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EXTERNAL ENVELOPE Behind the secret fix


Panel Systems unravels how recent technological advancements became the catalyst for uninterrupted exteriors, and where this trend is heading


N


ewness has always attracted the eye, which is why buildings are often designed with a


contemporary aesthetic. There is an assumption that contemporary buildings are more attractive and therefore perceived as more valuable by clients, tenants or investors. It is one of the reasons why modern panel systems that create sheer, smooth facades have grown in popularity in recent years. The introduction of modern finishes such as painted glass, lacquers and patinations have all accentuated this aesthetic, creating buildings where people want to live and work. Across the UK, an increasing number of buildings are sporting facades and exteriors that are unhindered by fixings. These sheer facades have been made possible due to innovation in concealed fixing systems, or what is more commonly known as ‘secret fix’ methods. These methods of fixing panels to the exterior of a building in a discrete way are becoming increasingly popular due to the contemporary trends in architecture.


Types of fix


There are a number of different secret fix methods, but deciding on the actual system that is suitable depends on the facade and material. Firstly, mechanical secret fix methods consist of a rigid aluminium rail system behind the panels, which is anchored to the main structure of the building. This means individual panels can be ‘hung’ from this system, with advances in manufacturing allowing this to be done via recessed holes machined to the rear of the panels. This type of fixing allows individual panels to be removed, providing access to services located behind. Many clients prefer this because it can be cheaper and less disruptive compared to having to access services from the inside of an already occupied building.


An alternative to a secret fix system for those looking to achieve that ‘sheer’


aesthetic is an adhesive fix method. That method is more cost effective than mechanical secret fix and involves primers and adhesives being applied to a timber or aluminium framing system. Despite being a cost effective alternative, it doesn’t allow individual panels to be removed, unlike the secret fix approach. There are further limitations, as the adhesive can often only be used within temperatures ranges of 5°C to 35°C and there are also restrictions on air humidity, of up to 75 per cent. Conversely, mechanical secret fix can be considered a modern method of construction as it can be fitted in a wider range of site conditions. Recently, a mechanical secret fix system enabled a seamless facade to be created for a hospital on the south coast of England. The specified cladding material was


This type of fixing allows individual panels to be removed, thereby providing easy access to services located behind


59


ADF SEPTEMBER 2017


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