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Metal Fabric Application Trends

Three trends are changing commercial design

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When you think of the word metal, words like strong, industrial and long lasting come to mind. When you think of the word fabric, one might imagine texture, patterns and flexibility. But what comes to mind when the two meet?

When we think metal fabric we envision extraordinary design, nearly limitless applications and ever-evolving innovation. While metal fabric can be used in a variety of applications (from safety and security, to column covers to walls), we’ve profiled the top three ways architects and designers are incorporating the versatile material into building design.

1. CEILINGS

Texturized ceiling systems are a unique alternative to the industry norm. Technology has helped to create a variety of unique weaves that can be customized to fit any shaped room. Whether square, oval or an irregular form, metal fabrics extend beyond sheer aesthetics.

Companies like GKD Metal Fabrics, Cambridge, Md., offer ceiling systems with unparalleled overhead functionality that effectively hide wiring, plumbing, ductwork, mechanicals and support structures in style and elegance. At the same time, they offer a fireproof, extremely durable solution that allows for the free flow of air.

Thanks to a variety of facility-wide design solutions, it’s easy to match these ceiling systems with other architectural metal mesh elements. In the Gross-Umstadt Town Hall project in Germany, architects Pahl + Weber-Pahl, Darmstadt, Germany, worked to create a draped ceiling along with a wall and curtain—all made of Sambesi metal fabric. When suspended from the ceiling, the panels conceal mechanical systems and lighting. Plus, the textural fabric and undulating pattern help create an attractive and dynamic finish to a large and otherwise rigid space.

Ceiling systems can also be purely sculptural in nature. Architects JOI-Design, Hamburg, Germany, worked to create two, 3,200-square-foot canopies to adorn the reception area of the Hilton Hotel at Germany’s Frankfurt Airport. Located in a seven-story atrium, the two golden wings soar into the air. The free-floating wings give the light-flooded room a clear division and distinct appearance using GKD’s Mandarin design. The finely woven bronze-fabric enabled designers to underscore the noble impression of the interior and used targeted light effects to enhance its appearance.

2. ETCHED GRAPHICS

Similar to ceiling systems, etched metal panels combine form and function to provide architects, designers and facility managers with a unique and artistic solution to traditional building façades, curtains and other applications.

The GKD etching process creates visual imagery that is nothing short of astounding—not to mention extremely durable, weather- and fade-resistant. When used as an exterior or interior façade, transparency is also achieved, allowing visibility and measured lighting.

This recently installed, elaborately etched façade with stainless steel Omega panels is located in Pasadena, Texas. The new Houston Area Safety Council (HASC) represents a two-year campus initiative to expand safety training capabilities for the greater Houston Metroplex.

3. SOLAR MANAGEMENT

Beyond ceiling systems and etched façades, solar management is a recent trend that is driving growth. Solar management isn’t just a boon to facility managers and building owners who face increasing energy costs, it also aids occupant comfort while reducing a building’s overall burden on the environment.

Metal fabrics play key roles in achieving proper sunshading and daylighting goals by saving energy and reducing interior lighting and interior cooling needs. This increases interior comfort and reduces power costs.

Additionally, the environmental benefits of solar management products support LEED opportunities and contribute toward LEED goals through:

  • Energy and Atmosphere points by reducing air conditioning and lighting electrical loads.
  • Materials and Resources points because it’s made from recycled material and is recyclable.
  • Sustainable Sites points when used as an overhead sunshade to reduce the heat island effect.

Completed in 2014, the Turkish Contractors Association (TCA) is a prime example of the power of solar management in arid climates. Located in Ankara, Turkey, the LEED Platinum building features a stainless steel façade that provides significant solar protection. This skin helps keep heat gain under control during the sweltering days while filtering light for optimal natural lighting utility. This TCA headquarters also utilizes solar cells and ground temperature heating and cooling to achieve its prestigious status.


Tom Bialk, LEED Green Associate, is the engineering manager at GKD Metal Fabrics, Cambridge, Md., a manufacturer of architectural stainless steel mesh and woven metal fabrics. With a degree in architectural engineering from Delaware Tech, he has over 20 years of experience in the field of design, building and engineering. Bialk currently leads GKD's sustainability ventures. For more information, visit www.gkdmetalfabrics.com.