In previous issues of The Specifier’s Guide, general characteristics of Agrob Buchtal’s ceramic façade systems were highlighted. The company has already been active in this demanding profession for decades and, therefore, it has also distinct competence in specialties such as three-dimensional facade ceramics, which can be used either “full-page” or partially.
The resulting possibilities are very popular for good reasons, because they allow highly topical architectural stylistic elements – such as translucent or rhythmic building envelopes – to be realised aesthetically and at the same time functionally. Agrob Buchtal is one of the rare companies that is able to offer such three-dimensional façade ceramics both for curtain-type rear-ventilated systems, and for direct installation on thermal insulation composite systems (TICS).
Curtain-type rear-ventilated systems
Aesthetics, economic efficiency, and sustainability: the combination of these three factors is the basis for the growing success of this construction principle. The decisive reason for the technical superiority is the structural separation of the functions of heat insulation and weather protection.
Agrob Buchtal’s three dimensional façade ceramics for such curtain-type rear-ventilated systems are summarised under the collective term KeraShape, a name that fully expresses one of the main advantages, namely the very special design language that distinguishes these products.
With its extensive bandwidth, the KeraShape-range is primarily aligned towards setting highlights and supporting architects in realising individual concepts. Apart from their function as design elements these products also serve entirely practically purposes, like visual and sun protection.
The standard range comprises:
Rectangular tubes (50 by 60mm and 60 by 60mm) in lengths of up to 1,800mm
Rectangular tubes (50 by 100mm) in lengths of up to 1,500 mm
Rounded lamellar elements (140 by 60mm) with a maximum length of 1,200mm
Using special fastening sets, the individual elements can be merged to form compact units or extended practically infinitely. Even these standard items – which are perfectly co-ordinated to the other facade systems offered by Agrob Buchtal – permit numerous design variants. F
urthermore, individual special shapes and sizes are possible. After a brief examination of the individual case, the experts at Agrob Buchtal can provide a technical and economic feasibility analysis. This also applies to individual fastening concepts deviating from standard fastening variants and to colours:
The three-dimensional KeraShape-products are available in numerous colour shades in glazed or unglazed versions, like the two-dimensional façade ceramics from Agrob Buchtal. Therefore there is nothing to stand in the way of tone-in-tone design. But contrasting concepts are also a popular option as they open up fascinating possibilities for making large façades appear less monotonous. The same effect can be realized with three-dimensional façade ceramics when used to achieve a visual rhythm.
An impressing example from 2019 is the Ammattiopisto Live building, the largest special education institution in the Helsinki Metropolitan area.
The building envelope of this project needed to offer protection against excessive solar radiation or heat in order to achieve energy efficiency without additional cooling. The architect’s office Linja arkkitehdit Oy reached this goal with KeraShape-products on south and west side of the building. They used 50 by 60mm rectangular tubes in different lengths of 1,277 to 1,490mm and three unglazed shades (red, ocre, salmon) from the Natura range to create a lively but balanced appearance.
The other half of the building is cladded with ecologically-impregnated wood, which turns grey over time due to natural weathering. Thanks to the peaceful coexistence of two natural materials – ceramics and wood – the building blends harmoniously into its surroundings, while at the same time conveying a discreet presence through its filigree appearance and expressive design language.
Ceramic thermal insulation composite systems (TICS)
Energy-saving, noise-insulating, weatherproof, and attractive over the long term: TICS fulfil all the requirements of a perfect building shell. The ceramic covering is not only durable and colour-fast, but the large selection of sizes, surfaces, and shades also offers extensive design potential. Special customised products – a particular strength of Agrob Buchtal – reveal additional levels of freedom as illustrated by reference projects in several countries.
A special recommendation with interesting aesthetical qualities is the Craft range. It consists of three-dimensional and flat two-dimensional formats with artisanal character. The collection offers 11 contemporary colours and is manufactured in a classic tunnel kiln. The natural play of the fire creates slightly iridescent glazes with a hand-crafted look that combine to form a harmonious ensemble. The authentic character is underlined by the classic strip format, which upgrades surfaces and subtly accentuates them without disturbing the overall look of the project.
The material’s special properties were recently exploited when designing the “Integrative building project at former flower wholesale market” in Berlin. This mixed building with apartments, studios, offices, and shops was not initiated as usual by a group of investors, but rather via Selbstbaugenossenschaft (building cooperative).
For the building envelope, the architects were looking for a material that would not only be robust, technically advanced, and naturally elegant, but would also do justice to the special location of the building.
“We wanted to create a façade from a material that would be neither light nor dark and would also contribute to urban quality,” says Carolin Gyra, project architect at the Heide & von Beckerath architectural office.
The medium grey glazed ceramic elements (157 by 158mm) from the Craft range, developed by the architects and Agrob Buchtal especially for this project, achieve both. The result is a façade consisting of thousands of pixels, which, depending on the point of view, sometimes appear light and sometimes dark. This effect was subtly underlined by the creative arrangement. It is based on an irregular triangular cross-section (which produces two differently inclined faces) and the ceramic pieces are mounted in pairs, with each piece rotated alternately by 180°, providing a wide variety of light reflections. In this way, the façade symbolises the diversity of the project, even when viewed from a great distance: an excellent example of small cause (tiles), large effect…
Additionally to high product quality, the company’s partners can benefit from extensive services: UK-local partner EH Smith and the in-house planning department of Agrob Buchtal support design professionals with practical advice – not just with simple general information, but with individual project-specific support. Generally speaking, the architect is relieved of detail work, so he can concentrate on the things that are important to him
Another outstanding peculiarity of Agrob Buchtal is the innovative coating Hytect. This innovation is available for glazed and unglazed façade ceramics providing this products with special characteristics.
Firstly, they are offering a self-washing effect: (rain) water is not repelled, but spreads to form a thin film on the surface, which infiltrates dirt. Every rain shower thus becomes an eco-friendly cleaning operation, free of charge.
Secondly, Hytect has an antibacterial effect. It decomposes microorganisms – such as fungi, algae, moss, or germs – and inhibits their growth without chemical components.
Thirdly, air pollutants – such as nitrogen oxides from traffic or industry – are reduced.
Hytect permanently improves the ambient air of the building: an aspect which is increasingly gaining importance in view of more and more densely populated cities and climate change.
To summarise: Hytect saves time and money thanks to its eco-friendly antibacterial and self-washing-effect lending façades a proper look even in the long term. Furthermore it makes striking contributions to environmental protection through the decomposition of air pollutants.