Building covers around actual building envelopes are typically made out of “curtain wall” elements. Architects are increasingly turning to concrete for such facades, due to its pleasant appearance, its design flexibility, and its excellent material properties. On the downside, however, concrete is heavy as a construction material due to integrated steel reinforcements and the need to shroud these to protect against corrosion.
As a result, there is demand for concrete that does not contain steel. This is for use in modern curtain wall facades and not only should the concrete deliver the required mechanical properties, it needs to have thin walls, offer plenty of design options, and deliver high-quality surfaces. This takes ingenious material concepts, innovative mounting technology, and a reproducible production strategy. Strong demand for such solutions led Medicke Metallic – an end-to-end provider of premium-value building envelopes – to travel to Chemnitz. In partnership with Fiber-Tech Products and FiberCrete, the Steinbeis Innovation Center, it developed a new kind of fiberglass-reinforced building concrete as part of a joint research project. The name of the new concrete: BetoLamina®-Cast, which also comes with special technology for producing and mounting thin-walled facades. One of the partners’ main priorities was mapping the overall sequence for the process, from mixing the formula required for the concrete to logistical considerations and on-site assembly.
The first development BetoLamina®-Cast was used in was a new office building called the Wilhelm Kaiser Hof in Cologne, which required a “freestyle” facade measuring approx. 5,000 sqm. The facade contains vertical elements at different angles (pilaster strips), which cast unexpected shadows that change continuously depending on the angle of light. All requirements were met for the facade in terms of the smooth surface, premium exposed concrete, a sophisticated matte appearance, weathering resistance, and robustness. Sharing insights from fundamental research at the Institute of Lightweight Structures at Chemnitz University of Technology with FiberCrete (the Steinbeis Innovation Center) offered the ideal vehicle for applying know-how to this project. The Steinbeis Foundation Transfer Award – the Löhn Award was bestowed upon this project in acknowledgment of the close collaboration between the different partners and the successful transfer of research findings into practice.