The Top 5 Open-Joint Cladding Building Designs

There are many factors that go into classifying something the ‘best of the best.’

As an industry, we take pride in good work that showcases talent, dedication, and exceptional solutions. When it comes to buildings designed with open-joint cladding, while they are visually appealing, they possess their own unique challenges such as exposing the structural components within the walls to wind, water, and sun. Architects and builders who take on these designs must be mindful of the challenges when selecting materials for long-term building protection to ensure their buildings perform as well as they look.

If a building is not properly protected, structural components will be exposed to weather elements causing the wall system to prematurely fail.

Remember, revolutionary building design should never trump basic building science. These five open-joint cladding projects successfully pioneer architectural design and high-performance protection.

1. Denver Botanic Gardens’ Science Pyramid – Denver, Colorado

botanic gardens science pyramid

Architect: BURKETTDESIGN, Inc.

Consultant: Studio NYL, Skins Group

General Contractor: GH Phipps

This 5,258-square-foot Botanic Gardens’ Science Pyramid has 16 sides consisting of hexagonal panels in a honeycomb design, with painted steel and angular windows. The exterior is covered in a dark gray cement composite panel material by Swisspearl®, often used as siding but here used as a roof material for the first time. Below the rainscreen, the roof features five inches of insulation, taking its cue from cold roofing projects seen in the mountains.

Pyramid shapes present a challenge because the enclosures are both roof and wall. The shape, usage, cladding, and climate multiply the complex dimensions of maintaining a watertight exterior while managing the moisture generated within. Additionally, the open joints expose the membrane behind the cladding. For this project, the water-resistive barrier (WRB) has to provide all the performance criteria of a regular WRB along with long-term resistance to UV light and the impact of wind, rain, and snow.

Working together, DELTA®-FASSADE S and DELTA®-VENT SA ensure a watertight enclosure that also manages moisture in a complex climate. The flat black of the DELTA®-FASSADE S also enhances the beauty of the Science Pyramid, adding depth and dimensionality to this landmark building’s striking appearance.

Get the full case study here.


2. The Grotto Sauna – Parry Sound, Ontario

grotto sauna

Architect: PARTISANS

Consultant: Building Science Consulting, Inc.

General Contractor: PARTISANS

This OAA Design Excellence Award-nominated Grotto Sauna is embedded in the ancient rock formation, the Canadian Shield, which forms the backbone of North America.

Challenging the standards of current practices in the construction industry, every detail was communicated with a millwork and steel fabrication partner. Together, they developed a new fabrication process utilizing state-of-the-art 3D technology to scan, model, and build the Grotto, so that the building would sit naturally in the rock formation. To complement the surreal environment, PARTISANS decided on a simple, burnt red cedar exterior. In contrast, the curved white cedar interior helps optimize air flow.

PARTISANS chose DELTA®-FASSADE S, a WRB that could accommodate the extreme temperature changes occurring inside and outside of the structure.

Pouring water on the oven creates steam that makes the humidity within the structure jolt up in short, extreme bursts. DELTA®-FASSADE S has high vapor permeability, allowing the moisture vapor that accumulates inside to escape. On the exterior, it acts as a durable drainage plane, channeling water from wind-driven rain and snow to the outside of the structure.

Its matte black coloring creates a deep effect that makes the red cedar panels visually “pop” forward from the black background. DELTA®-FASSADE S will provide sustainable moisture and UV protection behind the Grotto Sauna’s open-joint cladding for many years to come.

Get the full case study here.

You might also like…The Open-Joint Cladding Design Lookbook


3. The Balnea Spa – Bromont, Quebec

balnea spa

Architect: BLOUIN TARDIF Architecture – Environnement

General Contractor: Construction des Sommets

The Balnea Spa was looking for a functional, inviting new building to be a complement to the immersive spa experience, as well as a connection between the two existing structures. And at the same time, it should meld with the surrounding forest. BLOUIN TARDIF’s answer was a centrally located minimalist pavilion on stilts. The open-joint wood cladding and wooden walkways integrate the building into the landscape in a contemporary style.

Architects at BLOUIN TARDIF Architecture – Environment wanted to create an open-joint cladding system that appeared to be floating. For durability purposes, ipe, a very hard wood from the Brazilian rainforests, was chosen for the open-joint cladding. Because it is also a very dense wood, its weight was taken into consideration in the construction. The ipe cladding was installed horizontally on vertical cedar furring strips for additional durability. In order to keep the floating look, the furring strips were painted black.

With this type of cladding system, the structure underneath is much more exposed to the weather (and to the eye) than with a regular closed cladding system. For this reason, BLOUIN TARDIF chose DELTA®-FASSADE S as the water-resistive barrier. Because DELTA®-FASSADE S is water-tight and very vapor permeable, precipitation will stay out while allowing internal moisture to escape.

Get the full case study here.


4. 1047 Commonwealth Avenue – Boston, Massachusetts

1047 commonwealth avenue

Architect: Neshamkin French

Consultant: RJ. Kenney Associates

General Contractor: Metric Corporation

The architectural firm Neshamkin French needed to design a building with an attractive exterior, both to make it a welcome addition to the neighborhood as well as to make the building more desirable to tenants in a competitive market.

The owners wanted an energy-efficient building that could help control the operating costs, especially during the bitter cold Boston winters. They also plan on this building having a long life, so they looked for materials that would provide a long, trouble-free service life.

The architects selected open-joint cladding from Trespa as the exterior cladding. Because they were using an open-joint cladding, they needed the water-resistive barrier to survive the damaging effects of UV for the life of the building exterior. Since the barrier is partially exposed, open-joint cladding also requires a barrier that can provide extreme water and vapor protection.

The architects specified DELTA®-FASSADE S, designed specifically for the demands of open-joint cladding. With the highest UV rating of any barrier, DELTA®-FASSADE S is highly vapor permeable and extremely tear resistant. The black color of the DELTA®-FASSADE S barrier also enhanced the appearance of the open-joint cladding, adding depth and beauty to the building facade.

Get the full case study here.

Recommended video-on-demand: Dr. Joe Lstiburek’s Open-Joint Cladding Best Practices


5. Collaborative Life Sciences Building – Portland, Oregon

collaborative sciences building in Oregon

Architect: SERA Architects and CO Architects

Consultant: Morrison Herschfield

General Contractor: J.E. Dunn Construction Group

Oregon Health & Science University, Oregon State University, and Portland State University worked together to build a new allied health, academic, and research building that would meet the needs of all three organizations. The $295-million project is the first on this scale to combine the resources of multiple universities, expanding life sciences, pharmacy, medical, and dental education with 500,000 square feet of instructional and research space.

The exterior of the Collaborative Life Sciences Building (CLSB) is made up of prefinished perforated panels of aluminum that are fabricated in a corrugated profile – a design element that gives great visual interest but also makes it extra important to manage the filtration of exterior elements.

DELTA®-FASSADE S was considered for the project as it is designed to channel water from wind-driven rain and snow to the outside of a structure, is neutral black in color, extremely UV resistant with as much as 40% of the material allowed to be exposed, and known to improve the performance of the insulation.

No test existed for this kind of design, so QED LAB INC. created a test based on ASTM E1233-06. The results showed the DELTA®-FASSADE S stood up to expected conditions and beyond, without any product failure. DELTA®-FASSADE S was specified as the water-resistive barrier for this demanding application as it exceeded the requirements.

Get the full case study here.

Top open-joint cladding buildings ensure both water and vapor protection. If the water-resistive barrier is not durable in extreme weather or stable when exposed to prolonged periods of UV light, the system will fail. 

To better understand the basics, read about the best WRBs in open-joint cladding design and the truth behind open-joint cladding systems.