. Installing a wooden cladding will help lower your carbon footprint as it’s very environmental friendly and completely biodegradable. However, wooden cladding is prone to catch fire, that’s a thing you should take extra care of if you’re planning to install a wooden cladding.
  • Glass Cladding: While the glass may not seem like the ideal choice at first for covering the walls of your building, it’s very reliable and gives your building the level of elegance that no other material can match. Glass cladding is most commonly used on commercial buildings, thanks to the instant modern appearance that it provides to the building to make it stand out from the crowd. Moreover, glass is very lightweight and can be easily moulded into any shape to fit every contour of the building. It requires little to no maintenance, just a little bit of cleaning once or twice a year is all that a glass cladding requires you don’t have to worry about any discoloration or deterioration issues whatsoever. Many commercial buildings opt for glass cladding to maximize the amount of natural light in the building to significantly reduce power consumption.
  • Vinyl Cladding: Vinyl cladding is one of the cheapest cladding options available in the market. Vinyl cladding is also considered very lightweight, allowing it to completely cover the building with ease. Moreover, these vinyl panels can be additionally coupled with an insulation layer that acts as a temperature controller. It keeps the building warm when the temperature is cold and vice versa. Vinyl cladding is ideal for those who want to give their building a colourful look without stretching their wallet a lot. Vinyl cladding is not only cost-effective at the time of installation but also in the long run as it comes alongside proven energy efficiency.
  • Ceramic Cladding: Ceramic cladding has always been in high demand, thanks to its versatility and exceptional mechanical characteristics. Ceramic is one of the best insulants and it can shield your building from harsh environmental conditions, all while enhancing the aesthetic look of your property to a great extent. Ceramic is also considered to be very durable and resistant to extreme weather conditions. It also provides great protection from harmful UltraViolet rays. The best part of all is that ceramic cladding requires little to no maintenance and is considered very safe for the environment as it’s completely made of natural materials.

Safety Concerns

  • Inflammable 

Many people associate cladding with disasters like the Grenfell Tower fire in London, they’re not wrong as cladding does catch fire pretty easily. However, there are very few types of cladding that can catch fire that easily. One of the main culprits responsible for this scenario is the Metal Composite Panels or MCP.

MCP panels generally consist of a polyethylene core sandwiched between two outer layers of metal (generally aluminium). The polyethylene core in MCPs must be lower than 30% to minimize the risk of catching fire as the panels with a higher core percent have been discovered to be highly inflammable. Make sure to install the right type of cladding on your building to minimize this risk, safety regulations have been applied by governments around the world to ensure the safety of claddings and to avoid future accidents.

  • Low Tensile Strength

The tensile strength of most types of cladding is very poor. That being said, it’s possible that some part of it may decay and fall on someone walking nearby. That’s a serious issue considering you have to ensure the safety of the people around you. It’s always recommended to install glass or ceramic cladding to prevent such accidents.

Is Architectural Cladding Worth Installing? 

There is one simple, straightforward answer to this question- absolutely yes! Cladding transforms the look of your building from boring and old-fashioned to modern and elegant. Cladding protects your property from harsh weather conditions while giving it a new look. It improves the thermal performance of the building by providing it with great thermal insulation. However, your choice of cladding material plays a great role in dictating the final look of the building.

Yes, there are some safety concerns which you need to address before installing cladding on your building. One of those issues is that it catches fire pretty easily. However, if you do manage to take special care of the choice of material and cladding type, you won’t be facing such issues as the risk becomes close to none. It also requires a decent initial investment. However, the benefits of cladding far outweigh the risks and initial costs.

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