Specials

Innovative materials making an entry in the Indian facade market

December 2019

Photo courtesy: Kembhavi Architects

Shivam Shukla, Director, Grand Facade Engineering believes the glass façade industry is very slow in coming up with genuinely new trends and, therefore, advocates the use of metal facades—he says stainless steel, mild steel and aluminium lend themselves well to carving by CNC laser or plasma cutting. “We can carve infinite CAD designs on metal, far more than what is possible on glass, in a variety of colours because metal can be powder or polyurethane-coated, and all for a lower cost than high-quality glass.” Even from the perspective of sustainability, strength and safety, metal facades have an edge over glass and aluminium composite panel facades, he elaborates. “Metal facades can last 30-50 years and far better withstand vandalism and a fire [CNC-cut metal facades can let out smoke].”

End-users are always concerned about the energy-efficiency of buildings and in this respect, too, a metal facade scores higher than glass, according to Shukla, because its opacity blocks out sunlight, hence lowering the indoor temperature and the energy load, without compromising on letting in fresh air if the metal features a CNC-cut design. “With a CNC-cut design, a metal façade can almost act like a pair of lungs to a building.”

Aluminium composite panels start to get distorted and bend after a couple of years of heat exposure, he adds. “In fact, aluminium composite panels are now increasingly being considered a suitable backdrop for a façade or for limited use [in a small area].”

Speciality materials make an entry in facades
While glass, aluminium composite panels, aluminium sheets and HPF sheets were popular choices, Architect Indrajit Kembhavi of Kembhavi Architects, says, “Now, the trend is shifting to varied tile and stone cladding, and speciality materials like zinc and titanium, and membrane systems, among others.”

Aluminium is known for its resistance to rusting or blistering but the material is prone to denting and scratches and may corrode under certain environmental conditions if it is not properly maintained, explains Kembhavi. In comparison, special materials like zinc and titanium are lightweight, very strong, and have a reflective appearance and self-healing properties, which means the material can form a thin layer of protective oxide film, increasing its resistance to corrosion, making it a low-maintenance cladding material. Membrane systems are the most flexible, easiest to work with and offer the most solutions in one package with good insulation properties.

“Zinc and copper panels are later entrants to the façade market compared to aluminium panels,” observes Ashok Kumar Bhaiya, Chairman & Managing Director, Aludecor. “Zinc and copper panels are premium products because of their top-rated features and offerings, whereas aluminium panels are a mass product for which demand is ever-growing and evolving, from façades to interiors, for instance. Though we can achieve the appearance, precisely the colour, of zinc and copper panels with aluminium, the latter cannot offer the self-healing and antibacterial properties of zinc and copper panels. Affluent, discerning customers who don’t want lookalikes opt for genuine zinc and copper panels to make a style statement. From the durability perspective, zinc and copper are far more durable and recommended.”

- CHARU BAHRI