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Commercial Wood Cladding: What Designers Should Compare (and a Bonus Chart)

The texture and warmth of natural wood can elevate almost any project and makes a bold statement when used as cladding for commercial buildings. When planning any construction project, you want to be certain that the building materials — from shingles to shiplap and all of the hardware between — you're using are going to not only look great but perform in all conditions.

But natural wood siding has some drawbacks, especially when it comes to maintenance and durability. Real wood exterior siding won't necessarily stand up to weathering and the harsh elements it will likely face over time.  

However, there are a few alternatives that provide architects and builders a stylish, wood-look exterior without the challenges that come with using wood. Nichiha provides high-quality options that can be trusted for new builds and renovations alike. Read on to learn more about the advantages and benefits of using wood cladding for commercial applications and in projects and how to choose the best option for you.

What Commercial Architects Should Look For

Commercial architects have to balance the needs of their clients and the need for more resilient, cost-efficient building designs. If you love the look of wood, but you need alternative materials for your space, there are a few features to look for from the exterior wall products you choose. There are more siding solutions than may first come to mind, and they offer both style and protection to ensure clients are pleased for years to come.

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Sustainable Design

The American Institute of Architects recently developed a Code of Ethics where sustainability in design is front and center. The industry is committed to thoughtful, environmentally responsible buildings. 

“We not only have a moral and ethical obligation to our clients, but to the environment as well,” writes architect Gunnar Hubbard for Archinect. These sustainable buildings don’t use up resources; they are designed for the safety, health and comfort of their occupants. Additionally, they might include materials that are rated for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) credits, signifying a commitment to environmentally responsible building practices. 

Budget-Friendly and Cost-Effective

The Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG) suggests that architects consider life cycle costs in their designs, not just the product’s upfront price tag. This makes it important to find more energy-efficient and long-lasting materials. 

“Because energy, and to some extent water consumption, and building configuration and building envelope are interdependent, energy and water costs are usually assessed for the building as a whole rather than for individual building systems or components,” according to the WBDG. While some materials and systems cost less upfront, they might be costly to repair or need to be replaced sooner than we think. 

Design Versatility

Planning the design for your commercial space isn’t all about the numbers. Architects and designers want a range of materials to choose from, and the manufacturer should give them options when it comes to color, texture and style. Whether you’re after a modern look or a more traditional style for your commercial building, the wall cladding you choose can help to tell that story. 

Communications building with large glass windows and green grass and trees


Architects need exterior materials that provide moisture control, offer fire protection and won’t degrade over time. Some building designs might even require a rainscreen in the building envelope to help with ventilation. Durable, long-lasting exterior materials offer guaranteed protection to your commercial building design, so work with a trusted and reliable manufacturer.

Installation Ease

Often cladding requires nailing or other fasteners, and some cladding comes with a clip installation system. Architects have options for stylish commercial exteriors, along with user-friendly products to make their projects go faster when they choose the right cladding. Design consistency and ease of installation are both key to a successful project; therefore, it's important for designers and architects to realize they have options and are not limited when selecting materials.

Get Up Close And Personal

Want to see a color up close or feel the texture in person? Order as many complimentary finishes as you need to find the perfect option for your project.

Long-Term Style

Wood siding on commercial buildings typically requires a great deal of upkeep. There are wood alternatives that provide building owners with decades of style, without the frequent maintenance that comes with true hardwood cladding or timber cladding. Commercial cladding, like fiber cement from Nichiha, offers building owners a 30-year warranty to guarantee exterior protection and style over time. 

Choosing the best exterior materials for your design is no small task. According to the Whole Building Design Guide,  “as our needs have evolved and technologies have advanced, the demand placed on designers to both understand, and integrate, a wide range of increasingly complex materials, components, and systems into the building enclosure has grown in equal proportion.”

You can weigh out these features and how important they are to you in your commercial building design, then reference the chart below to help make those decisions easier. 

How Wood Cladding Products Compare 

Many building manufacturers have produced alternative cladding materials that offer the look of natural wood, without the challenges that come from using the material. See how these types of cladding compare to each other:

Comparison chart showing benefits and advantages of Nichiha’s Wood Series Architectural Panels versus competitors’ products.

There are a few alternatives to natural wood that give building owners exterior protection. But Nichiha fiber cement cladding offers the texture, finish, strength and cost-efficiency that other products on the market don’t. Nichiha has been manufacturing and testing our fiber cement panels for decades, and we are confident that our products stack up against the competition. 

We also offer a variety of other textures and looks for commercial building exteriors, offering architects an expansive palette of designs to be creative with. Designers have several options at their disposal, and the materials offered by Nichiha, including hardware to use in our innovative installation system, provide durability and protection without sacrificing style.

Utah building at sunset that has paved driveway and small outdoor seating area

Wood Alternatives and Solutions for Design

Fiber cement cladding offers affordable, reliable solutions to commercial architects who need the look of wood and resilience of fiber cement for their design. Fiber cement is a budget-friendly option for your exterior that offers durability and a look your client will love for years (even if they’re looking for wood). 

Learn more about Nichiha’s fiber cement cladding and the design opportunities we’ve given to our commercial clients — you can also look at all of our wood-inspired offerings here.  Our team is here to help with your next project.  Contact us today to get started!

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