A lesson in anodised rainscreen cladding

Birmingham Library2

The benefits of anodised aluminium rainscreens are manyfold. Visually, anodising provides an authentic metallic sheen and feel, with no possibility of fading. Anodised aluminium is non-combustible, being classified as an A1 material according to EN-13501-1. The durability of anodised aluminium is also a key benefit, with excellent corrosion and abrasion resistance. Some other benefits of this process include:

  • 100% recyclable
  • Uniform surface finish
  • 100% adhesion success
  • Impermeable anodic layer 

It was a combination of these benefits that led to the use of anodised aluminium for the rainscreen and feature cladding on the University of Birmingham Library. 

Taking over ten years from concept to reality, this unique building was completed in 2016 costing £60 million. It provides a home for the thousands of books and publications owned by the University. The state-of-the-art development replaces the old 1950s library and meets modern users’ requirements with group study rooms, PC use and loanable laptops, Wi-Fi, support for staff and researchers, and 24/7 live chat. 

Described as heralding a new generation of libraries in UK higher education, the technology-rich library combines 2.1 million traditional printed books with contemporary digital accessibility. 

The construction of the external cladding was an important part of the library’s story, aiming to present a visualisation of its technological provenance. The contemporary aesthetic does just that, representing a range of resources for studying in the 21st Century and beyond. 

Anodised Rainscreen Cladding was fitted to the front of the library to add vibrancy to the building, which sits at the heart of the University campus. Associated Architects chose Bailey to supply all the metal cladding for the project, due to the single source solutions that it offered; from expert design and engineering to unrivalled technical knowledge and manufacturing capabilities that mean Bailey can do what others can’t. 

By using advanced manufacturing techniques, Bailey created 1000 aluminium rainscreen cladding panels covering 1500m2, which were skilfully fitted by contractor, Inasus UK Ltd. Each panel was anodised to create a stunning multi-tonal finish, with the added benefit of providing solar shading. While weatherproofing and overall thermal performance is an important element of all Bailey Rainscreen Cladding Systems, the primary focus for many architects is often the visual impact they can bring to a building.  

Tim Cornbill, Project Architect for the new library said: “We approached Bailey as they could provide the high-quality finish we desired for the important components of the building. They could also match the performance specification and flexibility when it came to the panel sizes required to fit the design...The finished result is superb. The entrance canopy and the feature colonnade tie in seamlessly with the other anodised gold finishes throughout the project, providing the perfect impression for students entering the building”. 

The cladding creates a striking exterior for the library building, and despite the modern design, fits in well with the historic campus. The team at Associated Architects was extremely happy with how the rainscreen represented this seminal higher education library.