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Perforated and Expanded Metals

Expanded Metal as a Means to Save Energy

P1240861Case Study: Louver Mesh as a Façade and for Privacy Screening in Green Buildings

Quite often during the materials planning stage of a construction project, we find ourselves with the dilemma of which materials we should utilize to best achieve the energy efficiency goals of the project. The implementation of the LEED program, together with the strategic location of the building and the proper utilization of materials used to create it, ensure each and every day that the construction projects that make up our urban footprint respect in every way conceivable the principles of ecology and energy savings.

Combining comfort with energy efficiency is one of the primary concerns of modern architecture. To achieve this, the building development team has to be conscious of the fact that energy savings do not depend solely on the building's heating and air conditioning systems. It is necessary to visualize the building as a whole, as each of its parts influences energy consumption.

Of all these factors, one of the most important, when taking into consideration its low cost in relation to its advantages, is the color and the materials used for the façades and other elements that cover a building. It has to do with an element that, besides its esthetic importance, quite notably influences the energy consumption that is incurred.

P1240830The lighter the surface color, the less heat from the sun's energy is absorbed and later re-radiated, contributing to the well known heat island effect. By reducing the surface temperature of the material, solar heat gain is reduced thereby lowering the energy consumption that a building requires for cooling, even more so in warm or tropical climates.

In combination with color selection, material choice can also affect energy consumption. Expanded metal, made mostly from recycled steel, aluminum, or other materials, is available in many shapes and forms. A recent trend has been the use of these materials in façades or sun screen panels. Having the strength and durability characteristic to steel, expanded metal contributes to reductions in energy consumption in institutional, commercial and private buildings, due to its ability to block the sun's rays and consequently achieve electricity savings, particularly when complemented by building orientation and location.

P1240886Not all expanded metal mesh designs consist of the typical diamond shape pattern. There are processes and special tools that allow for the creation of special function and decorative designs. Of particular interest to metal architecture are the Louver Mesh type expanded metals that combine esthetics, form and function. The simplicity of its form, along with the privacy screening inherent to its design, makes it very attractive for use in façades, pergolas, sun screens, and railings, as well as making it a key element to physical security barrier systems. Also, the recyclable nature of these materials makes it completely reusable upon termination of its usable lifecycle.

For the Docsa Corp., headquarters in Santa Catarina, Mexico (Architects: Vidal Arquitectos), Louver Mesh was chosen to achieve an esthetic cohesion with pre-existing materials and forms. The Louver Mesh façade added to an existing structure that was originally conventional in design and construction transforms it into something "unique and different, pleasing to the eye and integrated into its surroundings". According to the design team, the use of Louver Mesh expanded metal "increases energy efficiency and gives it a very original touch by implementing rectangular sections with a light color, powder coated finish; this also achieves a modern effect and the silver color of the finish achieves a softening of the site by mixing the dark tones of the concrete and handrails with the front panels". Further renovation phases for this site include plans to incorporate matching Louver Mesh expanded metal panels as security enhancements on the gates and fencing along the property.

Louver Mesh style expanded metal was chosen for this project because:

  1. It provides a significantly superior privacy and sun screen than other available materials;
  2. As used here as a façade, it reduces the thermal impact on the building and its resulting transmission of temperature to the interior;
  3. The design of the mesh allows for the free passage of air making it more comfortable around the installation.
  4. The inherent strength of the steel allows for a great degree of impenetrability and the design of the mesh makes it difficult to climb.