Face-to-face with façade challenges

Face-to-face with façade challenges

Face-to-face with façade challenges

Mar 02, 2021

The façade design architecture is facing a decisive moment, just as many other industries are and in particular, the construction industry. Finding itself in the middle of a very volatile time, impacted by global and local economic situation, and of course, the post-pandemic uncertainty facing the economy as a whole.

Making this challenge a shade more complex is the rapid technological progress, industrialization of the construction industry and lastly, the complete transformation of the role of Architects.

An architect’s role is swiftly changing from just controlling the design component of a building to taking on the orchestration of a multitude of specialist skills, knowledge, and industry intelligence.

The responsibility for design engineering a viable façade solution rightly rests on the shoulders of architects and the project promoters.

Importance of façade engineering

A building’s façade plays an active role in enhancing the aesthetics, as well as creating the interior environment which impacts the comfort levels of residents living or working within.

What is critical to note, it is not only the aesthetics that make the façade so significant. It is a synthesis of all the building elements, as well as the coming together seamlessly of structural engineering, building physics, materials science, weather-proofing technology, architectural detailing, and construction management.

Putting things in context, the façade and structural interfaces are the perfect example of different systems engineered to optimize each other. Needless to say, all successful façade engineering projects totally depend on a high degree of collaboration across the design team and throughout the supply chain. It is a team effort.

Simply put, a well-designed façade is the art of resolving aesthetic, environmental and structural issues by erecting a barrier between the climate outside and the conditioned interior. Relying totally on precise design details governing specification and interfacing of a multitude of materials, components, systems and of course, the installation process.

The use of advanced 3D printing and BIM software further assists engineers, allowing them to subject their ideas to a range of environmental and structural stress tests that can authenticate façade worthiness like never before.

Remember, being eco-friendly and sustainable are not just design concepts anymore. These factors are always on top of any building approval criteria list.  In fact, these will be the most important components by which architecture design will be measured.

The secret of getting it all right

Whether you are working to bring to life a new cultural icon for a city or a high-end residential tower or a skyscraper, only an integrated design approach can help it succeed. Creating an economically and environmentally viable solution means ensuring the desired image, constructability, durability, comfort, safety and energy-efficiency, as well as helping keep the costs of future maintenance, repair and renewal under control. You can take these factors as given.

Hands-on experience of knowing the importance of complementing the architectural design team with deep knowledge of building science, façade materials and advanced systems is a very big advantage. You make a difference when you stay up-to-speed with fabrication building enclosure systems, and are backed by the necessary R&D to stay ahead of the guidelines and standards you help set for the industry.

Two of the most critical factors that go to qualify a façade firm. One: successful façade engineering track record and two, an established practice. Only they are in a position to extend insightful consultancy services to developers, and architects regarding the planning, design, materials procurement, construction, and maintenance of building enclosures from the word go.

The façade construction field has evolved so rapidly and so immensely in terms of its complexity that successful engineering is possible only with a professional, accurate and detailed design. This has also become the biggest façade challenge.

The solution? The capability to make extensive use of automated design (parametric & algorithmic) and digital fabrication to help demonstrate the viability of a façade design at the concept stage itself.

It is now possible to have a complete façade 3D model that is so detailed that it will include cladding, glass, structural connections, HVAC… everything tested together and certified even before a single rupee is spent on its construction. Nothing is left to guesswork. You make decisions, based on validity of a design.

Façades of the future

After architecture and technology, emerging façade materials will play a critical role in contributing to every smart and environmentally sensitive design narrative. The challenge for architects will be to strike the ideal balance between the cost and performance.

The more the complexity, more will be the need to use composite materials: GRP, GRC or UHPC. Such malleable materials are setting the architects free and giving them a much broader canvas to express their designs with and bring it to life.

Depending on the appearance desired, available material solutions –metallic, wood, stone and plastic–already brings flexibility to explore all kind of shapes and dimensions not possible before. However, material science is on the path to leapfrog in terms of quality of materials and the range of additional functions these will offer. Future material innovations will give architects apalette to be as expressive as they wish.

Active R&D, technology breakthroughs and market forces are driving the demand for usinghi-end ceramics, development of elegant and flexible multi-layered aluminium/metal matrixes, stronger and more durable ETFE fabric materials, multilayer external thermal insulation cladding systems and evenlush green, organically grown living façade systems.

As for glass — the most widely used material in a façade –it is ready to morph into a universal material that will be completely transparent, totally safe, insulated and energy generating. Within the glass category, the choices available to architects will not be just varied but also constantly innovative.

As the future unfolds and technologies evolve, façades will soon come fitted with self-cleaning systems, be able to respond to the changing outside environment, gather critical building information and be sensitive enough to communicate the vital data in real-time.

According to industry watchers, façades will be able to self-heat and self-cool, generate electricity and even help buildings become totally independent of the power grid. That day is not far off when a building no longer depends on its internal building management systems, it will be ‘’intelligent’’ and will be able to manage itself.

Embedding fire safety into design

Fire safety is the most crucial element and should be built into the design itself, rather than thought of at later stages. Expert intervention and consultancy must begin with advise on materials selection and facade system configuration to ensure a very high score in terms of fire safety, faster reaction-to-fire and evaluating fire resistance performance of the whole façade.

Material characteristics such as combustibility, ignitability, flame spread, heat release, smoke development and toxicity, have to be gauged in terms of reaction-to-fire tests. Large-scale tests using all layers of the façade to holistically assess the whole system is a must. What also needs to be taken into consideration is the geometry and orientation of the combustible materials used in the façade to diminish the risk of fire.

Providing fire safety reviews and audits for the façades by experts should provide all the fire safety reviews and audits for the facades of existing buildings, along with recommendations on managing and mitigating fire risks.

Bringing sustainable façades to life

Choosing specialists who can apply their knowledge to adapt facade designs to any kind of local climate will be critical. From extreme heat to icy winters, from coastal locations subjected to extremely high wind conditions and with standing desert sandstorms.

You need experts who use thermal and hydrothermal modelling to ensure that your building is sufficiently well insulated, provides optimal comfort levels, is more responsive to climate, and fits the overall energy efficiency strategy. These factors are no longer just desirable, but are becoming legally required.

In order to ensure such optimal solutions and solve all interfacing problems, you need a firm with demonstrable expertise. This includes expert facade engineers, structural and MEP engineers, sustainability experts, acousticians, lighting designers, security consultants, blast analysis experts and fire engineers.

The 360° façade solution provider

Aparna-Craft is involved in producing some of the most striking, ambitious and high-performance façade solutions by blending concept design, structural engineering, building physics, advanced modelling skills for efficient facade design and detailing.

The objective is to deliver a façade that is compliant with the specifications; is constructed to appropriate quality standards; and installed safely and completed within the scheduled program.

To make this happen, Aparna-Craft also offers its clients customized turnkey solutions. Including facade design, engineering and fabrication and installation as a seamless end-to-end systems service.

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