Building owners and architects looking to make a design statement should look at today's generation of metal composite materials (MCM) for the exterior cladding of their structure. The high tech image these wall panels can impart to a building because of their ability to be formed into various shapes can easily put a building "a cut above."
The smooth, sleek metal composite material can be bent, curved and joined together in an almost limitless range of geometric configurations. In addition, the panels exude a lustrous visual when they are initially installed and continue to do so for years to come with minimal maintenance.
Metal composite materials panels have been used in North American construction projects for nearly 30 years. They are formed by bonding two metal skins to a highly engineered plastic core placed between them, creating a "sandwich" panel.
The bonding process occurs under very precise conditions of temperature, pressure and tension. The result is a metal/plastic composite sheet that provides numerous benefits compared to a similar thickness of solid metal sheet. The sheets are offered in a variety of lengths and widths.
Originally called aluminum composite materials (ACM), the name of the product category recently changed to metal composite materials to reflect the introduction of new skin metals, such as zinc, copper, stainless steel, and titanium. Aluminum, however, remains the predominant skin material.
When it comes to consistency and precision, metal composite materials are among the best the metal construction products industry has to offer. For example in one of our MCM Case Studies, MCM sheets are flat when manufactured and stay flat after installation. There is no "oil canning" or wrinkling because the skins are bonded to the core under tension, which produces a balanced panel.
MCMs not only provide consistency of flatness, but also consistency of finish. Aluminum and steel MCMs can be finished in virtually any color a building owner or architect wishes. Zinc, copper and titanium panels are usually installed unfinished, utilizing the benefits of these natural materials.
And, new developments in paint application technology ensure that the finish remains consistent from one panel to the next, which eliminates the possibility of a checkerboard visual on the building's exterior.
Aesthetics is one reason metal composite materials are increasing in popularity. Affordability is another. At one time, the use of MCMs on a building was limited to high end projects, however, that is no longer the case. As a result of improvements in product technology, manufacturing efficiencies and installation techniques, metal composite panels are more cost-competitive today than ever before, made even more so when metal roofing life cycle costs are analyzed.
As a result, MCM panels are now installed on a wide variety of building types and metal building applications, ranging from major project wall panel systems to cornices and canopies, and are frequently used to join areas between other major building materials, such as glass and precast panels.
Initial construction costs are often lower with metal composite materials because the panels can typically be installed faster than alternative exteriors such as precast, granite or brick. Because of their light weight, MCMs can also save money by reducing structural steel requirements, since less support structure is needed.
In addition, ongoing maintenance costs are reduced as a result of continuing improvements in paints and coatings. Today's metal composite material panels retain their luster for decades, ensuring that the building maintains its aesthetic appeal and its property value for the long term. This longevity makes a difference when it comes time to sell the building. Facilities clad with metal composite material panels retain their curb appeal and never look dated, often reducing the need for pre-sale refurbishing costs.
Properly designed and installed, metal composite panels provide a very reliable building envelope that resists the elements and protect against air and water infiltration. Installation systems are available that virtually eliminate the concerns over mold and mildew.
Metal composite panels are also an environmentally responsible and sustainable choice for buildings. For example, approximately 70 percent of an aluminum composite wall panel by weight is recycled content.
MCM manufacturers produce high quality metal sheets, but it is the metal fabricators who change the flat sheets into panels and transform them into viable products for building projects. Metal fabricators are generally responsible for the bulk of the work required to produce the actual metal composite material panel system, including metal system design, selection and engineering. In some cases, they also install the system.