A composite cladding product from Urbanline Architectural was selected by the architect to provide a striking but low maintenance facade to a residential apartment project in Franklin, Canberra.

Two key challenges faced Kasparek Architects when designing the 78-unit Zest Apartments: affordability and differentiation. Situated in Franklin on an arterial road that links the Gungahlin shopping and community centre with central Canberra, the development is surrounded by contemporary apartments in the highly competitive Canberra real estate market.

Developed by Meteora Developments, the three-storey apartment project was aimed at first and second home buyers. The architect not only met the brief but also balanced the popularity of timber with the requirement to minimise maintenance costs.

Kasparek explained that creating a product that looked highly appealing but stayed affordable was a top priority. The building had a highly articulated design, with the entry and stairwells facing the street. The building’s exterior featured rendered brickwork and lightweight cladding providing a blank canvas, but Kasparek knew something had to be added to attract potential buyers.

Kasparek sought to soften the building with a tactile dimension that would create warmth. Though timber can create this effect, it’s not a popular material with buyers when it weathers and adds to the body corporate maintenance bill.

Seeking a composite product that was convincing yet practical as an alternative to timber feature panels, Kasparek turned to Urbanline’s Euro Clad composite cladding. Featuring a timber-embossed surface, Euro Clad delivers on good looks and durability. The composite feature panels were added to the blades of the building, which also ensured there were no harsh blank walls.

In Kasparek’s words, the cladding “made the building stand out from the rest, with many people commenting on how attractive it was”.