The facade effect

Aluminium composite panels (ACPs) have been a well-used product for facades and cladding in New Zealand for at least two decades now; popular for their durability and minimum maintenance requirements. But ACPs themselves are not new, and the basic product is no longer cutting edge in the world of facades.

Instead, self-cleaning panels converting smog into fresh air are cutting edge, while anti-reflective matte finishes are providing a move away from the traditional semi-gloss of ACPs.

One particular self-cleaning product is causing a stir in the architectural world. It’s known as EcoClean and is a titanium dioxide coating applied to the pre-painted surface of Reynobond aluminium composite panels.

“Buildings are expected to deal with all sorts of contaminants from bird residue to diesel fumes. One that’s harder to see, though, is nitrogen oxide (NOx). As the primary component of smog, NOx makes our buildings dirty and threatens the quality of the air we breathe,” Symonite’s Ben Heald says.

“When NOx molecules float near the surface of Reynobond panels finished with EcoClean, they are attacked by free radicals generated from the titanium dioxide reacting with water and oxygen in the air. The free radicals oxidise the NOx molecules, converting them to a harmless nitrate.” A surface of approximately 10,000m2 utilising Reynobond with EcoClean has the air cleansing 

power of about 80 trees; enough cleaning power to offset the smog created by the pollution output of four cars every day.

Maintenance is always something to be considered when specifying a facade or cladding product, with the most popular products being ​those that allow for the least amount of cleaning and maintenance, which can be costly and time consuming, over a building’s lifetime. In the case of EcoClean, it is known as a self-cleaning product. “It makes the surface of the Reynobond panels super slick in the presence of water so when it rains, water doesn’t bead on the surface. Instead, it collapses and runs evenly off the building, taking most of the broken-down organic matter and nitrates with it.”

Alternatives to aluminium for high-rise buildings are developing too – one in particular called Innowood, an extruded wood product that’s new to the market, has proven extremely popular in the 12 months it has been available in New Zealand.

The desire for limited maintenance is a central factor in specifying products, and partially from this, Innowood was born. Because it’s an extruded timber product, it’s suitable for high-rise and commercial applications and requires less maintenance over its lifetime.

“Innowood was developed by an Australian company. It’s an amazing product, which is made from timber waste. Other timber mills send this company all their waste and offcuts from the manufacturing process and these are used to create the product,” Heald says.

“It looks and feels like natural timber but you can use it where you can’t use natural timber. What’s really exciting about it is that as far as detailing, it’s just like weatherboard, it’s the product that’s different.”

Heald says Innowood can be specified into almost any building, but importantly, it can be used in buildings over seven metres high, which often natural timber can’t. “People are specifying Innowood anywhere they want a natural timber look but don’t want the maintenance that comes with other natural timbers, which needs staining every year or two. This can be left unstained, or if it is stained, it only needs restaining every five or so years.”

Porcelain is another developing innovation in facade and cladding materials. Currently, Symonite distributes and installs the Spanish-designed Frontek product, cladding panels of extruded ceramics with 19 different textured finishes including wood-look, metal-look and natural options.

While architecture continues to push the boundaries of what is possible, developing and evolving with each new project, so too do the products, in this case, facade and cladding materials. Able now to achieve much more than has ever been possible, the options to create diverse and bespoke solutions are endless.

If you’re interested in what can be achieved with some of the cutting edge materials new to the New Zealand market, get in touch with Symonite on ArchiPro here to discuss your next project.