By Larry Windsor
The use of architectural mesh as a cladding material remains increasingly prevalent for a variety of exterior façade applications. While the lightweight nature and flexibility of metal fabric has always presented a multitude of functional and aesthetic benefits on their own, new visual effects have introduced the ability to take these installations to a dynamic and sophisticated new level.
Integrating LEDs into Metal Mesh Façades
One option consists of LED lighting that is integrated directly into various architectural metal fabric patterns. Metal fabric makes an ideal substrate for architectural LEDs, as architectural mesh helps to hold and protect strips of LEDs. The open area of the metal fabric also allows the LEDs to emit without obstruction.
Depending on the manufacturer, there is a wide array of unique and customized options for integrating LEDs into metal fabric façades. LED images can easily be viewed in non-direct sunlight and low-lighting conditions. Additionally, LED mesh can be installed with minimal modifications to the existing structure.
Illuminating Metal Fabric Façades with Lighting
A slightly more subtle (but equally stunning) effect involves washing metal fabric façades in exterior lighting. A full range of architectural lighting solutions are available for metal fabric systems, including edge lighting, energy-efficient lighting, projection lighting, and an assortment of other options designed to dramatically enhance each metal fabric installation.
An Array of Applications
Ultimately, the decision as to what the final application will be is essential in determining the type of effect that is best suited to the specific installation. For example, the section and size of the building that will be draped in metal fabric will largely contribute to determining which type of technology is most appropriate.
For LED installations, common application options include displaying digital video content or moving graphics on the exterior of a metal fabric façade, with visual content served through a standard PC. This option works best for larger façades, as graphics are best displayed on large-scale installations.
For exterior lighting applications, small and large surfaces work equally well - and are therefore equally stunning when bathed in exterior lighting. Keep in mind that, as with architectural LEDs, exterior lighting effects are also viewed best at night.
Metal fabric effects work well for a number of markets, including retail, hospitality, office, and institutional/educational. Consider adding LED mesh to a building façade to display commercials. This will not only visually differentiate the façade, but will add additional value to the facility. Or, consider permanently etching a logo or image directly onto the surface of the mesh, illuminating it with lighting at night. Even project an image onto the exterior of a metal fabric panel. With special effects for architectural mesh, the possibilities are truly limitless. As an added bonus, architectural metal fabric, unlike traditional LED screens, provides functional elements - including solar shading, fall protection, ventilation, security, visibility, and more - when installed as an exterior façade element.
Larry Windsor is director of sales and business development at Cambridge Architectural (www.cambridgearchitectural.com), Cambridge, MD. Call (866) 806-2385 for more information.