Metal fabric pays in dividends when it comes to cladding materials because of its virtually indestructible properties. But more and more, architects are discovering the opportunities presented by this versatile material in its ability to control a building’s absorption of the sun – solar shading.
Solar shading is the process of controlling the amount of heat and light admitted to a building. New construction or retrofit projects using materials for solar shading are able to reduce the need for heating or air conditioning by maintaining a more even temperature despite varying climatic conditions. It can also cut the amount of energy required for interior lighting, by admitting more light during overcast conditions.
Woven metal fabric presents itself as an ideal material for solar management. Of the myriad concerns when building new construction or renovating existing structures, energy management and its associated costs rank high. HVAC costs, water usage and maintenance issues are constants to building owners. Among the benefits of woven metal fabric for use as a solar shading solution are:
- It is impervious to fluctuations in climate, making it suitable for use in locations where temperatures are extreme.
- It’s ability to naturally harness the power of solar energy.
- The flexibility of its weave makes it an excellent choice for allowing natural air ventilation which helps to maintain a building’s temperature.
- Cost benefits: improved sun protection leads to a reduction of mechanical costs to run and maintain a building.
- The life span of the product – with stainless steel as the base material, it offers unparalleled durability.
- Low maintenance costs – no harsh chemicals or special treatments are needed to clean the material, resulting in low lifecycle cost.
- The openness or transparency of the weave allows natural light to shine through, ensuring visibility while still offering protection from sun’s harsh rays and heat
- Use of woven metal fabric in a project can help earn LEED points in a variety of ways.
- Wide range of innovative pattern and texture provide limitless design options.
Case Study: Arizona State University, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Communication
In 2009, the Mayor of Phoenix, Ariz., introduced the Green Phoenix plan, a partnership with community groups and individuals with the goal of becoming the most sustainable city in the United States. Exemplifying this partnership, Arizona State University built the 223,000-square-foot Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Communication building in downtown Phoenix, providing new classrooms, office space and a home for local PBS affiliate KAET Channel 8.
To design the new building, Los Angeles based Ehrlich Architects were given a budget of $71 million dollars from the City of Phoenix and the University of Arizona. They were challenged with a strict design-build timeline and the need to create a building that was aesthetically impressive and environmentally responsible.
GKD–USA’s Lago vertical stainless steel woven metal fabric was selected to create sunscreens, bringing the sustainable elements of sun control to the building. Formed into 64 panels (a total of 2,400-square-feet) of sunshades, the vertical stainless steel mesh covers a continuous band of windows on the west side of the building. The fabric protects the glass from damage while allowing light to penetrate deep into the building. The transparent AISI type 316 metal weave mitigates solar heating, but allows easier viewing of flat-screen TV’s and computers. Because of the transparency of the fabric, building occupants can still see a view of downtown Phoenix. On top of its ability to provide a clear view, filter daylight, and save energy through natural lighting, the durability and maintenance-free nature of the Lago fabric was also a contributing factor in its selection.
For increased aesthetic appeal, architects Ehrlich and Michael Jackson, along with designer C. Terry Abair used a variety of colors and textures in building materials, as well as including glass-encased staircases that protrude from the school, preventing the aesthetic of the building from being too boxy. The sunshades added an interesting texture over the glass, working both functionally and aesthetically.
The ASU Journalism School building was awarded LEED® Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and was recently shortlisted for World Architecture Festival 2009 Award.