Cladding brings refreshed look to flats of the future

Danny Phelan, sales manager at Panel Systems, looks at how housebuilders are using innovative cladding materials to create modern, aesthetically pleasing multi-occupancy dwellings.

There has been a great change in multioccupational living over the past four decades, with some of the most significant advances occurring relatively recently. For instance, between 2002 and 2014, the proportion of people aged 16 or over who were single or divorced increased, leading to higher numbers of people living in single person households. There has also been a growth in adults who are not living as a couple and have never married or civil partnered, which rose to one quarter of adults (24.9 per cent). This is still the most common living arrangement for the 16 to 29 age group, where 71.6 per cent of people were found to be living alone.

This rise in smaller households is leading to a reinvigoration of the market for multi-occupational living, therefore presenting both a challenge and an opportunity for housebuilders. These companies are increasingly pushing the boundaries to make apartments more desirable and aesthetically pleasing.

The entire skyline of a city can change with the construction of a tall residential building, which is why it is so important to get the aesthetics right. Architects have a preference to make them minimalistic and modern in appearance, and architectural cladding can help to create a clean, uncluttered design. The wide choice of cladding options means that housebuilders can experiment with various colours, textures, materials and decorative effects on cladding panels. These decorative effects are the reason for architectural cladding’s great appeal for larger multi-occupancy apartments.

In urban areas, housebuilders often choose to clad buildings due to the acoustic and soundproofing qualities for residents. There are also extensive benefits in terms of energy efficiency too, as the cold or warmth outside cannot penetrate the cladding system, and therefore the internal temperature within the apartment is more consistent.

When it comes to aesthetics for city centres, architectural panels can provide a sheer, smooth facade. We have seen building designers use this to great effect for residential buildings, incorporating elongated horizontal cladding panels, which creates a modern take on the architecturally-proportioned ashlar coursing found on many historical buildings. This type of effect works particularly well with grey or stone coloured fibre cement panels, with the added benefit that it offers low maintenance. For developers looking for something even more contemporary, triangular, vertical or simply square panels are all possibilities. Choosing the most effective shape, material and colour for the facade depends on a number of factors.

Energy-efficient buildings

Cladding panels offer a popular method of insulating a building, where insulation is integrated behind the cladding boards. Insulation can be selected in a range of grades and thickness, including materials which are BREEAM approved and fire retardant. The result is that the facade can help to reduce the running costs of the building without loss of internal space.

Materials like fibre cement have captured the imagination of specifiers because of their wide choice of colours and finishes, combined with the ability to complement most other external envelope materials, making it a compelling choice.

Lightweight, strong fibre cement facade panels also give building designers greater freedom of expression because it avoids the need for heavy masonry-based internal supporting structures. The result is not only a building with a reduced carbon footprint, but one that is a closer reflection of both the clients’ and architects’ original vision. Aside from fibre cement’s geometric possibilities, the material’s visual appeal creates an architectural fusion between other commonly-used facade materials, such as timber and aluminium.

This was one of the reasons why fibre cement cladding panels were chosen by Great Places Housing Group for its Richmond Park development in Handsworth. The work was part of a £16.5 million redevelopment of two former council estates, and fibre cement was specified for both the existing and the new residential units. It comprised a development of 12 blocks of flats and 36 existing houses, which were overclad with rainscreen cladding.

600m2 of fibre cement external cladding was used on this project. To ensure the panels could be quickly and easily installed on site, they were cut to size to meet the project’s call-off schedule. The rainscreen design incorporated high performance insulation, which was mechanically fixed to the exterior wall of the refurbished buildings to improve energy efficiency.

The type of fibre cement specified allows the texture of the material to show through, adding another visual dimension to the facade. The panels were specified in bluestone and azura, which provided a visual link between the older, refurbished properties, and new properties, creating a sense of continuity between the brick finish of the homes and the timber weatherboarding.

As multi-occupational living shows no signs of weakening and housebuilders continue to strive to use innovative cladding materials, there is great scope for the apartments of the future to be more aesthetically pleasing and visually interesting than ever before.