David Scott, Head of Product Development at Woodform Architectural, was the moving force behind the the innovative “Element” range of the company’s Expression Cladding system. “Element” was a direct response to the repeated inquiries of designers about a standardized solution to integrating deep battens within a cladding facade.
What was the inspiration behind the Element range of Woodform’s Expression Cladding?
David Scott: We were very inspired by our Dandenong Mental Health project in 2011, which had timber batten on timber cladding, a trend we had been noticing. These battens were fixed to the cladding using the usual screw-from-behind method. During that time, we were really trying to differentiate our cladding system from the commodity systems out there by offering three-dimensional textures with different thickness boards—we soon realised that we had to be more radical and introduce a batten-on-cladding system.
What was the general concept of how this system might work?
DS: We wanted to find a way to systematically introduce battens that would not interrupt the cladding sequence of the Queenscliff Profile of our Expression Cladding and maintain its consistent 3-mm shadowlines. The method we came up with was a batten that had a tongue and groove on it, but you can’t have a tongue-and-groove batten made out of only solid timber, which is why we developed an aluminium tongue-and-groove extrusion that connected to the batten. So I started to design a system based on these prerequisites, which had been proposed during a general design meeting.
What were the early challenges of the design process?
DS: I started generating ideas by sketching on paper then trying out a few designs on CAD. We narrowed the 10 design ideas to three, which we created models for using a 3D printer. The first extrusion—we had it manufactured in Malaysia—proved to be a bit of a failure. When we would screw the Element profile into place, it would skew the batten to one side, so it was back to the drawing board. To resolve this early design flaw, we slid the batten into the extrusion at an opposite angle, so that when you screw it in, it still skews the battens, but this time until it straightens out.
How has the Element range been received?
DS: The reception for Element from architects has been very good. I remember when we first presented a sample board to one of the bigger architectural firms one year ago, they were very intrigued by the idea of an aluminium-to-batten connection. We explained to them that rather than screw the batten to the cladding from behind, Element is able to preserve the continuity of their design. Previously, when you put battens on a cladding board, you’re actually wasting some of the cover—Element maximises the cover of a cladding system. The architects also quickly realised that they could now easily add ribs, furrows, and varied depths right across the cladding, giving them virtually limitless possibilities to add texture to their designs.