Architectural Precast Cladding Benefits
Versatility, Beauty, Speed and Durability
Precast has become the architectural cladding material of choice wherever superior aesthetics, durability, and construction economy are decisive considerations. Manufactured in certified plants, architectural precast solutions combine the benefits of high durability, low maintenance, excellent fire resistance and energy efficiency.
Architectural Precast cladding solutions combine the benefits of high durability, low maintenance, excellent fire resistance and energy efficiency. This powerful combination makes architectural precast concrete an ideal solution for high-rise towers, where emphasis is on prestige, luxury, safety and aesthetic appeal, or lower-rise structures, where economy and durability are paramount.
Architectural precast concrete has proven through centuries to be the reliable choice for building construction. Low maintenance and resistant to the effects of time and Mother Nature are the hallmarks of this material.
The true beauty of precast is found in the architectural effects that can be achieved. Custom-made forms are used to create panels in precise sizes and shapes. These forms introduce reveals, joints, patterns, and other architectural detailing to the panel surface. Specific color effects can be achieved by varying sands, aggregates, and pigments. And textures can be customized through the use of differing levels of sandblast and acid etch treatments. Stone, tile or brick veneers can be cast into the panels, giving architects compelling visual effects.
Economical & Fast
Precast solutions are economical to produce, erect, and maintain. Substantial cost savings can be achieved by taking full advantage of the economies of scale and shortened erection schedules achieved through precast panel manufacturing techniques.
Cladding Type Comparisons
The Evolving World of Commercial Cladding Materials for Building Envelopes
Cladding refers to the installation of one material over another, generally in describing the outer skin of a building. Whether for new construction or renovations, cladding plays a significant and growing and ever-evolving role in the built environment. There are many types of cladding and many advantages to this important type of construction. Considerations for thermal performance, weather protection and fire, windstorm, seismic, and blast ratings are all important factors in decision making. Here is a compilation of cladding systems that are among the most commonly found in today’s construction environment.
INSULATED PANEL SYSTEMS
SlenderWall® (architectural precast modular composite system)
Durable, sustainable and versatile, SlenderWall® packs decades of research and development and engineering ingenuity into an architectural precast composite modular cladding system with nearly unlimited design possibilities. SlenderWall is a complete high performance, thermal (zones 1-8) and fire code compliant cladding system. At one-third the weight of traditional architectural precast panels, SlenderWall reduces structural requirements and costs as well as on-site trades. It combines proven technologies: architectural precast concrete, PVA fiber and welded wire reinforcing, stainless-steel fasteners, ready for drywall heavy gauge G90 galvanized steel studs, and continuos closed-cell foam insulation to create a single efficient solution for new construction, re-cladding or over-cladding. The exterior precast concrete cladding and integrated interior stud system is isolated from the structural stresses associated with wind loading (tested to 226 mph), expansion and contraction, and seismic shock. SlenderWall is manufactured off-site creating savings in time and site disruption. Windows and continuous installation are available pre-installed, and the integrated stud frame is ready for drywall. The leading precast cladding panel on the market today, SlenderWall comes in a multitude of textures and colors that open the door to your creativity. The possibilities are limitless.
Exterior Installation Finishing System
EIFS is a generic term for a general class of non-load bearing building cladding systems that are insulated and water resistant and consists of an insulation board attached either adhesively or mechanically (or both) to the substrate. Developed in Europe after World War II to retrofit masonry walls, EIFS systems started to emerge in the United States in the 1960s. The original EIFS concept has evolved into today’s highly engineered systems that create a thermal building envelope.
Infinite Façade panels offer a lightweight complete weather barrier system, and come with windows installed, factory-installed insulation and feature the aesthetic possibilities of a prefabricated system with many design possibilities. As with SlenderWall, the panels are available in a variety of textures and colors, with the option of casting other materials into the exterior veneer, such as brick, terracotta or stone.
CarbonCase Insulated Wall Panels are comprised of two thin concrete sheaths separated by a layer of foam insulation and connected with C-GRID carbon grid connectors. When combined with the shear truss, the panels create a load-bearing system that may eliminate perimeter columns and increase usable floor space. They can be manufactured ready for drywall or pre-finished and ready for paint or wall coverings.
VersaCore+green, like other systems in this category, is a sandwich panel that features continuous insulation between two load-bearing faces. VersaCore+green is a non-composite precast concrete wall panel that offers the versatility, installation speed and durability common among insulated panel systems. Panels can be manufactured in heights up to 73’ and widths up to 13.5’.
A composite sandwich precast panel built to comply with today’s continuous insulation code requirements that meets the market need for edge-to-edge insulation. Two load-bearing faces and thermoplastic polymer ties help to generate the composite strength of the panel. Edge is a hybrid envelope best suited to a wide range of R-value-specific zones.
Traditional Architectural Precast
The evolution of concrete mixes combined with coloring systems and hundreds of textures available with intricate form liners has changed the face of commercial and institutional construction in recent decades. Architectural precast concrete panels can be manufactured in combinations of colors and textures that are now virtually limitless. Architectural precast can create artistic expressions with amazingly sharp details, can mimic any other materials such as stone or wood, and are virtually maintenance-free for many decades. They can be finely textured to reflect light and create photo-realistic images that change with the light and viewing angle. With so many possibilities, the side of a building can become an artistic canvas to the creative designer. With architectural precast the possibilities are limitless
Generic Precast Concrete Sandwich Panels
The precast concrete sandwich panel, a feature in many contemporary cladding systems, consists of two precast panels separated by an insulated core and fixed together with mechanical connectors. The system provides high thermal resistance and offers a cost-effective way to provide cladding for new buildings or re-cladding for renovations.
GFRC (glass fiber reinforced concrete)
Popular for their lighter weight and easier handling when compared to architectural precast panels, glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) can be seen in commercial projects that use large panels, and for re-cladding of existing buildings. In one manufacturing technique, thin panels are cast with a concrete front, then sprayed on the backside with layers of glass fibers and concrete admixture to a thickness of ¾”. Panels can mimic other stone products such as limestone or terracotta, and can be designed with complex shapes and a range of colors. The panels can weigh up 50% less than comparable cast stone, limestone or masonry products. They do not have the insulating capacity of a precast modular composite system like SlenderWall, however.
BRICK AND VENEERS
Hand Laid Brick
A brick is a type of manufactured block used on the exterior facade of a building wall. The term brick denotes a block composed of dried clay or other chemically cured construction blocks. Bricks are joined together using mortar, adhesives or by interlocking them. Bricks are produced in numerous classes, types, materials, and sizes which vary with region. Fired bricks are one of the longest-lasting and strongest building materials, and have been used since circa 4000 BC. Traditional hand-laid brick and mortar, while aesthetically pleasing and long-lasting, require inordinate amounts of time, labor and scaffolding infrastructure. Hand-laid brick is most efficient in buildings four stories of under.
Manufactured to give the appearance of a traditional hand-laid brick wall, these brick veneers can be designed to mimic an existing brick exterior and are produced from a variety of materials. Veneers can be created from kiln fired bricks cut into thin slips and assembled into interlocking panels, or can be made from precast concrete or polymer blends. They can be manufactured as panels or with staggered interlocking edges to create a seamless appearance.
NewBrick is a lightweight, energy-efficient brick façade that matches the size, appearance and texture of traditional clay bricks. Like precast and composite panel systems, it saves costs related to on-site labor, transportation, and the ties and anchors associated with traditional brick construction. NewBrick has thermal properties that are superior to traditional brick, but R values are not as great as those available with insulated panel systems.
Stone veneer is a thin layer of stone used as decorative facing material that is generally applied to a load-bearing wall. It is not meant to be load bearing. For exterior applications it is often attached to a support wall by pins or anchors with an air space between, essentially serving as a rain screen. Other anchoring methods include directly affixing the stone veneer to the substrate wall with mortar or a cement bonding. This is generally used only inside, however, as exterior weathering and temperature changes can cause the veneer to crack or spall.
Available in many styles and colors, metal siding has evolved from basic corrugated metal sheathing to systems that can achieve subtle waves of shades and tones that change throughout the day in reaction to the angle of the sun. Lightweight and relatively simple to install, panels can be installed horizontally or vertically to create visual lines that give the illusion of either a longer or taller space. Siding options vary from rustic to ultra-modern. Like precast concrete and composite panel systems, they are long-lasting and versatile, but do not have the thermal properties of an insulated sandwich panel.
Copper siding has been a staple of building exteriors for hundreds of years, with durability and a timeless aesthetic. Copper can be installed in corrugated or batten panels or with standing seam panels that create long, clean visual lines. A copper exterior can be expected to last 100-plus years and will patina naturally over time. What begins as a shiny surface will transform over the years to a blue-green or rust-colored finish, depending on the climate.
Aluminum and Metal Composite Materials
Often made from post-consumer recycled materials, aluminum and metal composite materials are fabricated into architectural panels, or crafted with intricate bends, rolls, punches and grooves that are not possible with many other materials. Lightweight and versatile, they come in a wide range of surfaces that include everything from highly reflective polished surfaces to stone, veneer and timber, to prismatic and other dimensional effects.
Rainscreen cladding is a generic term to describe a double-walled construction technique that creates an air and water circulation system between the exterior cladding and the interior wall. The exterior cladding keeps the majority of the moisture out. A weather-resistant membrane barrier on the interior wall keeps the building protected, while a ventilation cavity creates a capillary break between the cladding and the inner surface allowing any water intrusion to drain out and evaporate. The ventilation cavity helps to equalize pressure in the system while the drainage gap provides an unobstructed path for moisture to exit the wall system.
A commonly used façade system based on its versatility, glass-based systems have long been popular in commercial and institutional construction. Glass cladding can be used on both steel-framed and solid-framed buildings. There are a wide range of forms, such as curtain walling, structural glazing, bolted glazing, fin-supported glazing, cable-stayed glazing and suspended glazing. Framing systems for glass can create a vertical or horizontal aesthetic, a panelized look or frameless look. Glass can be clear, colored, reflective, flat or curved. Because of its comparatively light weight and high performance, glass façade systems are used in all sizes of buildings. There are two main systems of glass cladding: curtain walling and rainscreen cladding. Curtain wall systems encompass the entire building envelope and include glass panels incorporated into an aluminum frame. When designed as rainscreen cladding, the exterior glass panels can be made from laminated or tempered glass to form the protective outer layer, with the rainscreen cavity separating the exterior panels from the interior structure.
Curtain walls are typically composed of metal frames that contain infills of glass, thin stone or metal panels. The frames are connected and anchor back to the building structure. This sets the building’s skin apart from its structure, providing thermal and moisture separation between exterior and interior. Curtain wall describes non-structural, non-load bearing walls on or in the exterior skin of a building. These walls serve as a “curtain,” between exterior weather and interior spaces.
Installed either as a rain screen or as a closed building envelope, wood cladding is touted for the warm look it projects. It is also often combined with glass, metal or concrete to add appeal to the façade. There are many species of wood used as cladding, such as oak, ash, cedar, spruce, teak, mahogany and birch. The wood can be produced as a solid board, or in strips. Plywood and laminates are also common. Today’s wood products for commercial construction are treated to resist mold, termites and other insects. While wood has exceptional durability, it can be expected to weather over time.
A blend of mostly natural fibers and resins compressed under high temperatures and formed into dense panels, high-pressure laminates can be used in a building façade as a rainscreen, with a ventilation cavity behind the panel to provide drainage and drying capability. Can be molded into panels or planks and installed vertically or horizontally. Many textures and colors are available.
Smaller sections of wood are laminated and compressed into a single, stronger panel to create cross-laminated panels used in building cladding. The process creates a rigid panel that can be used for larger spans and heavier loads. Curves and bends are possible using this technique, providing more design flexibility than timber.
Ceramic Tiles / Terra Cotta
Ceramic tiles have been used as building cladding for centuries because of their durability, natural beauty and fire-resistance. Tiles can be used as a rainscreen or affixed to the substrate with adhesive.
Patent glazing is a non-load bearing framing system that enables glass or plastic to be affixed to the structure of a building. The system supports its own weight but does not contribute to primary reinforcement and does not affect the stability of the building.
Tensile Fabric Coverings
Fabric has been used for thousands of years to protect from the elements, cover or hide, and enhance and beautify a site. Today’s high-tech fabrics range from transparent to opaque and are comprised of PVC-coated polyester, fiberglass, canvas or acrylic materials. The ability to stretch and shape the fabric using cable-supports makes it possible to create dome-shaped buildings, roofs and free-standing structures, as well as covering large spans, such as a building exterior, without intermediate supports.
Know that you've seen the options, learn why we think SlenderWall provides you a versatile choice.