The importance of precision rainscreen design in facade cladding

New technology has improved both the aesthetics and performance of rainscreen cladding systems. Philip Atkinson, managing director, BTS Fabrications, tells us what the main benefits are to specifiers.

Rainscreen systems have been in use for centuries. However, in recent years, innovation and smarter ..technologies have allowed the market to advance rapidly.

The latest precision rainscreen technologies improve both the aesthetics and the performance of a building envelope. With improved design flexibilities, architects and specifiers employed on building projects can work increasingly collaboratively to create a facade that is cost-effective and delivers the architect’s vision.

Throughout the design and construction process, using a precision rainscreen system ensures that a project is delivered timely, on budget, and with minimal material wastage. With precision technology that reduces the risk of error, contractors can be assured that the panels they receive on site are exactly as specified by the architect. This minimises the risk of project delays  and allows the design and construction to remain a cost-effective process throughout. In addition, using a precision rainscreen system also enables the design of an ethically-conscious building, as aluminium, steel and timber rainscreen are all 100 per cent recyclable at the end of their lifetime. This provides the end-client with further lifetime performance guarantees.

The wide variety of choice of metals, in a vast selection of colours, available with precision rainscreen design allows for a bespoke finish to the building. As the rainscreen forms the outer layer of the building alone, the building’s energy performance is primarily dictated by the structural backing that forms the external envelope wall, giving architects an increased flexibility in external facade design options.

Further, structural advantages to the rainscreen systems allow, should needs arise, for a panel to be removed and replaced with ease, without impact upon the wider building envelope. In fact, the entire facade can be replaced with new colours or materials with no impact on the structure, support system or building envelope membrane – providing a wealth of design possibilities for the architect.

Using a dedicated software system ensures the utmost accuracy in design and construction. As industry-leading rainscreen system manufacturers produce a 3D-visualisation of the building envelope, it is typical to require further modelling or prototyping. In addition to the aforementioned cost saving benefits, advanced precision rainscreen design systems allow any possible installation issues to be highlighted ahead of manufacture. With the system’s ability to consider loadings, thermal factors and environmental conditions, the building envelope facade can be designed to the exact millimetre.

3D rainscreen design will also allow production of an exact image of the finished facade. This not only enables the designer to visualise the aesthetics of the finish, but also highlights any areas of potential problems with installation. The performance of the building can be accurately calculated, allowing for improved consistency across the building envelope’s design and construction. Areas where materials meet are clearly identified; this not only provides assurance that the building will be fully protected, but it also ensures that the architect’s vision and the final finish are perfectly matched.

Quality conscious manufacturers of precision rainscreen systems  also give utmost consideration to the fabrication of their systems. By using the most modern intelligent manufacturing equipment such as Alu-Ranger CNC Controlled machinery coupled to the 3D drawing tools, perfect manufacturing tolerances are achieved.

Such advanced precision rainscreen systems also provide assurance that both the design and construction are meeting both the architect’s needs and the latest Government legislations. Early 2016 saw the introduction of Building Information Modelling (BIM). Facilitating a seamless process from design to construction, BIM allows for further collaboration between professionals across the entire construction industry. The majority of the rainscreen BIM content currently available in the UK for architectural and engineering professionals serves their needs well; however, it is offered in a format that provides little in terms of functionality and benefits for the contracting companies. Fortunately, new developments by industry-leaders offer BIM content and support in a format tailored to making the design, documentation and project management process increasingly seamless. A unique design, and options for the panels to be demounted one at a time, gives your project lifetime flexibility, whilst also ensuring that it is compliant with the Government-mandated Level 2 BIM protocol.

Precision rainscreen cladding systems have been prevalent in the construction industry for many years. However, rapidly advancing technologies have welcomed to the market systems that facilitate a seamless process from initial design to final construction. With flexible design options, exceptionally accurate measurement technology and swift and cost-effective installation, the use of the latest precision rainscreen technology enables a high-performance building envelope, with an aesthetic facade in which the architectural vision is fully realised.