Technology adoption has accelerated over the past couple of years, with every industry starting to digitise in one way or another.
The construction sector, however, has proven to be more resistant than most towards this shift to smarter solutions, and slower in its acceptance of digital approaches to designing and building projects.
Cladding dictates how a building appears and how it forms part of an overall urban environment, so the right choice of materials and an appropriate design are the deciding factors in whether it is ultimately fit for purpose, say design and build professionals.
Thermal, acoustic, and fire resistance requirements are vital factors to take into account, from concept design through to maintenance, and the more ambitious the project, the greater the need for attention to detail, says Avinash Kumar, associate partner at Dubai-based architecture firm Godwin Austen Johnson (GAJ).
“While the aesthetics of a building’s façade are important, cladding also has a vital role to play in improving efficiency.
“Currently, wall cladding is primarily made from wood, concrete, aluminium, or glass, and photovoltaic (PV) cells with aluminium are currently the most common type of cladding. This is normally comprised of an outer layer of aluminium sheet followed by insulation boards,” he explains.
“External thermal insulation composite systems (ETICS) or external insulation finishing systems (EIFS)have [historically] been the most effective type of cladding. They use an insulation board that can be cut and shaped into any form. This envelops the building, eliminating any heat bridging.”
Techniques are evolving throughout the industry, however, according to Kumar.
“Some of the newly introduced cladding systems are made from terracotta, concrete fibre boards, and single-component metal cladding panels,” he says.
“Single-component metal cladding systems are more user-friendly and don’t contain any composite material, making them non-combustible. The UAE market has seen a change in Dubai Civil Defence norms, which have banned all composite metal panels that have combustible cores.”
He continues: “In the past decade, architects in Dubai have been experimenting with different materials, and we have seen a few new types of cladding materials, such as perforated screens, wood plastic composite (WPC) panels, and timber panels, being used in low-rise built forms. We are also starting to see an increase in the use of mineral fibre panels replacing the old, traditional metal panels.”
Steve Daniels, built environment leader for the Middle East at Aurecon, agrees that innovations are taking place throughout the field of exteriors. “The world of façade engineering is going through an exciting evolution. Curious architects and developers ask what’s possible, and we now have the technology to make almost anything possible, really.”