building fabric

Simon Gregory, Sales Manager at Proteus Facades, looks at how the development of modern rainscreen cladding materials is helping architects to create visually pleasing facades that enhance the architectural landscape

Northampton’s striking new façade enhances campus


NNOVATION in cladding materials over the last few years has resulted in rainscreen facades developing from

simply being an outer shell that protects a building contents, into one where it has the ability to define the style and form of an entire project. As such, modern rainscreen cladding systems have evolved to a stage where they now provide architects and designers with the freedom to create modern structures that can either standout or subtly blend in with nearby topography. More often than not the façade will be

designed to create an eye-catching building that grabs the observer’s attention. However, there are times when architects will design a facade with the purpose of ensuring that the building is a more discreet, toned-down structure that sits comfortably in its surroundings.

Take the Energy Centre based at the

University of Northampton’s Riverside Campus for example. Working with MCW architects, Proteus Facades helped create a striking new facade on the £6.9m biomass plant in the form of a 26m flue shaft, completed with Proteus perforated cladding panels installed around an integrated LED screen and solid cladding panels on the main building below. Part of the £330m Waterside Campus

Development, it will provide sustainable heating and hot water for all of the buildings and student residencies on the 58 acre site. This will save over 1,000 tons of CO2 in the short term, rising to 2,200 tons a year following the introduction of a Combined Heat and Power Engine. The juxtaposition between the Proteus

SC perforated panels specified for the flue stack and Proteus HR solid cladding panels used to create the unusual vertical saw-tooth façade design on the Energy Centre’s main building, completely transformed its aesthetics. They allowed what would have been a large and somewhat unappealing ‘square-box’ of a building – needed to house a 1MW biomass boiler, four 4MW gas boilers and a 120cum thermal store - to blend in with its surroundings and become a subtle, design-led structure. The solid metal cladding panels, with

honeycomb core for structural stability, were used around the thermal envelope

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of the building combined with polycarbonate sheeting in a striking internally lit vertical “saw-tooth” arrangement. The lightweight, exceptional flatness, strength and rigidity of the honeycomb panels allowed the architects to develop a large modular cassette system, which was replicated around the building providing uniformity across the different façade elements. An equally engaging aesthetic was

achieved on the 26m-high flue stack. Wrapping it in perforated panels created a sense of weightlessness in what would, at the height of three London buses, have been quite an imposing structure. The back-lit random perforations now appear as though they are pixels being projected outwards from the 12m LED screen, whilst the elongated landscape perforated panels play with the eye to visually truncate the stack’s overall height. The façade design also addressed the

requirement to establish a seamless link between the perforated panels on the main building and the 12m high LED screen. This was done by working with the architects, screen suppliers and façade installers, to create a bespoke tray system, allowing the screen to be recessed and the perforated panels butted up flush with the edges.

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