Redefining Fiber Cement Siding

How can we make cement board siding, now found everywhere, appear to be a more elegant and special product? 

We are constantly rethinking how we use materials. Buildings are composed of wood, glass, concrete, fiber cement board, plastics, composites, metals and many other materials today. We all have associations with materials from our own experiences. Materials can make a space feel warm or cold, light or dark, or tell us we’re in a home or a hospital. They are the background to our daily routines and memories. The same material can appear refined and elegant, or mundane and ubiquitous depending on how it’s used.

One such ubiquitous material is fiber cement board, now used on most residential and multifamily construction because of its very low cost, ease of installation, and low maintenance. There are many different manufactures such as Hardie, Nichiha, CBF Silbonit, but they all feel like paper mache and have the look of flat painted drywall.

PATTERNING: In the Canyon house project, we tested various patterning techniques to break down the standard size and find more appealing proportions and effects. We assimilated patterns to the surrounding landscape to visually blend the material, taking on a more organic appearance. A number of rules were developed in the patterning sequencing, and the addition of color reinforced the organic appearance on the hillside.

STEPPING: In the Balakrishnan project we became more interested in creating visual depth in the material. We tested various ways to offset wood furring behind the fiber cement board for a more elegant effect. Accent landscape lighting can be inserted between panels to accentuate and give function to what otherwise is a blank wall. Careful detailing and execution is critical to the final product.

Re-presenting materials like fiber cement board in ways we don’t typically associate them elevates their appearance and function, while still having the low cost benefits.