What is rainscreen cladding?

A little historic context:

Rainscreen cladding provides an exterior surface – a cladding layer – that stops the force of wind-driven water movement, preventing it getting through small breaches in the surface of a building. By the time the water reaches the ‘true’ exterior wall, it has lost its drive and therefore its ability to permeate the wall, hence the origins of its name: rainscreen cladding.


The modern concept of rainscreen cladding was developed in Scandinavia during the 1940′s and came into widespread use in Europe and Canada in the 1970′s. Lightweight rainscreen cladding was developed in the UK in the 1980′s, with the majority of the earlier projects being located in the harsh climatic conditions of Scotland.


The growth of the modern rainscreen cladding system came about as a result of buildings erected in the 1960′s, reliant upon the primary seals (either gaskets or wet seals), failing because of breakdown caused by weathering. This resulted in sprawling concrete and mosaic. The easiest solution was to contain the problem by overcladding in a lightweight metal rainscreen cladding. Further growth was accelerated by ever increasing demand for higher thermal efficiency.

Rainscreen cladding utilises the effects of wind to control rainwater and prevent it from entering the building.

How does rainscreen cladding work?

Sotech ‘Optima’ Rainscreen Systems are a suite of market leading systems that not only offer incredibly versatility but comply with rigorous testing standards.

A technical overview:

Rainscreen cladding is a non-loadbearing external cladding assembly defined as ‘a wall comprising an outer skin of panels and an airtight insulated backing wall separated by a ventilated cavity.  Some water may penetrate into the cavity but the rainscreen is intended to provide protection from direct rain.’


The cladding system’s inner leaf or structural wall acts as the final barrier to moisture, and insulates the building. The primary air seal of the wall must also be achieved by the support wall or by an applied vapour barrier.


The inner leaf may be constructed of concrete, steel, timber or, on a refurbishment project, the existing outer brick wall. All other facade elements — such as windows, curtain walling and doors — must be sealed to this element in order to ensure compliance with air leakage regulations.

Sotech Optima TFC, Through Fix Cassette Rainscreen

The Optima TFC Rainscreen has been developed as an economical alternative to a complete secret fix rainscreen cladding.

Sotech Optima FC, Secret Fix Rainscreen Cladding

The Optima FC Rainscreen is a versatile carrier and panel secret fixed system suitable for exterior use as rainscreen cladding or interior use as a wall covering.

Sotech Optima XPC Extruded Plank

A complete secretly fixed extruded aluminium plank rainscreen systems has set flat face modules of 150mm, 200mm, 225mm, and 250mm as well as a 150mm module castellated extruded aluminium plank rainscreen.

Sotech Optima HC, Horizontal Cladding Rainscreen

The Sotech Optima HC, Horizontal Cladding Rainscreen has been introduced to offer an alternative method to create a stable rainscreen system for landscape applications.

The Optima Low Zone Secret Fix Rainscreen Cladding System

The Optima LZ Rainscreen is a variation on the standard FC Secret Fix System using a different versatile carrier affording the opportunity to reduce the cladding zone.

Sotech Optima IPC, Interlocking Pressed Plank Rainscreen

Interlocking wall plank is a simple, interlocking metal cladding panel that with an appropriate secondary support system may be used as part of a rainscreen system.

The UK market for wall cladding has increased by around 18% in total between 2012 and 2015/16, driven by strong growth in new build and major refurbishment activity in key sectors, such as offices, schools, hotels and leisure.

Source: AMA Research

Why choose rainscreen cladding?


Aesthetic Benefits

Rainscreen is now available in a jaw dropping range of materials, systems and finishes and the market is always innovating. Its versatile and is now available is almost any design or style, whatever your budget. Our Optima range contains systems with a variety of qualities that make them ideal for different projects, whether it’s a secret fix (Optima FC), robustness and strength (Optima XPC) or an economical alternative (Optima TFC).  Rainscreen cladding can be included as part of refurbishment projects to extend the life of a building, weatherproof it, and improve its thermal performance.


Cost Saving

Rainscreen cladding is simpler and quicker to install than traditional constructions, reducing construction time and costs.


Thermal Performance

Rainscreen cladding provides enhanced thermal performance, allowing designers to create very efficient thermal envelopes to meet the highest environmental standards.


Sustainability Benefits

Rainscreen cladding provides excellent sustainability benefits to the overall project. Not only is there a lower carbon footprint due to energy savings but a lot of the materials used can be recycled. For example, aluminium is 99.9% recyclable and takes only 15% of the energy used in the original manufacture to recycle the product.

Top rainscreen cladding trends in 2017

Modern facade technology means that architects can make big, bold statement designs in 2017 and beyond.

In recent years, three developments have introduced exciting new trends in the world of rainscreen cladding: new technology has made alternative materials more financially viable, tighter energy regulations have prompted a move towards more energy efficient materials; and a desire to make buildings stand out from the crowd has increased the demand for unusual shapes and bright colours.

Rathbone Market

Vibrant Mixed Colours

Rainscreen cladding is available in a huge range of colours and finishes and we’ve seen an increased in demand for bright and vibrant colours, mixed randomly or by design.

Hallam University Optima TFC Rainscreen System

Weathered Steel

Weathering steel, best known as Corten, is a group of steel alloys which form a stable rust-like appearance if exposed to the weather for several years. Because the material already weathered and “rusted”, it will still perform to 99.8% after 200 years! There are very low maintenance costs and no requirement for a protective paint system or extended service life for Corten.

Statoil HQ Optima FC and Optima TFC Cladding

A drive for thermal efficiency

Energy efficiency legislation and initiatives and requirements of Part L of the Building Regulations have driven up demand for cladding products and systems with higher energy efficiency properties.

One SubSea Optima FC Rainscreen Cladding

Long-live steel

In the industrial sector steel and aluminium profiled and composite wall panels typically dominate demand for cladding, key areas of use being warehousing, out-of-town retail ‘sheds’, waste management and utilities facilities and factories.

Sotech’s passion for rainscreen cladding

Having little or no aesthetic values, primary structures need the vast range of attractive and finishes offered by the Sotech range of rainscreen cladding solutions, from traditional to contemporary, to bring a project to life.

Sotech is at the forefront of rainscreen cladding design, having developed a comprehensive suite of systems. Able to support natural materials such as copper, zinc, stainless steel and aluminium, as well as aluminium composite material and high pressure laminates, our systems provide architects and specifiers an almost limitless choice, enabling their individual design intent to be fully realised.

Speak to an expert

If you require advice with design detail, assistance with a specification or to discuss your project in detail contact our technical department who have over 35 years experience in the construction industry. The team is on hand to provide knowledge and support at every stage of your project.