Well with the increasing popularity of brick "slip" systems, that may be about to change. These products consist of a thin layer of brick attached to a cladding panel. There are about 15 systems on the UK market, available either as small panels you assemble on site or large panels that have been pre-assembled in the factory. They have entered the residential market by way of apartment blocks, where their light weight has obvious advantages. Baggeridge Brick's Corium, a system of brick slips clipped into steel sections, has been used by volume housebuilders including Berkeley Homes, while Taylor Maxwell's Gebrik is also selling well.
As with prefab in general, brick slips have had an image problem. For one thing, the name doesn't sound exactly cutting edge, which is why makers are describing their products as "brick veneer" or "brick tiles". These names more accurately explain the product: in the past brick slips were often made from slices of bricks, but now makers extrude bricks to the exact dimensions. In fact, the process is similar to making roof tiles, so it won't come as a surprise to know that roof tile manufacturers are eying up the market. Much brick slip know-how comes from the Netherlands, but most of the Dutch output goes to Japan, where the brick-faced house is regarded as something of a status symbol.
Brick, reconstituted stone, polished masonry Slips don't have to be made of brick. Forticrete's Permafast panel system demonstrates how the slip principle can be extended to a whole range of materials. Permafast's cold-rolled steel frames can be faced in brick, reconstituted stone, polished masonry and more. The panel system is marketed to the apartment sector, but is not yet promoted as suitable for housing. It can only be a matter of time, however, before the maker comes up with the solution that the housebuilding industry has been clamouring for.
When Richard Rogers Partnership specified terracotta tile for the exterior of Taylor Woodrow's Montevetro luxury apartment scheme in Battersea, west London, it can't have known it would spark a design trend. Since then a host of buildings have been clad in terracotta, possibly because UK products, such as Red Bank's LockClad, have come on stream, costs have almost halved over the past three years. Now budget apartment buyers can share that Montevetro feeling.
Render is almost as popular as terracotta and western red cedar. Darren Richards, operations director with technology consultant MTech, gives the reasons for that: "There are now better performing renders, more flexible products. People trust it more now." Render is also seen as a traditional English finish, which is likely to recommend it to planners.
Laminated board systems could be the next big thing. Trespa pigmented boards in wood-effect finishes and bright colours open up design possibilities to architects; Trespa board was used to create metallic-effect walling at the Magna centre in Rotherham, South Yorkshire.
Grc and grp
Glassfibre reinforced concrete is about to make a big comeback in the industry, while grp is already here, particularly in the form of add-ons such as Kevington Brick's Faststack chimney system. Euroform, a brick walling system maker, is following suit with the Versachimney. MTech is working with a manufacturer on a grp brick-style cladding that is moulded from real brick, and expects the product to come on the market in six months.
Aluminium has been joined by zinc and copper as architects extend their design repertoire. There is scope for a lot more innovation in metals, as the exterior of the Selfridges store in Birmingham has shown. Planners, however, are unlikely to give a cheery welcome to a planning application for homes adorned with bright metal discs. "Innovators can come up with the cladding solutions, but there is still the issue of planners," says Richards.
The practical benefits of aluminium and the aesthetic qualities of zinc have been combined in FalZinc, a roofing and cladding product from Corus Building Systems. It has an aluminium substrate with a zinc surface fused to it. The product is lightweight, easy to fold at low temperatures and offers good protection against corrosion. It is available in standard coil widths of 600 mm and 670 mm with gauges of 0.70 mm and 1.00 mm.
Corus Building Systems
Sheerframe Lean-to conservatories have been fitted to homes at Countryside Properties' Caxton Place development in Cheshire. Each conservatory has a 2.5 m projection, making the correct choice of material essential for safety and stability. A reinforced steel frame with PVCu cladding was therefore specified. The conservatories have a slotted adjustable ventilator system in the eaves beam, twin walled rafters and hip bars, and moulded crown covers, ensuring good ventilation in summer and heat retention in winter. The conservatories were installed by Crystal PVCu Window & Door Systems.
Balco Glazing Systems has introduced a modular system for renovating and glazing over small balconies. The system is made from aluminium profiles, with fixed sections available in a choice of materials, including laminate board, laminated glass, float glass and composite stone sheeting.
Balco Glazing Systems
This Ministry of Defence housing at Tidworth Camp, on the Wiltshire Downs near Andover, was finished in Limebond render, with cast-stone and brick detailing. BLI Cement's Limebond is a factory-bagged formulation of Portland cement, hydrated lime and chemical admixtures. The Portland cement gives the render strength and durability, and the lime adds flexibility and workability.
A £2m one-off house designed by Belsize Architects in Hampstead, north London, was finished with Alumasc's MR Swistherm lightweight silicone render system. This can incorporate a range of insulation materials fixed directly to the substrate, and for this project 140 mm polystyrene insulation was specified. The walls were finished with 1.5 mm white silicone render.
Artificial stone walls
RMC's Peakstone walling gives a natural stone appearance to Maple Leaf Homes' apartment development at New Mills in the Peak District. The reconstructed stone is a cost-effective alternative to the natural product, and is available in co-ordinated sizes to allow coursed and random patterns to be created.
RMC Concrete Products
Set in stone
Sandstone and limestone supplier Stancliffe Stone Company has produced a guide to help users to select and specify its stone; it also includes technical data and design guidance. Its Book of Stone is part of a boxed set that also contains technical specifications for each of the stone types supplied by Stancliffe.
Stancliffe Stone Company
Stormking has introduced a range of prefabricated dormer roofs with sacrificial ceiling joist that allow on-site forklift handling, as required by health and safety rules. The company has also added factory-fitted lead apron flashing and support tray to its grp dormers, which makes installation a single trade operation.
Timber supplier John Brash & Company has added Thermowood external cladding to its range. Thermowood is made from European redwood timber that is heat treated to reduce sap and resin levels. This increases durability and results in a warm-coloured board that the suppliers say lasts up to five times longer than untreated board.The timber carries Pan European Forest certification, demonstrating that it comes from a sustainable source. It is available in four different profiles, with machined and fine sawn finishes.
The projecting balconies at Berkeley Homes' Chelsea Bridge Wharf in south-west London were made using HansenGlass FortPlus panels for the balustrading. HansenGlass is supplying 2500 m2 of toughened and heat-soaked safety glass, as well as Ceraphic screenprinted FortPlus panels. The latter are acid etched to a density of 15% and are used either as modesty screens at low level or to provide privacy between adjacent balconies.
Technal in action