Woven metal fabric is often lumped together with other metal façade materials such as perforated metal and sheet goods. Unlike these products, metal fabric requires fewer connections back to the building and there is no need for an elaborate framework or superstructure. The distinct difference is that using metal fabric with a façade entails a unique engineering process that is not always obvious.
Loads, codes and the value of expertise
GKD-USA Inc. provides education to our customers by helping them understand relative loads that metal fabric contributes to a building and the relationship to the steel or concrete we are connecting to. We are constantly looking at the structural building components so that metal fabric integrates seamlessly without jeopardizing the integrity of the structure.
To start, metal fabric patterns vary widely in terms of opacity, wire thickness and even the alloy used. T316L stainless steel, also known as marine grade stainless, is most frequently found in exterior applications. Once a specifier selects a weave, these characteristics combined with the panel size, project location and building code will determine the amount and size of the hardware components.
In façade applications, metal fabric continues to set itself apart because of how it is mounted effortlessly to facades with fewer connection points. Typically placed at limited locations, top, bottom and intermediates making them less visible. This simultaneously will reduce the load that is expressed against the building and permit metal fabric to move under design loads.
With so many factors at play, this beautiful yet highly technical product (woven like cloth) provides solar shading, fall protection, improved aesthetics and add value to an otherwise less attractive building. For example, the loads applied where metal fabric attaches will determine whether the concrete will need an 8-inch or a 12-inch slab. Careful engineering and a review of the applicable building code is necessary to create a successful project—using averages or other project comparisons is not recommended.
Architects should be selective in choosing a metal fabric manufacturer that understands the importance of creating specifications, engineering, project management, installation, warranty services, and can act as a full-service provider. This is critical in getting a finished product that will stand the test of time, meet all applicable building code requirements, and reach the desired aesthetic results. Selecting a manufacturer that is not able to deliver these services will create project flow problems and potentially trigger change orders that drive the project over budget.
Of greater concern is the product and/or manufacturer’s ability to meet the standards required by local building codes. For example, in fall protection applications such as railings and infill for guarding when human interaction is present, IBC 2018 section 1015.4 notes that “required guards shall not have openings that allow passage of a sphere 4 inches in diameter from the walking surface to the required guard height.”
Working with a full-service metal fabric manufacturer will help your design team navigate the code complexities successfully while meeting engineering requirements to ensure a successful installation that is both safe and beautiful.
Andy Franks is a regional sales manager at GKD-USA Inc., Cambridge, Md. For more information, visit www.gkdmetalfabrics.com.