Here's an insight into what it's like to work with Locker.

Case study: Brisbane Services Union

At Locker, we've always been about two things – great products, and a willingness to work closely with architects to help them achieve the results they want.

We love it when respected designers reach out to us because they're keen to work with us on their next design, but just because a specific product looks great in theory, doesn't mean it's always the right one to go with.

In late 2018, this is exactly what happened when Locker teamed up with Architectus to create the eye-catching facade for Brisbane's Services Union building. This case study will show how a seemingly simple project can throw up some unexpected challenges, and how our experts worked with both the architect and fabricator to find the perfect solution.

Locker can partner with architects across Australia to provide materials and expertise.Locker's perforated panels are easy to install and present strong visuals.

1. The brief

Locker's perforated panels combine aesthetics with functionality, making them a perfect facade material.

Architectus initially contacted our Brisbane team to integrate our Atmosphere system into the frontage for the Services Union.

Atmosphere is a system consisting of horizontal folded panels installed on an 8 mm stainless steel cable support system. In addition to the powerful aesthetic properties this product possesses, as a perforated panel it's ideal for keeping buildings cool. This objective was particularly key in this build due to the structure's West facing aspect, which means that it bears the brunt of the afternoon sun. In the long-term, perforated facades will mean reduced costs for the building operators with regards to heating and cooling systems, as well as a greener build that uses less electricity.

However, there was a problem. The architect wanted to run the folded panels vertically on the facade, something that cannot be achieved with the horizontal Atmosphere system. So, it was time for our team to put their heads together, and come up with an alternative …

2. The product

While Atmosphere itself was out of the question for this application, it was this product that had caught the architect's eye in the first place. Therefore, the solution we devised incorporated some of the key features of Atmosphere, but with the specifics of the Services Union project in mind, the panels needed to be installed on a more traditional fixing system.  

The key aspects of this custom product were:

  • Texture and depth – To provide the facade with a light and airy feel.
  • Visibility – Allowing the building's occupants to see outside.
  • Ventilation – To keep the structure's cooling costs down.

The product we eventually created featured a similar folding pattern to Atmosphere and gives the build a unique frontage. A total of 63 of these custom panels of varying sizes were used in the final facade. To achieve the product's ventilation objectives, 9.53 mm perforations were selected, resulting in panels that were 40% open and 60% solid. As well as sun shading, this product is great at allowing the circulation of natural light, and acting as a protective layer to shield the building from the weather.

A total of 63 panels of varying panel sizes, featuring 9.53 perforations, were used in the finished build.

3. The challenges

The vertical installation of the system was the biggest challenge facing all parties involved with the facade build.

Initially, one of the architect's fold details was designed in such a way that would have made it impossible for the fabricators (ATB Metal Fab) to fix the panels to the structure. Locker worked closely with ATB Metal Fab to devise a solution that involved reversing the fold while still retaining the original look the architect desired. Architectus was also heavily involved in these discussions, and this three-way communication was vital in getting the perfect product to site for installation.

Our perforated panels are easy to install.Locker worked closely with the architect and fabricator to provide a facade solution that met the project brief.

4. The result

Looking at the Services Union building today, you would have no idea there was ever any degree of complexity in the design and installation. The differently sized perforated panels work seamlessly together to create a facade that's both head-turning and highly practical.

Both Architectus and ATB Metal Fab have expressed their pride in the finished facade, and the building certainly adds an exciting new dynamic to Brisbane's Peel Street. For Locker, the experience of taking on a highly nuanced project is not only rewarding when it comes to fruition, but is also a valuable learning experience for our team. Challenges such as this allow us to continue discovering ways of using existing products in new and innovative applications.

For more information on our products, or to enquire about working with Locker on an upcoming architectural or industrial project, get in touch with our team today, or check out our other case studies.

Here's everything you need to know about cladding.

From decoration to fire resistance: The uses of cladding

When it comes to impressions, there's nothing more important than a building's facade.

These frontages often perform multiple functions, and are made up of a number of features. Today, we're going to be exploring just one – cladding. We'll look at what cladding is, how it can be used and an example of this product in action.

Here's everything you need to know about cladding.Cladding can come in different materials, and performs a variety of functions.

What is cladding?

Think of cladding as a building's second skin. Fundamentally, it's a layer on top of exposed parts of a building (walls and roofs) that helps protect them against the elements.

Crucially, it is non-loadbearing, meaning that it doesn't support other parts of a facade, but rather exists to perform its own unique purposes. We'll explore these purposes in more detail later, but they can range from purely aesthetic to highly functional.

Cladding is a building's second skin, and can perform a number of functional and aesthetic tasks.

What's cladding made of?

It's important to realise that cladding isn't a set product. You can buy cladding in all shapes and sizes, and made from a variety of different materials. Among the most common are:

  • Metal (especially lightweight element such as aluminium). 
  • Wood
  • Vinyl
  • Brick
  • Composite materials such as recycled polystyrene or certain blends of cement. 

Your choices here will be largely dictated by both the look you want, and the job you want the cladding to carry out: for example, brick is great as a fire retardant.

How is cladding installed?

In this article we're focussing on external cladding, though it's good to know that these materials can also be applied to the insides of your builds. Depending on the cladding product you choose, there are different facade installation methods. 

In the past, when Locker has produced aluminium cladding for commercial car parks, we've used a slab to slab technique. This works well because it eliminates the requirement for intermediate support for the cladding itself. Instead, we can simply lift cladding panels onto brackets that are fitted to the slab. We've found this to be both time and cost effective for our architectural clients!

Locker works with architects to find facade solutions that exactly meet their needs.Architects use cladding to improve the look or operation of their facades.

What are the uses of cladding?

1. Decoration

With such a variety of material to choose from, architects can use cladding to create interesting and unique effects on their facades, helping the building to stand out from the crowd. While you need to ensure that your aesthetic choices won't adversely impact the facade's practical performance, by experimenting with cladding you can add different colours or textures.

For example, a stainless steel cladding will give a structure a modern and polished look, while stone can give a more natural appeal or help a build blend in with its surroundings.

2. Insulation 

Environmental considerations have never been so important in Australian architecture. And, with more businesses and consumers switching on to the threat of climate change, the demand for green builds is only going to increase in years to come.

Cladding can improve insulation, which can help buildings meet environmental standards.

One of the best ways you can help your future projects stand up to this scrutiny, is to improve insulation. Properly insulated buildings are better at maintaining comfortable internal temperatures, meaning HVAC systems have to do less work, and therefore use less energy. 

By adding an extra layer to the outside of walls, cladding can help reduce airflow in and out of buildings. In summer, this reduces heat loading into a building, and in winter it allows your building to trap warm air and prevent it from escaping.

Insulation is one of the main purposes of external building cladding.Cladding can help to insulate a building, improving its energy efficiency.

3. Fire resistance

Depending on chosen material, cladding can be important in protecting your building from the risk of fire. 

There's no innovative science behind this, you just need to select cladding fabricated from substance that doesn't combust easily. As your cladding sits over the building structure, if flames encounter a non-flammable substance first, it's going to take them longer to spread. 

From best to worst, here are the fire resistance rankings for some common cladding materials:

  1. Brick – Excellent fire resistance.
  2. Steel or cement planks/weatherboards – High fire resistance.
  3. Aluminium and reconstituted timber products – Good fire resistance.
  4. Timber weatherboard or plywood sheets – Poor fire resistance.

Following tragedies such as the Grenfell Tower fire in London, and near misses like Melbourne's Lacrosse Tower fire, it's important that architects keep on eye on changing regulations with regards to fire resistance and building cladding. The UK government has decided to replace combustible cladding on privately owned apartment blocks, and it's likely that Australian lawmakers will follow suit, according to the Australian Financial Review – so be sure to look for updates when planning your next project.

4. Weather protection 

The presence of an additional layer on top of a building can also help the structure resist weathering from wind and rain. This is is especially true if you select a corrosion resistant material such as aluminium. 

This metal naturally forms an oxide blanket when it reacts with the air, meaning that the element itself has a barrier to rust. While the cladding will need to be maintained, and occasionally replaced, this is much cheaper and less time consuming than conducting wholesale repairs to the building itself.

Metal cladding can be great for protecting a building against weathering and rust.Metals such as aluminium and stainless steel are highly resistant to corrosion.

Cladding: A case study

Locker was called upon to provide cladding for the QE11 Medical Centre car park in Perth. This project had a number of nuances, which made it a unique challenge for our team:

  1. The cladding had to meet BCA requirements of a 50% open area, but the designers wanted to ensure local residents weren't disturbed by car headlights.
  2. The architect, Designinc, envisioned a scaled effect for the facade whereby each scale would face upwards, and redirect light to the sky.

To meet these requirements, Locker created a tailor-made product – Dragonscale™. This sheet has a 3D profile and retains its strength despite changes in shape and depth. This product was then fitted to the carpark facade using our slab to slab method, and provided the perfect solution to Designinc's needs.

If you want to find out more about what type of cladding is most suitable for your next project, or are seeking a customised product for your facade, the team at Locker is here to help.