Metal Cladding: Connection Details and Material Innovations

Sydney Franklin Sydney Franklin

As we know well, metal is a life-giving material. Why? Architects use it to design the shelter we stay in, engineers use it to create the infrastructure of our cities and hardware engineers use to it create computers — which, let’s be honest, has become a necessity of the 21st century.

As arguably the most important structural material to come out of the industrial age — don’t forget that copper has been used as a purely artistic metal for centuries — we would be living primitive lifestyles without metal as a structural material. Now, that architecture has beautifully evolved to take advantage of metal as an exterior cladding material, metal is not just compositional, it’s aesthetic.

Firms like Gehry Partners and Steven Holl Architects use copper, aluminum and stainless steel cladding to embolden their architecture — and they build some of the most talked-about buildings of the modern era. AL_A, SOM and Kengo Kuma are doing the same. So, what exactly is so attractive about metal cladding? How does it even attach to a building? And who in the world spends all their time trying to advance it?

One company who specializes in metallic skins is Alucobond®, a 40-year-old, US-based company that innovates cutting-edge metal cladding for architectural projects around the world. Alucobond developes ACMs (aluminum composite material) to fit the façades of differently-shaped structures, helping them become shining examples of contemporary design. ACMs give way to flat, formable, ageless and simple-to-process products that are perfect for a building’s outer shell. Plus, they just look cool. Metal-clad architecture is futuristic by definition.

What’s maybe more impressive than the finished product is the way metal cladding is born. And brands like Alucobond give life to more than one type and offer three different ways of installing their products.

Alucobond ®PE, the original ACM, consists of two sheets of smooth .02-inch aluminum thermobonded to a polythylene core in a continuous process. In other words, it’s made of super-thin aluminum panels that are extruded and combined under high pressure with plastic — hence the malleability. Alucobond® PLUS is the brand’s ACM that’s best for buildings with higher fire safety regulations. Alucobond® Axcent is also offered for any project that needs a painted metal trim.

Alucobond can be installed in one of three ways: Route and Return Wet Seal, Route and Return Dry Seal and Rain Screen. Today, the company uses these methods to manage any moisture that infiltrates the wall cavity and to improve the thermal efficiency of the overall structure. So yes, at first glance metal-cladding is aesthetic, but it’s also sustainably functional — and cheap.

The Route and Return Wet Seal method is the most economical way to install Alucobond. The setup is simple: a silicone sealant is placed between each panel as an air and water barrier, then basic male/female clips simply attach the cladding to the building, no matter the size, shape or complexity of the panel designs.

Here we talk further about the other methods and why the rain screen is the most popular! Oops!

In the end, choosing metal cladding is a subjective venture. The type of product an architect chooses is based on a multitude of important factors and formability in design may be the most important. To count on cladding as the external envelope for a major piece of architecture is a true test in thorough research and loads of experimenting and testing. One way Alucobond® guarantees satisfaction is by helping their clients put together large-scale models of projects before specifying the final product. And in the case of manufacturing massive aluminum paneling, seeing is definitely believing.

Interested in using Alucobond or a product like it on your next project? Visit their firm profile page or learn more on Architizer Source.