Use of natural materials in facades is growing, with terracotta a popular choice. However, terracotta can struggle in a harsh climate. Spanish ceramic tile manufacturer Porcelanosa is currently working with facade engineers at Whitbybird to develop an alternative ceramic facade system, suitable for use across the chillier climate of northern Europe.
Whitbybird is looking at modular ceramic tiles that are pressed to meet the specifications of standard 1.5m mullion grid UK office curtain-walling systems. 'We are exploring the physical properties of ceramic tiles, modelling the base material to discover performance characteristics in variations of scale, and even having its properties tested at the National Physics Laboratory, ' says Will Stevens, director of the Whitbybird facade group. 'Ceramic tiles will provide a more consistent, better-quality product than terracotta. A baked ceramic facade will better resist both pollution and high moisture levels.' Other ceramic cladding panels are also being developed that emulate the physical appearance and texture of stone.