When choosing a material to rainscreen clad heritage buildings, you have to ensure that any material you choose is in keeping with the style and architecture of the building itself. Aluminium, for example, makes an excellent cladding material, due to its lightweight, high tensile strength and excellent weather resistance, but it is not suitable for most heritage applications due to the fact that aluminium is a relatively modern material, which looks out of place on most traditional buildings.
Copper, on the other hand, makes a more suitable cladding material for heritage buildings. Copper cladding is versatile, adaptable, hard-wearing and most importantly has been used to clad roofs, drainage systems and building facades for centuries, ensuring it won’t look out of place on any heritage building or restoration project.
But the best thing about copper is its natural patina. When first installed, copper has a deep brown colour, which eventually fades to ebony, before attaining its distinctive green Verdigris colour. It is this array of colours, which takes decades to play out, that has made copper the architect’s favourite cladding material for over 2,000 years.
History of copper cladding
Copper has been used as a cladding material for many centuries. As far back as the 3rd century B.C., the ancient Egyptians used copper to clad the great doors that guarded the entrance to the temple of Karnak, while the ancient Romans used copper to clad the roof of the Parthenon in Rome, built in 27 B.C. Centuries later, copper was still being used to clad the roofs of Europe’s finest medieval churches. In fact, as a testament to copper’s longevity, most of these churches still retain their original copper roofs to this day.
As a building material, copper has undergone a number of refinements over the centuries. The latest processes ensure that the material provides consistent insulation and fire retardation performance without losing any of its aesthetic appeal. In addition to this, prefabricated cladding systems have improved cost-effectiveness and greatly reduced installation costs. However, despite these innovations, one problem still remained: how to solve the oxidisation problem.
Copper cladding for the 21st century
The oxidisation process has long caused problems for heritage restoration projects, for example, when replacing traditional copper cladding which has oxidised to green, the new cladding takes on the appearance of brown unoxidised copper. This could have a detrimental effect on the building, which may be listed or form part of a conservation area.
Recent innovations in copper cladding design and manufacture have solved this problem, however. TECU® Oxid cladding is 99.9% pure copper that has been through an innovative process to speed up the natural oxidisation process. This process allows the panels arrive on site, pre-oxidised to match the look of your project.
But it’s not just the oxidisation process which can be tailored to match. Recent innovations also allow patina to be added as well. TECU® PATINA panels have been pre-patinated to give them the traditional Verdigris look of aged copper. This process can be further refined to provide a wide diversity of green patination with blue or red tones also available.
Of course, you may not want the look or feel of your cladding to change at all – unoxidised copper has a natural beauty to it that is hard to match. TECU Classic Coated copper cladding offers architects and designers an alternative to oxidised copper. By coating the panels in clear lacquer, moisture in the air is prevented from connecting with the copper’s surface, preventing the oxidisation process from taking place.
Benefits of modern copper cladding
Following these recent enhancements, copper cladding now makes for a cost-effective cladding material for all heritage and modern rainscreen cladding projects. Modern copper cladding systems can be tailored to suit the design of your project while providing the following benefits:
Aesthetics – One thing has not changed over the years: copper is still one of the most beautiful building materials available. Only copper has the ability to transform a relatively ordinary building with its constantly changing patination and colour.
Durability – Modern copper cladding panels are protected by a special coating which helps to reduce maintenance costs and improve longevity without affecting the patination which copper is famous for.
Sustainability – Copper cladding is 100% recyclable and can be recycled any number of times, so when the building reaches the end of its life, the copper panels can be removed and recycled. Then they will be turned into new copper panels, where the oxidisation process starts over again.
Lightweight – Copper is a lightweight building material anyway, but modern manufacturing techniques can reduce this weight further. New state-of-the-art honeycomb panel technology uses a thin veneer of copper over a honeycomb core to increases structural rigidity and strength while reducing build costs.
TECU manufacture a range of copper rainscreen and cladding systems which can be tailored to fit the style and design of your project. You can choose a standard copper finish which ages naturally over time, changing the character of your building as it turns from brown to Verdigris. Or you can specify which stage of the oxidisation process you would like to achieve and the panels will be delivered to you, ready to go.