What are the Benefits of a Rainscreen?

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Peter Overton
WRITTEN BY
PETER OVERTON

Accompanied by over 30 years of experience within the external construction sector, my skill set extends to many areas.

When it comes to designing a high performance building, weatherproofing and moisture control is something that you simply can’t ignore. 

Rainscreening your building ensures that you will be able to mitigate harmful moisture exposure, and avoid costly repairs later down the road. This article explains how a rainscreen works as well as the benefits of implementing a rainscreen – so that you can be prepared for whatever the weather.

So, what are the benefits of a rainscreen? Rainscreen provides many different benefits, including moisture control, facade preservation, thermal insulation, acoustic insulation, increased energy efficiency just to name a few. Rainscreens are also low maintenance and easy to install, therefore providing a positive return on investment over time.

Keep reading to find out more about the individual benefits of implementing a rainscreening cladding system, and why these systems are viewed as essential among construction experts.

What is a Rainscreen Cladding System?

What are the Benefits of a Rainscreen Cladding System?

How Do Rainscreen Cladding Systems Work?

Is a Rainscreen Cladding System Necessary?

What is a Rainscreen Cladding System?

A rainscreen cladding system is an additional layer of exterior cladding that is tasked with protecting the exterior facade of a building. It is responsible for enabling continuous air ventilation and avoiding moisture build up. 

Rainscreens are comprised of four main components:

  1. Exterior sheathing
  2. A weather resistant barrier i.e housing wrap
  3. A drainage plane
  4. Cladding

Not only is rainscreen cladding a sensible option for avoiding costly disasters (i.e mould build up, structural cracks), it also brings many positive efficiencies to your building and, as such,  incorporating a rain cladding system into new builds is of the utmost importance to both architects and builders, especially in areas where you typically experience high levels of rainfall. 

What are the Benefits of a Rainscreen Cladding System?

The benefits of implementing a rainscreen cladding system fall into two key areas; disaster mitigation and efficiency improvements. In layman’s terms, we need to understand the risks of not implementing a RSC system, as well as the added (and sometimes indirect) benefits of investing in a rainscreen cladding solution.  

Moisture control

Rainscreen cladding serves to control the levels of moisture of a building by allowing constant ventilation. Failure to provide sufficient ventilation results in ineffective moisture management, and can lead to a whole host of problems such as mould and rot. Each year billions are lost as a result of moisture damage, either as a result of expensive repairs or, in some cases, litigation. 

With this in mind, it is no wonder that architects are looking for solutions to improve the moisture management of new builds to ensure the risk of envelope building failures are minimised from the outset.

Facade preservation

Aside from providing ventilation and air flow, the addition of rainscreen cladding helps to protect the exterior walls of a building by giving it extra protection against the elements and extending your facade’s durability.

In this sense, your rainscreen cladding system can be seen as an extra layer of armour for your building, taking the sting out of wind, rain or snow, or whatever weather is thrown your way, and slowing down the rate of degradation.

Rainscreen cladding also incorporates what is known as an intumescent cavity barrier which greatly reduces the spread of vertical fire.

Without rainscreen cladding, it is likely that structural repairs will be required on a much more frequent basis, and the extent of the damage is likely to be more severe.

Thermal insulation improvements

Rainscreen cladding does not only protect buildings, but it also improves their performance. 

The introduction of a rainscreen cladding system for example is one of the simplest (and cost effective) ways of thermally insulating a new build; reducing cold bridging, energy costs, and the likelihood of dampness.

Not only does  the cladding provide a practical means of keeping a building warm in the winter, and cool in the summer, but it is also a method that insulates the building from the exterior which means that architects do not have to compromise on losing interior square footage. A win, win.

Acoustic insulation improvements

Not only does rainscreen cladding provide thermal insulation, but it also provides acoustic insulation to match. The extra layer of cladding helps to soundproof your building, reducing outside noise, and helping you sleep better at night, or focus better at the office.

Soundproofing is an especially important consideration when building in busy urban areas, schools, or major road networks.

Increased energy efficiency

As a result of better insulation and ventilation, the introduction of a rainscreen cladding system is an easy way to make your building more energy efficient.

It is believed that the energy savings of using a rainscreen cladding system are as significant as 30-40%, which intime recovers the initial investment of implementing your rainscreen.

If saving money doesn’t excite you, then the fact you are saving the planet via reduced energy consumption definitely should.

Reductions in structural movements

The air cavity that is so essential for moisture management, also provides additional benefits in regards to maintaining the structural integrity of your building.

As a result of better temperature control, the risk of structural issues such cracks and movement are significantly reduced. This is because the building is not subject to extreme variations in heat, which means the structure is less likely to experience contractions and expansions in its movement. 

Ease of installation

The beauty of rainscreen cladding systems is in their ease of installation. 

The cladding is lightweight and fitted on the exterior of the building which means that it is a quick process that causes no interior disruption. This is especially valuable if you are adding a rainscreen cladding system in retrospect and your building is already in use.

Depending on your choice of cladding, often rainscreens can be pre assembled off site meaning that they fit right, first time.

Freedom of design & aesthetics

One of the major attractions of rainscreen cladding systems, aside from their damage limitation and performance efficiency features, is their versatility when it comes to design.

The design possibilities are endless, and architects make use of the lightweight cladding to produce gravity defying designs to make their projects stand out from the crowd.

Not only does the rainscreen lend itself to impressive structural feats, the choice of materials for the exterior cladding also means that architects are free to choose their required finish. 

Each material brings a different look. For example, you could use aluminium cladding for a finish with a shine, or a slate cladding for a sleek, imposing finish.

The choice is yours, but you should take joy in the fact that the addition of a rainscreen cladding system can be used to transform the aesthetics of a building, rather than becoming an unwanted eyesore.

Low maintenance

Once implemented, rainscreen cladding requires virtually no maintenance, especially when a material such as slate, concrete, fibre cement or plastics are used.

Not only is the rainscreen low maintenance in itself,  but as a result of the protection the cladding provides to the exterior of the building, and moisture management – the lifetime maintenance costs of your building will be significantly reduced.

As we’ve already discussed, the ease of installation of the cladding means that in the event that panels need to be replaced, this can be done easily, quickly, and at no great cost.

Furthermore, in the event that there is structural damage to the exterior walls (mould, cracks, damp) then individual panels can be removed to grant access to problem areas in order to carry out any required maintenance.

Environmentally friendly

Not only are the materials used for rainscreen cladding a game changer for architects in terms of design, they also have sustainable environmental credentials and help to lower the carbon footprint of both the build process, and the building’s ongoing performance.

If you want to prioritise environmental sustainability in your build, then aluminium cladding is a fantastic option as it is widely regarded as one of the most sustainable materials in construction due to the fact that aluminium is 100% recyclable and its smelting is primarily powered by hydroelectric power. 

In fact, 75% of all the aluminium ever produced is still in use today.

A positive return on investment

If the safety and the environmental benefits of implementing rainscreen cladding for your building aren’t already convincing to property developers, then the pure financial benefit of the long term cost savings of doing so, should make the decision to do so a no brainer.

First, by adding a rainscreen, you are taking every step possible to mitigate the chances of structural issues to the building which, as we’ve already discussed, can lead to mountainaning repair bills as the property is forced to battle the elements on its own.

Secondly, the rainscreen cladding systems’ insulation properties mean that energy bills are reduced indefinitely, by as much as 30-40%. 

It is this tandem of cost savings; through both mitigation and ongoing energy efficiency that makes rainscreens so appealing on the financial front, and make sure that you not only should recoup your initial investment, but also reap the benefits for years to come.

How Do Rainscreen Cladding Systems Work?

We’ve already heard the benefits of rainscreens, but you might be asking yourself how rainscreen cladding systems actually work. Aside from providing an obvious physical barrier to the elements, how does a rainscreen cladding system help lead to energy efficiency?

It is all to do with airflow.

A rainscreen cladding system consists of a load bearing wall, an insulation layer, and cladding. The cladding is fitted to the insulation layer using a supporting structure which provides an air cavity between the materials. It is this air cavity that helps the ventilation that is so key for moisture management and thermal control.

The air cavity is designed to have openings at both the top and bottom of the facade, and it is this that allows for the constant flow of air. For energy efficiency, the air cavity allows for a natural convection process called The Stack (or Chimney) Effect to take place as outlined in this video:

https://youtu.be/ROhbm7UZgF8

This process takes place in the air cavity and allows for the warm air of the summer months to lift and escape from the top, while being replaced by cooler air from the bottom. 

In the winter months however, the air will not be warm enough to rise, ensuring that it is retained in the walls, helping to contain the building’s heat. 

Is a Rainscreen Cladding System Necessary?

Rainscreens are not typically a legal requirement, however in some coastal and heavy rainfall areas they are. Despite this, the general consensus among architects and developers is that rainscreens cladding systems are worth the initial investment.

Unsurprisingly, the amount of rainfall directly correlates to the necessity of implementing a rainscreen. The more rainfall you get, the more helpful a rainscreen will be.

The general consensus is that if you’re building in an area with more than 60 inches of rainfall annually then a rainscreen installation is essential, and in areas where there is between 30-60 inches of rainfall, then it is still recommended.

If you are building in an area with less than 30 inches of rainfall, a rainscreen cladding system may be an optional extra, however there are still circumstances where a rainscreen is required, for example if you are planning tall walling, OSB sheathing, or brick veneers.

If you have any questions regarding your specific needs, then please don’t hesitate to reach out to us here at Kladworx.

Rainscreen Support Systems at Kladworx

At Kladworx, our goal is to make facades simple, with our industry leading range of rainscreen support systems which can accommodate a wide spectrum of materials and design requirements.

Our standards are held high, and our rainscreen systems are designed to provide structural integrity and energy efficiency for your buildings’ long term future. 

We have years of experience in designing and implementing rainscreen cladding systems and are constantly striving to meet and exceed the ever-changing performance requirements of the cladding and facade industry. 

Our facades are built to last, and so should your builds. 

Need help with your external construction project?

We are suppliers of some of the most bespoke aluminium and uPVC systems on the market. With over 30 years of experience within the external construction sector, it leaves us well placed to offer our advice on the many different systems on the market

See some of our recent work, or get in touch with us today for a free, no obligation quote.

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