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Vibrant Technik

“Cladding Materials Should be Chosen Wisely”

By: Nilanjan Bhowal, Design Consortium

Cladding forms the very first impression of any building and it is a crucial feature that not only protects the building but at the same time enhances the space aesthetically. Cladding can be considered as the first impression of a building that will form an image in the eyes of the visitor.

Exposed concrete used in Vara, Orissa
Exposed concrete used in Vara, Orissa

With fast-changing times, numerous trends are coming into Arora residence – façade with terracotta jaali fashion, leaving the users with a wide variety to choose from. Zinc cladding offers a fresh cladding material that can transform the look of a building. Zinc panels are durable and because of their sustainable quality have a more positive impact. It does not rust or corrode and offers flexibility in achieving the desired shape making it popular for façade cladding. Zinc panels have a modern outlook and also cater to the environment since they can be re-used and recycled. This characteristic makes it quite popular with sustainable architecture gaining more importance in the current times.

Another cladding material that fascinates me is Cor-ton Steel. Because of the orange, rust-like appearance, it creates an interesting visual appeal. This material eliminates the need for paint and strikingly stands out in Modern Architecture. Hence, this durable material, with zero maintenance is now being considered a good option. At the same time, exposed concrete is becoming quite a common trend though it was first used by Corbusier in the 1950s. It gives a clean, simple and minimalist look. Along with a smooth finish, it offers the advantage of the material itself where it can take any form and shape. Facades made with concrete are durable and versatile that help us achieve inspirational designs making the building appear timeless.

Dhall residence with Zinc cladding done on façade
Dhall residence with Zinc cladding done on façade

As seen in many of my projects, nature plays an extremely important role. When designing buildings, kinetic facades offer intelligent and responsive cladding alternatives. Kinetic metal facades allow for the movement of fresh air into the building causing natural ventilation. They cater to the interior environment of the building naturally and are dynamic to look at. Especially for large buildings, a kinetic metal façade creates an interesting sun shading system. Smart cladding materials are the ones that allow for energy efficiency. The selection of material for facades contributes primarily to the overall insulation of the building. Therefore, I strongly believe that sustainability should be the prime focus while selecting cladding material in future designs.

Cladding materials should be chosen wisely based on their performance while the key factors one must consider for selecting cladding material are the material’s resistance to seismic conditions, wind pressure(especially for high rises), fire resistance, pollution, application etc. Location is another extremely important criterion to consider while choosing cladding material since it encompasses the weather conditions, temperatures and surrounding area of the location. Locally available materials should be preferred for cladding as the transportation gets reduced, hence minimizing the fuel consumption and they also give the building a regional uniqueness.

Certain standards like ISO 14001, FSC certification, and IGBC certificate are important to look at, before the selection of cladding materials. ISO 14001 ensures that the cladding material manufacturer practices the use of an environment-friendly manufacturing process. IGBC (Indian Green Building Council) is a certification that guarantees regular maintenance of manufacturing equipment and keeps toxins and emissions under check.

Jammu ropeway, Jammu Kashmir
Jammu ropeway, Jammu Kashmir

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is another essential globally recognized certification system that checks that the wood used in cladding is consumed accountably and tree species do not get extinct. OHSAS 18001 controls and reduces occupational risks of health and safety in the workplace and therefore is an important standard. Considering the above standards and certification systems while choosing the cladding material is of great importance.

Choosing materials that are fire retardant is essential to ensure minimum damage in case of a fire outbreak. Fire-resistant and fire protective safety glass are available that can be used as a highperformance product that meets building code requirements. Flame Spread Index (FSI) is specified by the NBC (National Building Code) which is important and a certificate from Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) should be checked while selecting cladding material.

As a green architect, I would like to consider using a traditional material rendered in a contemporary way. The combination of colours and texture highlights the façade design and steel grey metal in contrast with thermo pine wood is one such combination. Jaali fenestration has been prevalent since early times in construction. This is one of the most effective ways of natural ventilation in façade design. Today, we have Jaalis that can be made in a variety of materials like GRC (Glass Reinforced Concrete) jaali. Terracotta jaali with charcoal grey is one example of modern and traditional amalgamation in facades.

Nilanjan Bhowal, Design Consortium

Principal Architect

Nilanjan Bhowal is a gold medallist in architecture from the Institute of Environment Design, Gujrat. He earned his masters from Catholic University, Belgium, and post-graduate specialization in energy-efficient architecture from Istanbul Technical University. Nilanjan Bhowal has substantially contributed to establishing the green building in India, receiving the IGBC Platinum Award for North India's first Green Home in 2014. He has been awarded TERI's SVGRIHA first 5 star green home in India. He has received HUDCO & NDTV awards for Heritage Conservation, besides having won over 35 other national-level awards for architecture, design & conservation. He has more than 100 national & international publications to his credit and many authored articles in national & international professional magazines. He has made presentations at major international conferences in the U.S. and Europe.

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