Exposed ductwork: helping to create the ‘industrial aesthetic’.

In buildings with high ceilings and open space like a large warehouse or an open plan office, exposed ductwork can be a particularly impressive, eye-catching feature, and for good reason.

Achieving this effect is, however, more complicated than it seems. Air conditioning ductwork increasingly serves a purpose beyond its practical application, often presented as a design element in its own right. Of course, functionality should be the primary consideration when ducting is chosen, but appearance can be factored in if the designer of a mechanical system has a good understanding of the client’s objectives and plans for the installation.

This understanding is important because the variety of processes involved in the production of ductwork means the final colour, texture and brightness of the product surface can vary greatly.

HVAC metallic ductwork is usually made of sheet steel with an electrogalvanized or electroplated zinc finish. The chemistry involved in the electroplating and steel sheet production results in batch variations. The cold forming process for components made from the sheet metal has varying effects on the surface, while storage of the finished components also affects the appearance of the newly installed ductwork.

An ‘industrial’ look is usually achieved by leaving the ductwork untreated, which creates variety in a similar way that an oil painting will show heavy natural brush strokes, or a wood carving will properly leave the carving tool marks.

The coating will ultimately weather to a uniform matte grey, but for some projects a high-quality, consistent finish is required for exposed ducting. We took this approach for the Multi-storey office renovation project we completed early 2022 in Sevenoaks. High, open ceilings in the old warehouse suited an industrial feel and was a main priority from the client. Shoutout to Panasonic as they smashed it with the look of this ductwork. This is achieved using paint or powder coat finishing over the galvanized/zinc plating. This style usually complements very well any exposed brickwork, joists, and beams to create a striking industrial aesthetic.

As the coating is exposed to natural wet/dry cycles, it will develop a protective zinc patina. The result is a soft grey appearance – evening out any original differences in appearance. If installed correctly, exposed ductwork can look and operate incredibly well.

To learn more about exposed ductwork and how it could be used to make a statement in your own space, get in touch with us today. In the meantime, follow our journey on LinkedInFacebook and Instagram for more handy insights.