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Building Interest

The Ideal Media for Eye-Catching Graphics

By Amber E. Watson


The sheer magnitude of building wraps attracts attention from up close and far away. Large structures present a unique environment to leave a lasting impression. The opportunity is growing thanks to media that conforms and adheres to a variety of surfaces.


Every building is different. Determining the correct media depends on surface texture, overall size, environment, as well as city/state codes and building regulations. A vast selection of substrates are available. Combining the correct media with the desired location yields a high-quality finished product.


Unlimited Canvases

Building wraps are becoming larger and more vibrant in overall appearance. Primarily, this is in response to new media constructions that extend product usability. These advancements allow market players to leverage unlimited canvases, from newer locations to traditional building wrap environments.


Building wraps are gaining traction at renovation and/or construction sites. In the past, coming soon signs were used as barriers, but more recently developers are creating bigger buzz with full wraps. These mesh façades graphically foreshadow what is to come and satisfy the curiosity of passersby.


“Developers are starting to print graphics—typically with mesh vinyl—that illustrate what the actual building is going to look like when it is complete,” explains Josh Propp, business development manager, Value Vinyls.


Judy Bellah, PR manager, Clear Focus Imaging, Inc., highlights a growing trend in the rental of advertising space on commercial buildings by property owners to generate income. “In addition to promotional prowess, building wraps offer potential energy savings—provided the graphics are printed in bright colors that reflect light,” she adds.


Different types of buyers are considering building wraps, which also explains the use of the application in other environments. For example, Jodi Sawyer, market development specialist, FLEXcon, sees an increasing use of building wraps in smaller markets for regional brands and event marketing.


Building wraps are now part of a larger package. Graphics that flow to the inside, perforated and non-perforated second-surface applications, environmentally friendly options, and point of purchase created from better perforation patterns are all part of what Stan Holt, business development manager, Americas, Continental Grafix USA, Inc., believes adds to the overall interest in building wraps.


“Advertisers and designers are making use of new technology to carry a message through the entire space,” agrees Jason Yard, marketing manager, MACtac Distributor Products.


Traditional locations continue to find success with building wraps. “Museums and historic sites use them often,” says Larry Salomon, VP wide format North America, Agfa Graphics. “In addition, many public venues, such as stadiums, create an atmosphere or provide a message through building wraps.” Large-scale graphics are a popular means of promoting major sporting events, concerts, products, and services.


Installation Technique

Before the correct media is chosen, many factors are considered. Whichever substrate is used, it must adhere well and stay up for the contracted amount of time. To ensure this, the intended location scouted, various tests undertaken, and proper regulation channels researched.


Test media first. Sawyer reminds print service providers (PSPs) that installation and de-installation time and cost is critical for a successful high-profile building wrap application. “Minimize the risk by selecting a self-adhesive product that provides the best performance—installs easily and removes without breaking, tearing, or leaving adhesive residue.”


It is also necessary to take temperature into consideration for optimal adhesive contact. Bellah explains that if it is too cold the media’s adhesive may not stick properly, while excessive heat can cause the film to stretch during installation.


In terms of what material is best for abiding codes and laws, PSPs are advised to check with local building inspectors for zoning information, limitations, and requirements. Engineers are also aware of the ins and outs of zoning codes and regulations. PSPs are wise to research pertinent information before agreeing to a job.


“Many municipalities require that window graphics be installed on the inside of a window, however, this can be limiting especially if the windows are tinted. Most clear and translucent window films are reverse printed to accommodate an outward-facing graphic,” shares Yard.


Holt also brings up a concern about local and state size regulations. “Many cities and towns have codes that now require a permit to put graphics of a certain size on the outside of a business. Sometimes, taking graphics inside helps avoid this hassle,” he recommends.


Along with size and placement considerations, Sawyer suggests PSPs pay close attention to specific building and safety code requirements, such as any special flammability or glass breakage testing that is required. Understanding and complying with local, city, state, and municipal zoning laws is critical to application success.


Matching Media

Media choices for building wraps are as varied as the surfaces they’re designed to cover, such as concrete, glass, brick, and metal. Each substrate—perforated window, mesh, banner, and specialty films—feature properties that make them best for their intended application.


Perforated Window

When visibility is desired, such as for hotels, casinos, museums, and convention centers, perforated window film is ideal.


According to Sawyer, exterior-mounted, perforated white/black vinyl with high-performance removable adhesive is an option. “This material is available in different perforated patterns, for example, 60/40 or 70/30, indicating the image area to perforation. This provides more print image area and color vibrancy than a 50/50 pattern.”


In addition, thicker gauged products provide ease of installation and removal without breaking or tearing. “Self-adhesive film eliminates the extra step of a mounting system that non-adhesive products require,” adds Sawyer.


“Most window perforation films feature pressure-sensitive adhesive on the black, non-print side, making it comparatively easy to install,” says Bellah. “Although graphics for the window portion of full building wraps are almost always produced with exterior-mount films, for smaller applications interior-mount or second-surface films are available when zoning restrictions prohibit the use of exterior signage.”



Mesh is a popular substrate for building wraps due to the holes found throughout. Visibility from inside the building through the fabric is also an important characteristic. “PVC-coated mesh fabrics are a mainstay due to the holes, which allow for air permeability or air flow through the fabric and positively affect wind load resistance while offering the required durability,” explains Eric Tischer, president, Verseidag seemee US Inc.


Propp agrees that the use of mesh for tower style buildings, sides of buildings, construction fences, or scaffolding is good for corporate branding, local events, short-term promotions, and building renovations. “Mesh vinyl is UV and solvent printable on high-speed, single-pass printers resulting in eye-catching vivid color graphics. These products meet fire resistant standards and are lightweight,” he mentions.



For outdoor installation, Salomon recommends a material with a high denier. “This is critical to prevent tearing in winds and under the stress of hanging,” he shares. “Placement of grommets close to each other and welding or sewing a border around the edges also increases tensile strength.” Adding wind slits helps keep graphics intact, especially if the material is something other than mesh.


Specialty Film

The adhesive features of specialty film allow for adhesion onto a variety of building surfaces. The ideal medium must be flexible, conformable, and fully adhere without tearing, shrinking, or lifting.


“Smooth surfaces are a fit for adhesives that feature slideability, snap-up, repositionability, and air release. Light to moderately textured surfaces feature natural air release channels and even allow some slideability, so those features are sometimes not needed on the film,” explains Tim Boxeth, business manager, 3M Commercial Graphics.


“Concrete usually requires a media specifically designed to adhere to brick, concrete, or cinder block. Such materials are generally highly conformable and feature an aggressive adhesive,” adds Yard.


“Along with the differences in surface energies, textures play a large part in how wrap media is designed,” says Ritchie Daize, international digital account manager, Arlon Graphics, LLC. “For example, surfaces such as painted stucco may be difficult for material to stick to because the paint has low energy and there is a deep texture as well.”


All Around Us

Improvements in media make it possible to install large scale graphics anywhere. Creating and installing this application is a tall order. It takes research and special care to ensure optimal results, knowing your media options is one of the first steps.


Jan2014, Digital Output

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