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How perforated metal facades have impacted modern architecture

There are a number of benefits to using perforated metal.

There are a number of benefits to using perforated metal.

Unique architectural products enable developers to adjust a building's form and function. Over the past half century, a greater number of engineers have used perforated metal facades to manipulate structural characteristics. 

Why are those in the construction sector paying more attention to metal sheets with holes in them? For one thing, their applications are quite broad, and nothing's preventing manufacturers from creating square, triangle and oval apertures.

In this article, we'll discuss how perforated metal has impacted architectural practice. 

Perforated metal can passively control sound in both closed and open environments.

Manipulating acoustics 

Depending on how designers choose to position the panels, aperture size and numerous other factors, perforated metal can passively control sound in both closed and open environments.

In "Acoustical Uses for Perforated Metals: Principles and Applications", Dr Theodore J Schultz detailed a number of ways in which perforated sheets can distribute, absorb and even enhance acoustics. 

For example, engineers can design the perforated material so it only absorbs certain frequencies. So, if an architect wanted the metal to imbibe frequencies below 15 kilohertz (kHz), he or she would be able to do so. Of course, the designer would require assistance from the architectural products manufacturer that fabricates and supplies the panels.

Why is perforated metal ideal for passively managing acoustics? Dr Schultz noted that alternative materials cannot be cleaned or repainted without compromising their sound absorption characteristics. In contrast, maintenance personnel may clean or refinish perforated metal without sacrificing its acoustic properties. 

In addition, Dr Shultz regarded three other characteristics of perforated metals that are favourable not only for acoustic manipulation, but also for many other applications:

  • Inherent structural strength, especially in contrast to woven or felted facing products
  • Malleable, allowing fabricators to reshape it to create complex designs
  • Resistant to damage or possible abuse. 

An impact on seismic resiliency

The properties Shultz described in his book translate to perforated metal's ability to passively help buildings resist seismic activity. 

Professors from Piazzale Tecchio's Department of Structures for Engineering and Architecture in Naples, Italy, conducted a study detailing perforated metal's usefulness in helping structures withstand earthquakes, wind loads and other seismic events. 

Traditionally, architects have used steel plate shear walls (SPSWs) to develop a structure's seismic resiliency. Although SPSWs are incredibly strong and dissipate energy quite well, they also create excessive stresses throughout the structure. To subvert this feature, engineers typically introduce cross-section profiles, thus adding to material costs.

On the other hand, perforated metal facades and panels do not introduce physical pressures, but still deplete power introduced by seismic forces. The Italian researchers tested the product's capabilities by assessing a wide variety of perforation patterns, sheet thicknesses and alloys. 

After conducting experiments with different hole diameters on both aluminium and steel sheets, the scientists concluded that perforated facades yield energy around the apertures without stressing building joints. They also found that aluminium panels do a better job of dissipating seismic energy than their steel alternatives. 

As the world's population continues to gravitate towards urban environments, this finding is important for architects interested in constructing durable buildings in regions prone to earthquakes. In addition, the fact that perforated metal sheets are made up of less materials than SPSWs adds an element of sustainability.

Perforation and sustainable construction 

Between solar shading and air ventilation, perforated metal facades can reduce building maintenance and energy costs when installed appropriately. 

The Industrial Perforators Association (IPA) noted that many of the alloys manufacturers use to create perforated facades are 100 per cent recyclable. For instance, aluminium possesses many eco-friendly properties, and is a common choice for those developing architectural products.

Reusability is just one of many characteristics that determine whether a product is sustainable or not. The IPA gauged perforated metal's sustainability by using the US Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. 

Based on the way perforated metal controls lighting, heating and cooling, such products offer numerous 'green' benefits. Installing facades to promote insulation during the winter and heat dispersion throughout the summer can reduce heating, ventilation and air condition (HVAC) system expenses.

Professor Terri Meyer Boake, associate professor at the University of Waterloo's School of Architecture, noted that the air cavity common in double skin facades can absorb solar radiation. Although not every second skin facade is made of perforated metal, such products can still serve as optimal alternatives to other choices.

Choosing a supplier 

No perforated panel is the same. While some sheets are better suited to acoustic absorption, others are ideal when architects want to refract light. Architects, engineers and other professionals participating in the construction process need to consider these factors when selecting a manufacturer.

In many ways, choosing a supplier comes down to a prospect's flexibility. If a manufacturer is capable of fabricating a wide range of perforation patterns, that's a good start. However, attentiveness and transparency are two characteristics contractors shouldn't ignore.

Locker Group's consultants can assist you in selecting a perforated facade that will fit your needs. If you'd like to know more, speak with one of our experts today.