Slate: the perfect material for every architectural design

Slate is becoming more widely recognised for its vast design versatility, above and beyond traditional build and ideal for use across an array of modern roofing and cladding projects. Here Julian Gomez, Director of Marketing at CUPA PIZARRAS looks at the features and benefits of natural slate and how it can offer architectural freedom.

Natural slate offers numerous advantages as a roofing material for a multitude of building ventures. The material is a popular option for both retrofits and new-builds, due to its durability and the stunning aesthetic it creates. Not only that, natural slate adds character to both modern and retrofit builds and can provide almost identical replication of original roofing on older properties. The dependability and beauty of slate products makes it an ideal solution for architectural purposes; and importantly, the possibilities of slate are constantly growing.

For high quality natural slate products, architects should turn to Spanish producers. Home to the largest reserves of tectonic natural slate in the world, Spain’s slate stands out for being one of the most durable yet beautiful building products available. What is more, different quarries will produce different textures and colours, from smooth blue-ish greys to rougher dark greys so different project needs can always be met.

Furthermore, with the growing trend for more unique pitched roof designs, which incorporate complex shapes with hips and valleys, slate provides the ideal solution. Natural slate can be produced in a wide range of shapes and sizes – so it can be easily sourced to suit any slope or design. While the most common slate format in the UK is rectangular, slate can also be cut into varying shapes including bullnose and half-moon opening up a portfolio of roofing designs for architects.

Natural slate is also, crucially, the most sustainable roofing material on the market today. It’s a mineral product which is quarried directly from the ground ensuring that no chemicals are used in the process. With advancements in technology, housing developments can now benefit from natural slate’s solar diffusion and absorption properties to capture and store solar power, using innovative products. However, to further maximise the potential of the roof, architects should consider an insulated pitch roof design which helps limit the size of surface exposed to the exterior, helping customers save up to 20% on their fuel bills.

The versatility of slate means it can also be used as a unique cladding material. Due to its durability, light weight and resistance to adverse weather conditions, slate is an extremely hardwearing cladding solution – that is also attractive aesthetically.

Though slate cladding is traditionally installed using timber batten methods, there are now metal-bracketed natural slate rainscreen cladding systems available on the market, providing a modern alternative. From a safety perspective, timber is considered to be a highly combustible material, whereas metal is not. Therefore, systems made with metal brackets represent a reduced fire risk in comparison. Rainscreen cladding also has a double-wall construction, which uses an outer layer to keep out the rain and an inner layer to provide thermal insulation, prevent excessive air leakage and carry wind loading.

Some slate companies offer stainless steel fixings and aluminium alloy brackets in order to meet the highest technical and safety requirements of the construction industry. Cladding installation is easy due to the regularity and flatness of slate, which offer flawless installation and performance. Slate supplied for invisible fixing systems are often pre-holed at the required position to speed up the installation process. In addition, slate is available in a variety of shapes and combinations for the creation of striking and unusual façade designs for modern builds.

Due to the versatility of natural slate and a number of modern innovations that make use of it, natural slate is the ideal material for any architectural design. It also provides a whole host of further benefits, for example insulation, a perfect homogenous finish and sustainable credentials. With a lifespan of over 100 years and little to no maintenance required, architects can be safe in the knowledge that they are specifying a product that will last the test of time both in regard to beauty and durability.