The challenges presented by materials, geometry, complexity, efficiency and environmental responsibility have been met with determination and success. In contrast to the past, designers are now compelled to involve contractors and fabricators very early in the design process and the increasing utilization of Design-Build teams is testament to this.

Even so, significant challenges remain.

The following issues continue to present encumbrances to further development:



  1. The predominance of complex and expensive support structures.
  2. Difficulties experienced in achieving accuracy due to the fabrication methods used to create them.
  3. The impact of the support structure on final fit and finish of the cladding.


  1. The detrimental aesthetics of visible fasteners.
  2. Deformation of cladding materials (e.g. “oil-canning”, ripples, bow and flatness issues, indentations from fasteners etc.).
  3. Panel surface geometry (shape issues).
  4. The availability of materials capable of conforming to the geometry required.
  5. Accuracy of joint widths.
  6. Control of “panel to panel” relationships in the x,y and z directions.


  1. Difficulties accommodating the tolerances of the supporting structure in the field.
  2. Effects of building settling and movement on the visible surface both during and after installation.
  3. Difficulties with layout and positioning on site due to the lack of flat surfaces, corners or other linear geometric features available for reference.
  4. Lack of adjustability of cladding components during installation to accommodate all the above.


  • The support structure has been the primary focus in the execution of a buildings’ surface geometry.
  • Often, more time and cost is expended on the support structure than on the cladding materials themselves.
  • The final fit and finish of the cladding and the accuracy of the surface geometry is heavily dependent on the quality of the support structure and its installation.
  • There is an ongoing need for improved capabilities in all aspects of execution.


In order to achieve a higher level of fit and finish without increasing total cost, the support system must be simplified and more resources allocated to panel fabrication.

Cladding design needs to work from the outside in, rather than from the inside out!

By rethinking cladding systems so that the control of the surface geometry becomes the primary consideration, and by taking advantage of new fabrication techniques and measurement systems, a higher standard of finish can be achieved for a similar or reduced cost.

Below is a summary of the advantages afforded by a new approach.

IssueSolution Benefit
Visible fastenersAttach to the rear surfaceCreates smooth clean surface
Eliminates localized deformation under fastener head
Panel deformationSelect materials and thicknesses to suit geometry and flatness simultaneouslyMinimizes or eliminates buckling and deformation.
Joint and panel edge accuracyControl all panel edges accurately
Control panel to panel relationship accurately
Eliminates edge misalignment and ensures accurate relationship between adjacent panels
Accommodate design joints and revealsAllow joint locations to be independent of support structureDesign joints remain accurately controlled and located regardless of support structure
Cost and complexity of support systemPut accuracy into the panel and remove the need for accuracy in the supportImproves panel surface quality
Reduces complexity of support structure
Lack of accuracy in support membersAvoid roll forming where panel alignment is affected and use straight components whenever possibleImproves panel surface quality
Reduces complexity of support structure
Materials and Panel surface geometrySelect materials and thicknesses applicable to the geometry
Where necessary alter materials as required
More efficient use of materials
Where geometry dictates, use alternate materials
Layout and positioningProvide a means of referencing panels
Use 3D positioning system to locate supports and panels during installation
With improved panel accuracy, location and layout is simplified
Improves accuracy and simplifies installation
Lack of adjustmentIncorporate adjustment into attachment systemAllows adjustment, improves accuracy, simplifies installation


By prioritizing the appearance of the panel surface and working inwards toward a support structure, we re-focus our attention on the best means of achieving a more accurate surface geometry and a better looking building. This approach presents new opportunities:

  • It prioritizes the designers’ intent; surface geometry is the primary consideration.
  • Since different materials provide different physical, mechanical and performance capabilities some of which may be advantageous or even essential toward achieving a particular geometry, the design of the support structure must be subordinate. Accordingly, design of the support structure must occur after determining the best method of achieving the surface geometry.
  • We can take advantage of the latest fabrication technologies and software developments.
  • We place a new emphasis on the development of alternate cladding materials or technologies.