5 Practices for Sustainable Cladding

Why sustainable cladding? spring is coming. The wind grows warmer with each passing day. We leave our homes to the smell of fresh air. Gee, it would be nice to keep it that way! It is not hard, even in the beauty of spring, to see where we have not been good stewards of the earth. Pollutants linger in the air, our garbage takes more land, and acid rain falls from the sky.

When you think about sustainable living, your first thought may not be cladding. That does not mean that the responsibility of cladding contractors to the earth is different from any other industries. Here are some of the best practices for sustainable cladding.

Sustainable Cladding, Today

1. Recycling

Sustainable Cladding - Recycling

It comes as no surprise that recycling makes its way onto the list. The carbon produced to extract and create new materials far outweighs the energy spent on recycling them.

Aluminum, amongst the world’s most recyclable materials, shows much promise for sustainable cladding. It enjoys lossless recycling, which means it has unlimited reusability. The transfer between one iteration to the next is a one-to-one comparison, in terms of material makeup. This is well above the standards of other commonly recycled materials, such as glass and plastic, which denigrate over each recycling phase.

The responsibility is on us to capitalize on these benefits. Liberal–and likely bloated–estimations often claim that 75% of Aluminum is recycled. This number often used to impress, is still far too low.
This leans the discussion of sustainable cladding over to products such as Aluminum Siding and Aluminum Composite Material.

You would not think of implementing soda cans into your building’s exterior design, but that is what often happens when you choose these sustainable cladding products. Smelted down–at a small margin of the environmental cost to produce new aluminum–the old becomes new: now a beautifully crafted facade. To boot, these cladding products are noted for long life. The cost to recycle is small, but still meaningful, so the sustainable solution is the one that will last.

2. Natural Temp Regulation

Sustainable Cladding - Natural Temp Regulation

Efficiency is key to sustainability. One of the key areas of growth in this respect is in temperature regulation that takes the pressure off the heating and cooling units in a building. Modern architects, designers, and contractors continue to seek novel methods for naturally facilitating temperature regulation, so that less energy is needed to keep end users comfortable in all seasons.

The impact of rainscreen cladding has been profound in this respect. Rainscreen cladding–which you can read more about here–fulfills many functions for a building, one of them being temperature regulation.

A rainscreen keeps a gap between the base wall of a building and its cladding. This space, commonly referred to as an air cavity, is pressurized to facilitate airflow from the wind. In the winter, cold air is pushed up and away from the building’s envelope and replaced by warmth from the ground. In the summer, the opposite is true. Hot air rises, and the rainscreen becomes like a chimney, pushing the heat out of its top.

Whatever air is lingering on a building’s envelope has an impact on the controlled environment inside. The rainscreen exhausts this air, and offers an additional buffer for insulation. In this way, smart cladding solutions take the heat off air conditioning units and give the high energy cost of heating a chill.

3. Lighten The Load

Sustainable Cladding - Lighten The Load

Rising gas prices might have us thinking extra carefully about how much fuel our vehicles consume, but the pressure to reverse the levels of CO² in our atmosphere has long demanded the same level of consideration. The construction industry is a great culprit in this respect, as materials are not manufactured and fabricated on the job site, and must be trucked or shipped to their final destination.

Often we see massive concrete trucks and five vehicle convoys carrying massive building components, which uses a massive amount of fuel. These are necessary evils to making the buildings that we need, but what can the cladding industry do to lighten this load?

A defining feature of most modern cladding materials is their weight. The latest panels are composed of dense materials: offering strength in a thin and lightweight package. ACM, Aluminum Siding, HPL, Fiber Cement, these can be loaded into a truck like the world’s easiest game of tetris. This means more square footage of beautiful facade, with less vehicles burning fuel all the way to the job site.

An added bonus: the heavier a load is, the more gas consumed. A truck packed to the gills with ACM will outpace the one carrying bricks, who had to stop an extra time for more petrol.

4. Check the Wood

Sustainable Cladding - Check the Wood

Wood can be a sustainable product (emphasis on can). In the world-wide industry of logging, there are sustainable suppliers, and others that fall short of our collective duty to protect the environment.

As consumers, either in the construction of commercial industry, our responsibility is to support the business of the former. So how do we separate sustainably sourced wood from other products? The Forest Stewardship Council is a non-profit that strives to do just that. The FSC assesses the logging standards of the biggest wood suppliers, and certifies the good ones so that consumers can know the environmental sustainability of what they buy.

If you are buying Thermally Modified Wood from a cladding provider, make sure they can show you the “Check Tree” label, which certifies FSC approval.

5. Reduce Waste

Sustainable Cladding - Reduce Waste

Many popular modern cladding products require fabrication. Sloppy fabrication means wasted material. When you cut a panel out of a sheet, the sustainable practice is to measure so that the most panels can be cut out of a sheet.

Leaving a few scraps on the cutting room floor may seem marginal, but over the course of a fabrication shop’s year these all add up. Reducing waste is a daily effort, like many other sustainability practices. It is tempting to ignore the small areas of waste in our lives, but every square foot at the dump was made by “just a little waste, no big deal.”

Conclusion

Modern cladding methods show much promise for sustainable exterior design. If made from recycled materials, and used to form a rainscreen, these lightweight facade products are the next step towards conscientious construction.

This is why, at Wiedehopf, we have gone in on optimizing and maximizing the potential of these modern materials. Join us in partnership, as we clad a more sustainable world.

 

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