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Modern Residences

metal architecture residential metal wall panelsWhile seeing a metal roof on a residence may no longer be considered unusual, in recent years, more and more homeowners are turning to metal wall panels to create unique and innovative residences.

Mark Horton, FAIA, principal at San Francisco-based Mark Horton Architecture, notes that homeowners are looking for an aesthetic. "They might have seen images of contemporary homes in a magazine, or pre-fabricated homes, and they have an idea of a new, modern, clean home," he says. "Sometimes, layered onto this idea, is also the idea of a low-maintenance material-the idea that once a metal exterior is installed onto the outside of the home there will be little work required downstream."

Jim Tuschall, president of Tuschall Engineering Co. Inc., Burr Ridge, Ill., agrees, saying, "A lot of the residential projects are looking for a unique look, something that's different."

Size and Appearance

From ribbed panels to flat, natural metals to aluminum composite material (ACM), metal wall panels can provide a variety of different looks for residences. According to Tuschall, natural metals, especially zinc and copper, seem to be very popular right now for its life span and design appeal.

metal architecture residential metal wall panelsAccording to Mehran Talaie, project architect with Bridgehampton, N.Y.-based McDonough & Conroy Architects PC, homeowners of a recently completed 7,000-square-foot residence in Bridgehampton desired a modern look that was clean and functional without being over the top. They also wanted something that would be appropriate for the area, which has homes with a modern or post-modern feel located a few blocks from the ocean. The house features 4-mm Alucobond aluminum composite material (ACM) panels in Alabaster from 3A Composites USA Inc., Eastman, Ga., in a rout-and-return rainscreen system, installed by Bamco Inc., Middlesex, N.J. While synthetic stucco was initially considered, the homeowners wanted a smoother appearance, and the Alocobond ACM gave the desired unique look, sleekness, flatness and finish.

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With residential projects, panel size is not usually an issue, but is more a part of the overall design. Gary Davis, director of marketing at A. Zahner Co., Kansas City, Mo., notes that fenestrations and oblique angles may affect the size of the metal wall panels used.

Talaie notes that with residential-type windows in certain areas and commercial glass in others, it became necessary to establish and work within a specific grid of even number of feet to keep the proper alignment of the vertical and horizontal joints with the windows and architectural exterior elements.

According to Horton, the metal panel size is usually a result of the system being employed. "In a flat panel system with joints, extremely large panels may seem too large for a residential scale, but most metal systems are designed to look more like single unified fields (which negates the idea of panel sizes)," he notes.

Horton adds that while homeowners may not have an exact idea of a texture for a metal panel, working with an architect helps them get to what they might be subconsciously thinking. "Generally, I have a feeling this usually means a panel with texture-often the panels are horizontally ribbed," he explains. "I think the texture usually breaks the scale and 'hardness' of the material down to a more residential scale."

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Accent Pieces

Metal wall panels on residences can use a variety of materials as accent pieces. Tuschall notes that he has seen a lot of stone and natural woods, like cedar, being used. He has also seen some tile, but not a lot of brick being used.

On the Bridgehampton residence, Talaie notes that the homeowners decided to go with natural materials such as cedar for the outdoor deck walls and Brazilian hardwood ipe for the remaining exterior for its warmth and longevity.

"We are seeing a lot of metal in concert with terra cotta, because it marries quite nicely," Davis says. Horton notes that his firm recently designed a house with a 100 percent metal exterior that was offset by a rustic knotty pine spine wall. "The juxtaposition of the two materials was strong, interesting, and allowed the house to feel both strong and comfortable," Horton explains.

A Growing Trend

In high-end custom home design, the use of metal wall panels has increased in recent years. So much so that Tuschall says his firm started going after it more readily. "It's a market that we never were in before that we're now going after," he says.

Davis attributes the increase to homeowners looking for longevity, and along with the desire to build to a higher caliber. In California, Horton notes that there has been a renewed interest in contemporary residential architecture, which has led to the increased use of metal. Talaie says he is seeing an increase in using metal wall panels in residential areas, such as the Hamptons, where they're located.

Tuschall says that with homeowners becoming more interested in environmentally friendly materials, the trend towards using natural metals has been very strong. "The use of the natural metals is becoming more and more widely used, and I believe it's because of the patina that takes place," he explains. "The building has a living sense that can evolve into, the patina changes throughout the process."

Horton adds that since using metal is a way to gain LEED points for material use, as LEED works its way into the residential construction world, the use of metal will likely continue to increase.