Friday, September 16, 2011: 07:57:23 AM

Infrastructure

Strong, Woven, And Sustainable

Woven metal and stainless steel can be effective alternatives for an array of construction materials. Madhur Khaitan elaborates

Madhur Khaitan

The use of stainless steel as an effective construction material has been an age-old practice (right from the erection of Chrysler Building in 1930 to the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur in the 1990s). The construction industry, especially in Europe and the US, has understood the importance of deploying new systems and innovative uses of material to supplement existing construction methods. In this vein, the developed nations of the world have been effectively using stainless steel architectural mesh products as a high performance construction and design product. This is because the use of stainless steel architectural mesh products reduces the consumption of resources and energy, and provides higher value; particularly, if the stainless steel is low cost and is utilised effectively. With new technologies entering the market regularly, façade design has become an intrinsic part of the design concept and identity of a building, around the world.

Globally, architects and designers are discovering the potential for illumination and interactivity in woven metal mesh fabrics. In recent years, renowned buildings and sculptures have exploited stainless steel mesh products in order to realise their projects. Among these famous buildings are the FIFA Global Headquarters, Jin Mao Building Gateway Arch and the top floor of the Chrysler Building.

Woven Right
Woven metal-mesh fabrics that have the ability to ‘clad’ architectural surfaces in transparent, light-reflecting metal skins have recently been recognised for their versatility by builders and architects. In addition to adding distinctive aesthetic qualities to building structures, mesh can withstand the harshest weather conditions, is extremely durable and highly recyclable. It can display multiple types of information, and respond to motion, sound or environmental changes, even as it reduces energy costs. In India, developers and designers alike are embracing innovations in the construction and building industry. Although construction in India is still mostly ‘brick and mortar’-based, it is slowly evolving with the advent of new materials that promise to improve quality and sustainability, and reduce construction schedules as well as costs.



In my opinion, Indian design is only now waking up to a more global outlook and, in this context, mesh will play a huge role in leveraging the same. Currently, the market for architectural mesh in India is miniscule, but the potential for new-age materials is huge, with manufacturers and designers waiting in the sidelines to tap this market. Emerging economies in Asia—especially India and China—are expected to record the fastest growth in demand for façades, roofing and cladding. The real challenge, however, is experienced in matching such requirements with the skill and knowledge gap that is unfortunately still prevalent in the country. Façades are important from the design standpoint, but are still an often-neglected part of the Indian architecture process. In the rest of the world, the incorporation of woven architectural metal fabric into building facades is steadily on the rise. As builders and architects increasingly look to weave sustainable building materials into their creations, architectural mesh stands out as an innovative, aesthetically pleasing and eco-friendly choice. As in other parts of the world, the concept of sustainable, eco-friendly buildings is slowly catching on.

Managing Efficiency
In India, construction projects typically consume large amounts of materials and produce a lot of waste. More often than not, the construction industry in general, and architecture in specific, find the prospect of reducing costs, time and improving quality very daunting. The twin challenges that the construction industry in India faces are energy efficiency and sustainability, while keeping in mind the projects’ costs, without compromising on safety and quality.


Weaving a Fine Mesh
WMW Metal Fabrics, India’s first manufacturer of steel meshes, launched Arcmesh in alliance with GKD Gebr. Kufferath AG—a German manufacturer of architectural meshes. The company specialises in the manufacture of innovative meshes for the Indian market and is one of the country’s premier makers of quality woven stainless-steel architectural meshes.


Further, the building industry is also faced with the task of continually creating aesthetic structures. These spaces need to be costeffective, energy-efficient, safe for occupants, and have to steadfastly withstand the elements at their most severe. In particular, this means that the design, installation, maintenance and refurbishment of roofs and façades have become extremely important—in terms of both the architecture and the performance of the facility. In India, energy efficiency is increasingly seen as a viable option that is cost competitive and environmentally sound. However, an integrated approach for technological changes, policy measures and institutional development is necessary to improve energy efficiency in the construction industry.

A right step in this direction would be to understand the concept, identify the issues and challenges involved, and thereafter, arrive at solutions. The country and its developers need to change the consumption pattern as far as energy efficiency is concerned. Building technologies represent a huge opportunity for cutting emissions, and energy use in commercial buildings could be reduced by 15–20 percent, simply by using existing technologies.



Detangling the Weave
Architects looking to create beautiful, artisticallyinspired structures with long lifecycles and eco-friendly designs can turn to mesh as a viable solution. Architectural mesh also reduces building costs and, because of its light weight and flexible design, uses less material, producing significantly less waste than most traditional building materials. Architectural woven mesh stands out from other metal products because of the unparalleled aesthetic it offers, owing to its sheer size and textural appeal.

In humid climates such as India, woven metal mesh façades give buildings a breathable cladding, offer natural ventilation and effectively filter out unwanted sunlight. When installed as cladding for a parking garage, woven metal mesh increases ventilation by admitting fresh air that reduces the requirement for forced ventilation and, in turn, for costly HVAC systems.

Woven metal fabric is well-known for its strength, durability and distinctive look. Additionally, manufacturing processes meet or exceed standards for safety, storm/ground water protection, resource management, wastewater reduction and raw material recycling. Stainless steel also requires minimal maintenance and cleaning after installation, with its life cycle far more than that of alternative products. Even the manufacturing process for architectural mesh systems—a cold forming process—creates a lower environmental impact than the process for heat-treated products.

The lightweight nature and flexibility of metal fabric present a plethora of functional and aesthetic benefits on their own. Closed, tight weaves in the metal fabric can block light completely, while more open patterns allow varying degrees of light and heat to pass. Regardless of the metal fabric pattern, mesh will promote airflow and add a unique look to a building’s interior or exterior.

Mesh can be etched to reflect the corporate brand, or painted in specific colours to match a building’s theme or design. In car parks and garages, wire mesh facades preserve transparency from within, let light flood in to illuminate parking levels, and provide protection against the wind and rain. The increase in multi-use facilities and the increased desire to integrate interior finishes with exterior cladding options will provide a huge market for the use of architectural mesh. As a whole, construction and renovation opportunities will continue to pave the way for woven metal mesh solutions to elegantly differentiate the exteriors they adorn.

The author is the CEO of arcMesh


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