Wood rain screens are being designed and built all over the world nowadays – and they’re not just a pretty facade – they really get the job done, quietly and effectively. The architecture and design community throughout North America is really embracing the sustainable functionality of rain screen systems. A well-designed rain screen protects the outside of the structure from rain, snow, wind driven rain and more. And an effective wall cavity design will allow moisture trapped inside to egress to the outside.
Because they are so effective at moisture management, an often overlooked benefit of a well-designed rain screen is how effective they are from an energy savings standpoint when it is not even raining. In a back-ventilated, open-joint rain screen design, the wall cavity acts as a thermal insulator in hot weather and allows natural convective air flow to remove the heat upward before it can thermally bridge through the building envelope. Cooler air is drawn in from below though the open joints of the rain screen.
Here’s how an effective open-joint, back-ventilated rain screen can save cooling costs:
We are seeing just as many wood rain screen designs being constructed in warmer climates like Florida, Texas, Louisiana and California as we are in more temperate northern areas like New York, New England, Great Lakes region and the Pacific Northwest. In warm humid climates, a well-designed rain screen is highly effective at both moisture management and significant passive energy savings. Even in more northerly US states and Canadian provinces, when it gets hot in the summer, the home or building can be a lot more comfortable.
There are lots of wood siding options for rain screen systems. Durable hardwood species like Ipe, Cumaru, Garapa and Machiche are gaining rapid acceptance in the design community. These species not only look beautiful, they are exceptionally long lasting and lead to extended functional lifetime of the facade.