By Luke Carothers

From its earliest conceptions, right up through the modern age, chainmail has always afforded humans some level of protection.  From protecting knights on the battlefield to divers swimming with sharks, the basic pattern of interwoven metal links provides a strength unmatched in many other materials.  However, as Civil+Structural Engineer Magazine covered late last year, chainmail has a new modern usage, one that doesn’t involve protecting the user from puncturing wounds.  New Zealand-based company Kaynemaile has developed a material made from lightweight polycarbonate that is being used to protect buildings rather than bodies.

Lawson Lane Campus, Santa Clara, CA, USA. Photo: Lucas Fladzinski Photography

Although Kaynemaile has numerous applications, its highest potential application is in architecture.  Kaynemaile presents several advantages over traditional materials when it’s used as an architectural material.  A great example of these advantages is Kaynemaile’s recent project in Santa Clara, California where the Sobrato Organization’s Lawson Lane campus has been recently completed.  As a part of this major Silicon Valley office development, Kaynemaile Architectural Mesh was used to create the facade for the parking garage.  Working with architects Arc Tec and installers B.T. Mancini, the team at Kaynemaile utilized their new range of three-dimensional, kinetic screens.

This new system was a natural progression of the Kaynemaile material.  Aaron Te One, General Manager of Kaynemaile’s Architectural Division, cites their previous kinetic work with the world renowned artist Ned Kahn as the starting point for this evolution.  These projects were designed to capture the kinetic aspects of the materials waving in the breeze, unrestrained at the bottom.  However, recognizing that some projects require the materials to be restrained at both ends, Te One and his team began developing a system that could still utilize those kinetic aspects while providing an additional use in the market.  Through development, Te One’s team understood that cables would be applicable for their purposes.  They found that cables would still allow for kinetic fluid movement while also providing a much more restrained application.

This new system is paradigm-shifting from the perspective of both installation and usage.  One of the key benefits of this new system is the speed at which it can be installed.  For the Santa Clara project, these Kaynemaile Architectural Mesh panels span the height of the building with the only connections at the top and bottom.  In addition, when compared to other materials that require rigid frames and connection systems, Kaynemaile’s system is more efficient with each screen having a self-supporting lightweight internal frame connected to vertical stainless steel cables.  Te One notes the simplicity of installing this new system.  The process starts with installing a “skeleton frame” before fixing the upper portion of the mesh to the building.  Once the mesh is installed, it rolls down and through the skeleton frame, making for a fast and easy installation.  For the project in Santa Clara, a ribbon of bronze-colored Kaynemaile polycarbonate mesh runs over each frame, creating a kite-like structure.

Westfield Pacific Fair, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. Photo: Angus Martin

When it comes to usage and environmental sustainability, the Kaynemaile Architectural Mesh system is an increasingly viable material for projects across the globe.  In bigger cities, particularly ones in warmer climates, large parking garages are often responsible for storing massive amounts of heat, adding to heat island effects.  Kaynemaile is one potential solution for this problem, as the material is capable of up to 70 percent solar reduction and does not store and radiate heat like metal products do.  

Another major issue with large parking garages is a lack of airflow within the structure.  This can be especially damaging as the structure fills with more vehicles.  Again, Kaynemaile is perfectly designed to accommodate this issue.  While other facade materials block the flow of air, Kaynemaile’s ringmail design allows for the air to pass through the structure, which, as Te One points out, is only amplified with their new three dimensional system.

The facade project in Santa Clara is a stunning example of paradigm shifting innovation.  The sustainability of the Kaynemaile material provides an important alternative to more resource-intensive materials, and its recyclability only further adds to this.  From both aesthetic and functional perspectives, Kaynemaile is already changing how we view structures in an urban environment.  Instead of being rigid, Kaynemaile allows buildings to move and interact with the world in a way that buildings have never done.  And, as it turns out, these aesthetic benefits also improve the quality of life for users, providing better air and less heat.  An even more exciting initiative is on the horizon for Kaynemaile with the introduction of a bio-based polycarbonate throughout their range. As cities and the effects of climate change grow, Kaynemaile will be among the strongest solutions to our growing problems. 


Luke Carothers is the Editor for Civil + Structural Engineer Media. If you want us to cover your project or want to feature your own article, he can be reached at lcarothers@zweiggroup.com.