The term “commercial building” can include just about anything from an office skyscraper to your local hole-in-the-wall restaurant, shopping mall or even a parking lot.
By the same token, the options for commercial facades, walls and structural materials are seemingly endless. Let’s take a look at some of the newest and most innovative materials, and some of the stunning commercial structures they feature in.
Aluminium is a very popular choice these days, and for good reason – it’s low-maintenance, durable and easy to install. There are also plenty of variations that are 100 percent non-combustible and available in a range of finishes.
One such example is DecoClad, a non-combustible aluminium product that uses photo imaging technology to recreate the look and feel of timber.
Used in a contemporary office design for G-Force Construction, the brief was to create a bright, airy and aesthetically pleasing space in the inner suburbs of Adelaide.
This was achieved through use of the DecoWood finish on the building’s exterior, which was chosen to complement the structure’s dark features while adding to its warm, earthy feel.
This timber alternative also has the benefit of being more durable, UV-resistant and low maintenance than actual timber cladding.
Another interesting aluminium cladding product is Colorspan’s Pure + Freeform Exterior Wet Seal Plate panels, which come in a range of unique colours and textures for use indoors or out.
These panels were used in Florida’s Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, an unconventional design by Klai Juba Wald Architecture + Interiors.
Specifically, the panels were chosen for the pool area, which includes a two-storey food service space in the shape of a boat, complete with a floating walkway. Using the Wet Seal Plate panels, the grain is offset, moving in the opposite direction around the fascia.
This creates a wood like appearance that is reminiscent of a real ship, but with a material that can better withstand the humidity of the pool and surrounding climate.
If you’re looking for a sustainable solution, another good option is Alspec’s Proclad Linear, a non-combustible intelligent interlocking system that is pre-finished and 100 percent recyclable. Well-suited to a wide range of commercial builds, it requires minimal fabrication and decreases waste by offering custom sizing on request, plus the opportunity to add texture and distinctive character to facades.
Also worth noting is Network Architectural’s Alpolic non-combustible aluminium composite panel. According to the company, it is the first aluminium composite panel to achieve an A1 Euroclass rating – one of the world’s strictest fire protection standards for building materials. This makes it an excellent choice for commercial structures in fire-prone areas, or for buildings that are being reclad to remove combustible cladding.
Finally, on the topic of combustible cladding, it is important to mention the launch of HVG Facades’ Envirosmart recladding program.
Developed with the input of EPA registered and Green Star certified recycling experts, the program ensures that all non-compliant ACP cladding is collected from site and transported to a specialised facility.
The panels are then shredded and separated into aluminium and polyethylene powder, which will be re-used to make new building materials such as compliant aluminium packers that could be used for future recladding projects. And according to HVG Facades, the program can provide certified documentation for the whole process.
It’s not often talked about, but architectural mesh is a surprisingly versatile material that can add to a building’s structural integrity, ventilation and aesthetics, all at once. One example of this is Kaynemaile’s architectural mesh, which the company describes as the reimagination of 2,000-year-old chainmail into a unique mesh product made from high-grade polycarbonate.
The mesh was used in the Cumulus Studio-designed Protagonist café and bar, located in the historic Melbourne arts precinct that is also home to the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) and the State Theatre.
"Protagonist is wrapped by a chainmail curtain which physically opens and closes each day, inspired by the curtain and fly tower within Arts Centre Melbourne's theatres. The colour is a reference to the centre's landmark spire,” says Cumulus Studio director Keith Westbrook.
Not only does the mesh contribute to the café’s bold, eye-catching design, but it serves a dual purpose, forming a screen at night where visuals are projected to promote upcoming events.
Imagine walking into the lobby of a city hotel or commercial tower where the entire room looks like it’s encased in a singular piece of marble. According to Kaolin Tiles, this has been made possible with its Endless Vein porcelain tiles, which, as their name suggests, can connect endlessly in any direction.
“There are book-matched designs and there are connecting vein designs, where a set would have tiles that connect between each other. But never have we seen another design that can keep connecting in any direction,” says Anton Bourtsev, director of Kaolin Tiles.
Aside from making a bold interior design statement, endless tiles are also a very low-maintenance solution due to the lack of grout joints, as well as resistance to scratches, stains and heat.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for porcelain cladding designed to withstand the elements, Frontek’s extruded porcelain panels could be a good option.
According to the company, these panels are an extremely durable, weather-proof solution that can hold up to extreme weather conditions with no maintenance requirements. They are also non-combustible and have been tested in Australia and New Zealand for compliance, which includes seismic performance.
A modern twist on an old classic, brick inlay is growing in popularity as architects and designers seek to recreate the look of a traditional brick facade with lower costs and easier, faster installation.
One example is PGH Bricks’ InBrick product, which embeds genuine clay brick tiles into precast concrete panels. InBrick was recently used in the ClarkeHopkinsClarke-designed Armstrong Creek Town Centre, a 1,400sqm shopping and community hub built for a new suburb outside of Geelong.
“The developer wanted the brick finish but the timeline was critical. With InBrick, structurally you still keep the precast integrity and steel support with a brick finish externally,” says Dale Baldi, precaster at Statewide Panels.
“We were standing 20-25 precast panels per day, so a whole front of a building would be up within the week.”
Another good option is Robertson Facade Systems’ Brick Inlay, which offers extensive design choices for brick facades, including a variety of speciality thin brick, porcelain or stone colours and textures, plus the ability to create custom patterns. This material was recently used in Hotel Britomart, a stunning addition to an Auckland waterfront hospitality and retail precinct.
What makes this design special is the fact that everything about it was custom fit for purpose, including the facade. The hotel features a full brick facade floating on a glass podium – a sight rarely seen in New Zealand because there are no local precast brick panel systems, and it can be expensive and difficult to find a solution that can hold up to New Zealand’s seismic requirements.
According to Robertson Facade Systems, this is the first time the company’s Brick Inlay has been used in New Zealand. Not only did it create a unique, almost abstract, facade, but it also held up to rigorous testing to prove it could meet New Zealand’s stringent seismic requirements.
Image: Kaynemaile / Protagonist cafe. Photographer: Sean Fennessy
Aluminium Facade Systems (Alspec)
Robertson Facade Systems