VMZINC explores the enduring appeal of zinc cladding and roofing in historic and contemporary architecture
In association with
The Parisienne rooftops adorning Hausmann’s famous 19th century buildings have helped to define a cityscape that attracts millions of tourists every year. What the buildings in this UNESCO World Heritage Site have in common is their relative uniformity of material and design, which in the case of the roofing is rolled zinc.
Hausmann’s rebuilding programme was the catalyst for the widespread application of zinc. Today, this non-toxic, easy to recycle metal is used extensively for standing-seam roofs, particularly in all kinds of contemporary and traditional architecture.
Zinc’s appeal for roofing is driven by its material characteristics, including self-protection, which develops over time as a patina through exposure to air and water, with long lasting aesthetic appeal. It is also maintenance-free, requiring only rainwater to retain its appearance. Chemicals or special treatments are not needed.
While zinc is widely used for standing-seam roofs, this is only part of its architectural story. It has been applied to numerous other envelope elements since it first found its niche in 1830s Paris. VMZINC was founded in 1837 to meet growing roofing demands, and the company has continued to innovate through a broad range of products, including cladding and rainwater systems, as well as interior and ornamental applications.
Unrestrained geometric freedom
As a malleable material that lends itself to different forms with ease, zinc’s ability to be shaped gives it enormous potential for delivering striking contemporary architecture. Whether it is a curved facade or an angular structure with multiple facets, a combination of zinc cladding and roofing systems, as well as ornamental elements, enables consistency of form, function and performance.
VMZINC’s portfolio of surface finishes has developed since 1978 and now includes eight standard aspects, including AZENGAR, an engraved zinc. However, delivering timeless architecture requires flexibility, which is what makes zinc ideal for unrestrained facade aesthetics. The material can be made to bespoke requirements through embossing and perforation, with project-specific finishes also an option. While pre-weathered zinc is specified most widely, natural zinc is still used where a design calls for a more organic and uneven appearance before the patina forms.
In addition to traditional roofing systems, such as standing-seam and batten cap, zinc facades give designers more creative scope, including rainscreen systems with interlocking panels and concealed fastenings for clean sightlines and a neat finish. The refined and subtle finish of zinc on the external skin is part of a complete wall build-up incorporating acoustic and thermal insulation to meet specific project values.
Maximising safety and sustainability
Metals are by definition non-combustible. This makes them a fire safe choice for the building envelope, providing that the surrounding structure, insulation and attachment methods match its performance characteristics. VMZINC’s roofing and cladding products are all either A1 or A2 classified for non-combustibility, without any special requirements. Zinc cladding or roofing can be fixed to a galvanised steel deck with the correct insulation specified – basic steps that will maintain fire performance should the worst happen.
As an easy-to-recycle product providing an in-situ lifespan of up to 100 years, zinc’s environmental credentials compare very favourably. It is estimated that over 90 per cent of post-use zinc is collected and recycled to manufacture new products, helping to minimise resource use.
Products manufactured by VMZINC add further supply chain sustainability. First, they have Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) provided by the BRE and conforming to EN15804, which demonstrate that product life cycle, manufacture and processing have minimal impact on the environment. Complementing this, the company manufactures all its solutions in factories registered to the globally recognised ISO 14001 environmental standard, as well as ISO 9001.
The fact that zinc cladding and roofing requires no maintenance during its long service life also helps to minimise its carbon footprint. This ‘fit and forget’ quality is valid for any application where rainwater is present, with the exception of soffits on some buildings located in coastal areas.
All round performer
Despite changing architectural trends and constant innovation in building materials, zinc has stood the test of time and is now a fundamental part of contemporary architecture. From the elegance of central Paris to the edgy architecture of Melbourne to Texas and the Scottish Highlands, this versatile, sustainable material continues to play a key part in delivering outstanding buildings and promoting aesthetic creativity.
To find out more please visit the VMZINC website. For samples call 0203 445 5640 or email us.