From libraries and campus buildings to space centers and skyscrapers, metal wall panels are everywhere. Installed on the exterior of buildings, metal panel systems not only provide protection from the infiltration of weather elements, but can also beautify the structure. For these reasons, metal wall panels are commonly used in commercial construction. Most penalized wall panel systems are fabricated of aluminum, since it is much more widely available than other metals. However, wall systems can be made from other metals or alloys, such as zinc, copper, and steel (an alloy of iron and carbon).
Types of Panels
In commercial construction, there are four types of metal wall panel systems: lap-seam, composite, flat plate, and metal-faced composite. Lap-seam metal wall panels are fabricated out of metal sheets and usually ship-lapped with adjacent panels. Composite metal wall panels are stronger than lap-seam ones, since they consist of two sheets of metal adhered to a core material and have built-in insulation. For peak durability and resistance to high impact, builders go with flat plate systems, since they are manufactured out of metal plates that have a thickness of 0.125 inches. Metal-faced composite systems—which consist of metal facings adhered to a thin thermoplastic core—do not have the high impact resistance of flat plate once, since it has about half the thickness. However, builders can have stiffeners adhered or welded to the system’s rear surface.
Metal panel systems can function as barrier, drainage or rainscreen systems, protecting the walls excess water, air, and heat. The result is a significant decrease in the amount of consumed energy. Also, metal wall panels are not flammable, meaning that they cannot catch fire. Metal panel systems also serve as a cosmetic element by enhancing the beauty of the building; this is most evident in high-end applications, such as corporate headquarters, facility centers, and research buildings. Zinc wall panel systems in particular have risen in popularity for several attributes. Zinc naturally develops a thin layer called patina, which protects the panels from corrosion and repairs scratches. Thus zinc keeps the wall application looking fresh long after installation. Steel and copper in particular are used in high-end applications, which have more emphasis on aesthetic appeal. Metal wall panels usually require little to no maintenance, so clients do not need to worry about astronomical maintenance costs.
Metal wall panels, for all their advantages, also have their flaws. Apart from the flat plate variant, they typically have low impact resistance. That means that they can be easily damaged or dented. Thus industry experts strongly recommend that high-rise buildings, which require periodic window washing, use high impact resistant wall panel systems. Also, the look of metal wall panels can degrade over time. In some cases, the degradation is normal, as they are continuously exposed to weather and pollution and begin to acquire a pitted appearance due to the erosion of the protective coating. In other cases, however, the aesthetic value might drop due to faulty fabrication. Some manufacturers use two or more dissimilar metals. So, when water runs off from one type of metal to another, it can stain the other metal and cause it to rust.