Cladding doesn’t have to mean a choice between brick, stone, timber or render. Claire Lloyd looks at the latest materials on offer, together with the reinvention of a few old favourites.
Glass Reinforced Concrete
Glass and concrete are more often seen sitting side by side in contemporary builds, but glass reinforced concrete (GRC) is a high-strength material which can be specified in thin cladding panels. As the name suggests, concrete is reinforced with glass fibres; originally introduced to replace steel to create a rust-resistant, lightweight material. This striking contemporary addition, designed by Sam Tisdall Architects (samtisdall.co.uk) in collaboration with Ramses Frederickx, was a response to a brief requiring an extension which would stand out against its 1920s host. GRC was specified for its lightweight nature and for the bespoke colours and sizes available — the resulting façade features 120 panels by Gray Concrete (grayconcrete.co.uk) in varying shades of grey. “GRC is not that cheap because it is a bespoke product, but you do get amazing quality for your money,” advises architect Sam Tisdall.
This striking self-build designed by Mole Architects (molearchitects.co.uk) is constructed in cross-laminated timber panels with FOAMGLAS®, a cellulose glass insulation, forming a rainscreen, protecting the house from the elements. Cellulose glass insulation is a stable, impervious and fireproof material which boasts insulative properties too. A cedar shingle-clad projection serves to soften and add texture to the build here.
We’re more accustomed to seeing this material used for roof tiles and for timber-style cladding, but fibre cement is proving its worth not simply for its low maintenance, but for its aesthetic versatility. Marley Eternit’s (marleyeternit.co.uk) Profile 3 in ‘natural grey’, a fibre cement profile sheeting, was specified for this 1940s coastal home renovation project, designed by the practice Sens. The material has the appearance of corrugated iron sheeting but is corrosion resistant, making it an ideal solution against the sea air. The product has a life expectancy of around 50 years too. A very different aesthetic is achieved on this new home, designed by Mole Architects, this time clad with Marley Eternit’s Natura; a through-coloured fibre cement with a smooth profile. This colour scheme is a nod to Arsenal Football Club’s nearby Highbury stadium.
This striking extension, designed by Alison Brooks Architects (alisonbrooksarchitects.com), was due to be clad in zinc. However, with zinc prone to damage when knocked, specification turned instead to DuPont’s Corian (dupont.co.uk). The durable, non-porous material provides a good level of weather and UV resistance. It’s specified as panels which can be installed with discreet joints for a seamless look or open-jointed, and can be utilised to create complex shapes. Another benefit is the variety of colours on offer — the material can even be engraved with a pattern or customised with 3D textures.
The New Timber Cladding
Timber cladding is not just all about weatherboarding. Cedar shingles have long been popular in North America, but their use as a cladding material is increasingly being seen this side of the Atlantic, giving British builds a New England feel — as with this country cottage which has been clad in Silva’s Eastern White Cedar in ‘misty grey’ (silvatimber.co.uk). But their application is just as relevant to contemporary builds, where they can be used to soften straight lines and boxy aesthetics. While the dynamic façade of this self-build features a series of boxes constructed in plywood — a relatively inexpensive means of creating a bespoke look.
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PVC Cladding is another alternative to wood. Manufactured from cellular PVC using a process that creates two layers, the outer skin contains UV resistant titanium-dioxide – the same mineral used in sun cream! This means that PVC is both long lasting and requires minimal maintenance.
PVC systems are often designed to be easy to fit with interlocking boards and many are light handle at around 5kg per 5m board. Some ranges are available with a subtle embossed wood effect finish and with a wide choice of colours so PVC can offer a quick and straightforward home makeover.
PVC cladding can also help insulate a property. It can be fitted over many types of materials including brick, block, masonry and concrete, and when installed with standard insulation materials the BRE (British Research Institute) Green Guide gives PVC cladding an A+ rating.
Brick has always been a popular cladding choice for its ready availability and low maintenance. But contemporary brick-clad builds are moving away from reds, browns and yellows, towards a more monochrome palette. Liddicoat & Goldhill (liddicoatgoldhill.com), the architects behind this project, used Dutch-format engineering brick with a glazed finish to create this striking self-build. A huge slab of statuarietto marble provides relief against the intense hue. White calcium silicate brick has been used to clad this extension scheme by Sam Tisdall Architects (07769 705890). The use of this brick echoes the former white-painted brickwork addition which it replaces. “Calcium silicate bricks are inexpensive but do need to be used carefully because they absorb a lot more water than standard bricks,” advises architect Sam Tisdall. Bricks which are considerably longer and narrower than the standard format are also being used to interesting effect. Long, narrow bricks were in fact in existence in Roman times, and were notably used in the early 20th century by Frank Lloyd Wright. However, in recent years this format has seen a resurgence in contemporary design, with brick manufacturers introducing products to suit. York Handmade’s Maxima brick for example (yorkhandmade.co.uk) is available in lengths up to 520mm.