Architectural Metal Panels vs Masonry Facades
Concrete, stucco, brick, block and other masonry facades can look great and are extremely long lasting and durable, but they are also expensive, heavy and labor intensive to install. To finish a building with a masonry surface, the structure must be reinforced to carry the extra weight of the materials, and the installation is often a slow process, especially if bad weather causes delays. Designs that can be created with masonry products have limitations, and if not constructed properly, the resulting building may not be very energy efficient.
An alternative to masonry facades is architectural metal panels, which are available in hundreds of styles, colors, sizes, shapes and finishes. They can be a cost-effective, energy-efficient alternative to masonry facades. With their large dimensions and simple installation process, they can enclose a building quickly, protecting it from the elements.
Here are a few of the many benefits that architectural metal panels have over masonry facades:
1) Faster Installation
Masonry facades take a significant amount of preparation work before installation, including preparing the building, mixing concrete, stucco or mortar, and hauling the materials into position. Afterward, the process of forming and applying concrete, spraying stucco, or laying brick or block is a slow process taking days or weeks. It is also very labor intensive, and it requires a large crew of skilled workers and equipment, like cement mixers and scaffolding. Finally, during poor weather, work will have to be delayed because masonry products cannot cure properly in the presence of excess moisture.
With architectural metal panels, the installation process is easier and can go much faster, especially when using large panels. Single-skin panels, such as the Concept Series from Centria or corrugated panels from VMZINC can either be installed over an existing subsurface or firing strips, and fastened directly to the substructure, or some can be installed in channels for a more finished look.
Other panel systems, such as shaped, composite or insulated panels include their own mounting systems with channels, gaskets, trim and any other needed accessories. This allows the installation to proceed at a brisk pace, especially with large panels, and it requires much less labor than the installation process of masonry facades. Additionally, architectural metal panels can be installed in nearly any type of weather, minimizing delays and associated costs.
2) Reduced Costs
Between the copious amount of labor required and the costs for the materials, installing a masonry facade can be expensive. Additionally, masonry surfaces also require frequent cleaning to remove dirt and environmental pollutants. Due to the porous nature of the materials, they must be periodically sealed to prevent staining. This can increase the overall costs of a masonry facade over the long-term.
Depending on the type of panels selected, the material costs of a facade made from architectural metal panels can be cost-competitive with masonry facades or even significantly less. With the reduced complexity of the installation and decreased labor requirements, the installation costs are lower, and thanks to the durable finishes offered on many architectural metal panels, maintenance costs are vastly reduced or virtually eliminated. Overall, the long-term costs over a building’s lifetime, including installation, tend to be significantly less for architectural metal panels than a masonry facade of similar size.
3) More Design Options
Though a wide variety of colors is available for masonry facades, their palette is still somewhat limited compared to architectural metal panels. Additionally, while there are many types of bricks, blocks and trim pieces available, creating custom designs with curves, multi-faceted surfaces and other complex details can be difficult and expensive. As a result, masonry facades tend to be bland and simple, with little variation and few eye-catching details.
Architectural metal panels are available in aluminum, zinc, stainless steel, galvanized steel or carbon steel. The material can retain its natural finish, or it can be customized with hundreds of available powder-coated or painted finishes. Each finish is durable and long lasting, requiring minimal maintenance over the life cycle of the panels.
With dozens of manufacturers and product lines, architectural metal panels are available in hundreds of shapes, sizes, finishes, and textures, and nearly any design can be created by mixing multiple styles of panels in the same building. Some product lines are even designed with common mounting systems, allowing multiple panel styles to be mixed and matched in the same area, creating unique patterns and differences in shape, depth or profile.
Finally, many architectural metal panels can easily be curved or shaped to conform to rounded structures or to create interesting three-dimensional design features. With so many options available, architectural metal panels give the designer or architect much greater freedom and control over the final building design, especially compared to the limited options available with masonry facades.
Architectural metal panels, in addition to being lighter than masonry facades, also tend to be more thermally-efficient when insulated or composite panels are chosen, or when they are combined with an appropriate continuous insulation system. This can reduce energy usage over the life of the building, as well as heating and cooling costs. Architectural metal panels tend to be environmentally-friendly, as well, using easily recycled metals during their construction and low-impact insulation materials, where possible. Finally, many architectural metal panel systems feature a wide variety of accessories, such as trim, louvers, windows and other products that create a complete system and make the installation process that much easier.
For many buildings, whether commercial, industrial, residential or municipal, architectural metal panels are a cost-effective, versatile, aesthetically-pleasing and thermally-efficient alternative to common masonry facades. With dozens of panel systems available from top manufacturers like Centia, VMZINC and Altech, the design possibilities are endless.