What's influencing facade design in 2018?

The next big thing: 5 architectural facade design trends

The way building facades are approached is changing. In addition to their waterproofing, insulation and aesthetic functions, facade design now encompasses energy efficiency, which adds another layer of complexity to the process. Further, facade engineers have access to a greater number of materials, and developments in technology allow them to do more with what they have. 

When we talk about facade design trends, we're not looking at "what's hot" so much as how the design approach has changed, what's important now that wasn't before, and what's possible now thanks to technological development.

1. Design approach

Usually when people think of facades, they think of the most iconic in the world; St Peter's Basilica, the Parthenon, or one of the many striking works by Frank Gehry. It's true that facade design can leave an impression, oftentimes leading buildings to become iconic, integral parts of their cityscapes that can last for centuries.

Mic Patterson of Facade Tectonics describes the current approach to facade design in commercial architecture as "the pursuit of the iconic." This is an approach that values the unique appearances of the classics, and attempts to create designs that will be remembered.

This is not to say that the aesthetic aspect of a facade is the only consideration, or at least, it shouldn't be. As previously mentioned, waterproofing and insulation are just as important as aesthetic features, but with new technology, facades can make even more meaningful contributions to the buildings they envelope (we'll go into more detail on this shortly).

Today's design approach is one that balances striking visuals with classic functionality, while incorporating smart new technologies to boost efficiency.

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2. Materials

Developments in technology mean materials are easier to produce in bulk and easier to manipulate for particular applications. Producing thousands of perforated metal sheets for example, is far simpler and less time consuming than it would have been in eras past.

Woven wire mesh and perforated or expanded metal used in facades (whether for the entire building skin or as individual textural or shading elements in more complex designs) certainly fit the bill when it comes to functionality. Facade materials need to strike a delicate balance of allowing natural light to enter the building, but restricting glare from the sun.

This can be achieved using open profiles or screens oriented in a such a way to allow the all-important passage of natural light while still offering optimal protection from direct sunlight. Traditionally, many facade engineers opted for glass to provide natural light to a space, but this isn't always the best option in Australia's climate – where the glare from the slow-moving sun can cause problems with vision.

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3. Sustainability

Sustainability is another factor of facade design that is more important now than ever. In this context, sustainability is all about reducing the footprint – using smarter materials, optimising design and layout, and reducing long-term costs.

One of the key strategies here extends from our last section. We covered how materials like glass and open-profiled metal sheets allow the entry of natural light, but the reason for this is to reduce the volume and intensity of indoor lighting. More natural light means less reliance on the electricity grid, which ultimately reduces energy spend.

Facades are generally oriented so they can respond to solar movement. Depending on the local climate, facades can also prevent heat loss, or maintain cooler temperatures inside the building. Again, this reduces the amount of energy building managers need to use to keep the environment comfortable for those using it.

Another hot trend in facade design is the "vegetated facade", wherein a facade is designed and built to support the growth of vegetation. The vegetation then becomes part of the building skin, reinforcing biodiversity and offering shade and amenity spaces for building inhabitants.

4. Smart elements

Smart building design is about sustainability, but it's also about improving lives. Smart elements creatively reimagine what's possible in design, to remove limitations, to create spaces where humans can flourish and to add functionality previously only dreamed of.

Utilising smart elements in your facade isn't a matter of selecting pre-established elements, rather it is an innovative design approach. Let's look at a couple of examples of how smart elements can be used in a project.

A few years ago a new hospital was built in Mexico City, the facade of which has "smog eating" capabilities. The material was initially introduced in 2011, and contains titanium dioxide. As exhaust-filled air passes around the facade, it interacts with the material's "free radicals" which cleanse the air of the gases that smog is made up of; nitric oxides, sulfur dioxide and ozone.

Another example of smart facade elements in use is the communications and design building at the University of Southern Denmark which utilises gorgeous perforated metal panels with a twist. All of the panels are installed on mechanical hinges that are capable of adjusting themselves to regulate the natural light entering the building (pictured below).

A final example of smart facade design comes from material technologists Decker Yeadon. Their homeostatic facade comprises two sheets of glass with the newly developed material in between. This material was created to act like a muscle, and it expands or contracts based on the temperature of the outer surface. This in turn, alters the amount of light and heat that can enter the building.

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5. Maintenance

Maintenance plays a large role in design. As the "face" of a building, a facade needs to maintain its appearance for the building's entire lifecycle. This means carefully considering how materials will age over time, whether access points for cleaners can be incorporated, as well as looking at compatibility with new maintenance technology.

Where perforated or expanded metal sheets are used, hot-dip galvanisation helps them go the distance over time. In terms of access, this can often be achieved by having stairwells and access points between the facade and the building's exterior – or otherwise allowing room for a cherry-picker to get close to the building. There are also a few companies currently producing robots for cleaning facades – in many cases they need a place to dock, so incorporating this into design can also be useful for maintaining the facade in the long haul.

There are a huge number of factors involved in design, and we haven't even touched on compliance, but the possibilities for what can be done are growing every day. If you're ready to talk materials, we'd love to hear from you, so get in touch with the team at Locker Group today.

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3 tips for fixing your modular handrail to concrete.

The Meshstore guide to concrete anchors

So you've decided to build a handrail system at home. Firstly, congratulations on choosing Monowills, you've made an excellent decision. Secondly, have you considered how you'll be installing it?

When it comes to concrete anchoring, there are a few different methods you can choose from. Each has benefits and drawbacks, so you'll need to figure out the best method for you.

Before we take a look at the three key methods of anchoring, where they work best, and what to avoid during installation, there are two things you need to consider. The first is your safety gear, since you may be dealing with some abrasive materials and strong chemicals, be sure to have your gloves, goggles and boots on hand. Secondly, there are technical standards that need to be met. While the Monowills range is designed for compliance, requirements for anchor systems are outlined in SA TS 101. For more information, you should refer to this document from Standards Australia.

Now, the part you came for:

1. Cast-in anchors

Cast-in anchors will typically require the most work of the three options, but if you're undertaking a larger project and will be pouring new concrete on which to base your handrail system, cast-in could be the way for you. Now, there are two key methods through which this can be done.

The first involves casting your anchor bolts into the concrete. In this scenario, you should use L or J bolts to prevent pullout. Once your concrete has cured, you'll be left with bolts protruding from the concrete surface that you can then attach the baseplate of your stanchions. In this application, you would need to ensure your cast-in anchors were spaced exactly right.

The second method for cast-in anchors is to use a channel. These are typically used in large scale construction where the anchors need to handle tremendous loads. Think of this as a small, metal trough with a lip on the inside. This needs to be installed so that the top of the channel is flush with the surface of your concrete, running parallel to your handrail balustrades. Once the concrete has set, you can slide T-bolts into the channel, and from there, attach them to the stanchion baseplates. The benefit here is you only need to align one axis.

As previously stated, this application is really only on the cards if you're putting in new concrete at the same time as your handrail. You'll need to be a little more precise with placing the anchors, but the benefit is that cast-in anchors perform extremely well.

How do you anchor a modular handrail?Expansion anchors make post-installed anchors the most straightforward choice.

2. Post-installed mechanical/expansion anchors

The biggest drawcard for this type of anchoring solution is that it's post-installed, meaning this is a sound anchoring method for quick installation of a handrail system into existing concrete. Mechanical, or expansion, anchors are those that expand when the torque is adjusted.

When you're installing a handrail, this is likely the most straightforward method. It starts with lining up where your base plates will be and drilling the appropriate holes. Depending on the size and nature of your handrail, you may even be able to assemble the whole system and "drop" it into place. When drilling concrete, you'll get the best performance (and least resistance) out of a hammer drill. You should also be mindful that there may be rebar or other embedded objects in the concrete. Often, carbide headed drill bits can cut through rebar, but it might be worth investing in a diamond drill bit.

Once you've drilled the holes, they must, and this bears repeating, they absolutely MUST be cleaned out properly. Failure to do so means that you'll be expanding the anchor to connect with loose dust, which is a pretty great way to ensure the anchor will pull out under strain. Once you've cleaned the holes, you only need to insert the anchors through the stanchion base plate and apply the recommended torque.

This method is fairly easy to do and offers a high level of strength. You might need to hire some tools, but the payoff is a huge amount of time saved.

How to drill holes for modular handrail installation.A hammer drill is going to make installation much, much easier.

3. Chemical anchors

Chemical anchors work in a very similar way to a post-installed mechanical anchor. The difference being, instead of using an expansion anchor and adjusting the torque, you can use standard anchor rods (or screws) which fix themselves in the concrete via the injection of a chemical adhesive.

You'll follow all the steps outlined above, right up to the step where you thoroughly clean all dust out of the hole (do not skip. Ever). If possible, we recommend using a roughening tool to use on the holes. This will give them an even internal surface which the chemical will bond to more efficiently than a smooth surface.

Once the holes have been cleaned, you can inject your mortar into the holes. You will be able to pick up the right adhesive from your local hardware store, but make sure you check it's suitable for concrete anchors. After you've dropped your anchor rods in, give them a quick turn to ensure that the adhesive distributes evenly across the thread. From here, you only need to wait until the chemical has cured before you can anchor your base plates with the simple tightening of a nut.

There are two things you have to remember for this, and both rely on the instructions that come with your adhesive. The first, is that you should under no circumstances use less of the chemical mortar than the directions outline. The second, is that you must leave the chemical to cure as per the instructions. Chemical anchors take a little more time because of curing, however in most applications the bond strength is extremely high.

So there it is, the Meshstore guide to concrete anchors. For any further questions or concerns, speak to a member of our team.

How can wire mesh curtains be utilised in architecture and interior design?

How wire mesh curtains can liven up your space

Wire mesh curtains are an ideal architectural solution for delineating space, adding texture to an interior, or for decorative use in a facade. Locker Group's curtains are made from uniquely shaped interconnected metal threads, custom made in a variety of profiles and materials to meet the unique requirements of your project. Our curtains add a touch of modern sophistication wherever they're applied – here's how they can liven up your spaces.

How can wire mesh break up large spaces?Space delineation in the dining room of the Cremorne Hotel.

Mesh curtains make great partitions

If you have a large open space, wire mesh curtains are a fantastic way of delineating areas when the entire space isn't necessary. This can make a larger room much more intimate and add a sense of privacy. It's also a way to create private seating areas in a restaurant, cafe or bar. The great thing about using mesh curtains in this way is that they can be installed on tracks so they can be drawn or retracted, allowing you to get the best of both worlds; smaller intimate spaces as well as larger, open ones. Wire mesh curtains allow air to move freely through them, so there's no need to think about ventilation if you're using them as permanent partitions or screens

How can wire mesh curtains add texture to a space?An internal screen adds texture at Ausnet Victoria.

Mesh curtains add texture

Locker Group produce mesh curtains in an extensive range of profiles and they are available in stainless steel, brass or aluminium. This means you have quite a few options for how the curtains will look and feel. Mesh curtain segments can be used in two dimensional surfaces to add a little bit of texture to an interior design scheme, and can be created for use in three dimensional structures as well.

Wire mesh curtains be used to create striking facades.Wire mesh curtains used in the stunning facade of Monash Library Caulfield.

Mesh curtains bring style and function to facades

Using wire mesh curtains in your building facade can create striking visuals and make a grand impression on those who come into contact with it. But there are additional reasons why this is a fantastic material for facades. The open profile of wire mesh curtains limits visibility, providing privacy, though at the same time our curtains do allow light to pass through. Acting as a screen against the glare of the sun while still allowing the passage of natural light, these curtains give a building's occupants the best of both worlds.

We've established that wire mesh curtains can contribute to the aesthetic of a building or space, but once you've seen some of the applications, you'll understand that this is a product that speaks for itself. For more information about wire mesh curtains, get in contact with us today.

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Locker Group produced perforated zinc sheets for Monash University's new Learning and Education building at the Clayton campus.

Case study: Monash University Clayton

The new Learning and Teaching building at the Clayton campus of Monash University was recently completed. John Wardle Architects designed the building and utilised perforated metal products from Locker Group to create the facade. The folded perforated metal facade covers all sides of this four-storey building and acts as a sunshade without hindering visibility from the inside out. It was no small project, and there were a number of hurdles on the way to completing this truly stunning project.

What were the requirements of this project?

Monash University made a commitment to sustainability, and implemented goals to reduce its carbon footprint. Since their buildings make up an approximate 80 per cent of their emissions, sustainability was a priority for Monash University in constructing the Clayton campus. The zinc sheets that make up the facade played into this. Zinc is easy to recycle, as it retains its integrity and performance properties so it can be reused. The International Zinc Association states that 95 per cent of zinc products used in buildings are recycled.

The facility is truly state of the art. With collaborative and unconventional learning spaces throughout, the campus reflects new ways of approaching education. As a cutting-edge education facility, it was important that the facade of the building was as unique as the spaces inside. This is why Monash University partnered with the award-winning John Wardle Architects, who in turn utilised products from Locker Group's extensive portfolio to give the building its flair.

How does the building's facade reflect that which is inside?The building needed to be as unique on the outside as it is inside.

Which Locker Group products were used?

While Locker Group supplied perforated sheets for the entire facade, it's not actually a single uniform product the entire way around. The large sheets covering the north, east and west sides of the building had three different perforation patterns per sheet. For the parts of the facade that cover windows, a profile with 50 per cent open area was used. Often, smaller profiles can play with your eyes, and so the chosen profile was to allow occupants of the building to see clearly out the windows. The other profiles used on these sheets had a much lower open area, in order to act as weather shielding. The south facing side of the building has one uniform perforation pattern.

The sheets are made of 99.9% pure zinc. As a natural material, zinc requires minimal maintenance over time due to the self-protective patina that forms over the metal to maintain surface integrity. Zinc has a tendency to age gracefully, which combined with its strength, is why it has been a popular roofing material in Europe for over 150 years.

What challenges were faced in producing these perforated metal sheets?Manufacturing the perforated metal sheets for the facade was something of a challenge.

What were the challenges in producing these sheets?

Locker Group's manufacturing team had to get creative in producing the zinc sheets. The facade is approximately 11 metres tall, and the architects wanted as little joinery and steelwork as possible. We were able to produce sheets large enough that only two would be required to span the height of the facade.

In order to keep the steelwork down, these were fixed to three beams running perpendicular to the sheets, and each sheet was fixed only at the top and bottom. Since zinc is fairly lightweight, this was more than sufficient support to hold the panels in place. Since they were being folded in a unique way, they became more rigid, meaning we could make them longer and minimise the steelwork as per the designers preference.

To give you an idea of the scale of this facade, which envelops the building, approximately 1,552 panels were used, which is equal to about 95 tonnes of metal. The perforated zinc panels were folded in such a way that they spanned approximately 8.5 thousand square metres on a surface only 4.5 thousand square metres in size.

The zinc used in this perforated metal facade is 90 per cent recycled.The finished product is simply stunning to behold.

The finished result

The completed project is a facade that really catches the eye. You might be impressed by our photos, but they in no way compare to how grand this building looks when you stand in front of it. The zinc is simply beautiful, and it will look better and better over time, offering something special and unique to every new generation of students and educators that use it. Locker Group is proud to have supplied the materials that give the building's exterior its character. Although manufacturing the sheets wasn't easy, we can find the solutions necessary to deliver our clients metal products that stand up on the world stage.

Whatever it is you need to give your next project a unique visual character without sacrificing functionality, Locker Group has the expertise to make it happen. For more information, contact us now, or check out more of our work via the link below.

Click here to see more of our recent work.
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