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Why so many new buildings are covered in rectangles

These panels are everywhere — and they’re part of a hidden system.

If you’ve seen new construction around your city, you’ve probably seen these distinctive rectangular panels. Sometimes plain, sometimes multi-colored, they’re absolutely everywhere. The video above explains how they conceal an entire system that helps protect buildings.

Over the course of the 20th century, building technology changed to allow the exterior of a building to be separate from the structure holding it up. Now there’s rainscreen cladding — the enclosure system that ends up being used in so many of those distinctive panels. By creating a small air gap between the exterior wall and the structure, it gives water an opportunity to dry, saving our modern buildings from rot and decay.

Building enclosure is an entire field with lots of intense debate, associations, and academic research. If you’re looking for a way into the world of rainscreens, you can listen to this podcast with John Straube or check out his technical papers, found at RDH.

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