PHOTO CREDIT: Längle and Bendheim Wall Systems Inc.
Building facades take on the daily brunt of the elements, contribute to efficiency of the building and health of the occupants, and say a lot about the value and image of the property. How exteriors look and function matters.
When it comes to damage to exteriors, moisture is the main culprit. Various forces are at play (kinetic, pressure differences and capillary action) seemingly searching for points of entry for water. Damage over time is inevitable unless the facade is adequately protected. A rainscreen is one of the earliest design methods used for facade protection and has been used extensively in Europe and Canada. It’s time we take a closer look at rainscreens in the U.S.
Simply put, a rainscreen envelopes the building exterior and by creating a ventilated and drained cavity between the facade and the rainscreen cladding, prevents moisture from getting through. This simple design has many benefits, including these five crucial ones:
1) Protection from the elements – This is the most obvious advantage, if no moisture is making its way through micro-cracks, joints, gaps, and porous surface materials, there is less danger of rot, mold, corrosion, and other degradation problems. Maintenance needs and costs are reduced and the life of the facade is extended.
2) Improved appearance – Rainscreens can modernize and rebrand the building in one swift motion. Many structures from the middle to end of the 20th century were built with materials with an expiration date that has come and gone, and their facades will likely require a combination of repair and replacement solutions. Once the necessary fixes are made to ensure the building is structurally sound, a rainscreen will transform the entire shabby facade and protect it for years to come, unlike repainting, fixing masonry or other relatively short-term aesthetic solutions.
3) Sustainability – Over-cladding allows for preserving and reusing the already built environment rather than demolishing structures and consuming resources to build anew, a strategy that is both cost-effective and sustainable.
4) Reduced down-time – Perhaps one of the most important benefits of rainscreens for retrofits is that their installation takes place almost entirely on the outside of the structure, allowing the building’s tenants to continue their daily routines without interruption.
5) Customization options – Rainscreens made of glass offer some particular advantages. Thanks to its non-porous surface, glass is particularly weather-resistant, durable and easy to maintain. It is also non-combustible, a big plus for any building, but especially for areas with strict fire codes. Technology advances in glass make limitless decorative options possible, opening up creative and branding opportunities. Transparent and semi-transparent glass rainscreens allow the building to keep all of its daylighting capacity, and bird-friendly glass patterns address the growing concern in the design community for deadly bird crashes into reflective building surfaces.
Said Elieh is head of technical design for Bendheim Wall Systems. Reach him at email@example.com.
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