The rainscreen principle is not new, nor is the idea of rainscreen applied to wall design. For centuries in Norway, the rainscreen idea was intuitively used, without any scientific or systematic foundation. They utilized drained and back-ventilated claddings with both closed and open joints. On buildings with timber claddings, closed joints were adopted, and openings at both the top and bottom of the cladding allowed for drainage and evaporation of any penetrating rainwater. The Norwegians titled this approach the “open-jointed barn technique,” since originally it was used in conjunction with the construction of barns.

The History

  • 1952

    One of the first US examples of modern rainscreen with large aluminum panels: 30-story Alcoa building in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Open joints between panels, but baffled to provide resistance to water penetration; airspace between panels and inner leaf drained and ventilated to exterior.

  • Late 1950's

    Building Research Station in the UK and other organizations highlight advantages of having a ventilated airspace behind a wall.

  • 1962

    "Curtain Walls" by Birkeland published, from the Norwegian Building Research Institute. Discussed principles behind the "rain barrier" technique. Suggested idea of pressure equalization.

  • 1963

    "Rain Penetration and Its Control" (publication CBD40) by G.K. Garden published, from the National Research Council of Canada. First usage of terms "open rainscreen" and "rainscreen principle": It is not conceivable that a building designer can prevent the exterior surface of a wall from getting wet nor that he can guarantee that no openings will develop to permit the passage of water.

  • 1970's

    Research in North America by the North American Architectural Aluminum Manufacturers' Association and others fosters publications focused on application of the rainscreen idea; recommends forms of construction.

  • 1980's

    Rainscreen understood and widely used in Canada and Europe: The Building Sciences Division of the Alberta Public Works, Supply and Services uses a standard building specification which prescribes the adoption of the pressure-equalized rainscreen approach to wall design.

  • 1982

    The first Terracotta Rainscreen system is installed on the Lohf building in Germany.

  • Late 1980's

    MOEDING became the first to introduce the terracotta material into this arena, combining the advantages of the rainscreen system with the beauty of natural clay.

  • 1999

    625 Townsend Street in San Francisco, CA is the first Terracotta Rainscreen system to be installed in the US.

  • 2004

    Carnegie Mellon University Collaborative Innovation Center becomes the first Terracotta Rainscreen to receive a gold LEED rating.

  • 2006

    The International Building Code adopted in 2006 by 47 states, the need for energy conservation, sustainability, and global warming being important issues to deal with, more and more architects have adopted the back ventilated rainscreen system to deal with these issues and to comply with the new building code.

  • 2007

    The tallest Terracotta Rainscreen-clad building (35 stories) in the US is completed (245 W 99th St, NYC, NY).

  • 2010

    Shildan Terracotta Rainscreen receives Florida Statewide Approval and Miami Dade NOA.

  • 2011

    Ft Belvoir Army Hospital in Virginia becomes the first military hospital to use Terracotta Rainscreen in the US.