Facade and cladding - More than just looks
Much innovations in façades abound. But the practicality of a façade is what owners and fabricators look at
For a layman, a façade is a thing of beauty to be admired. But for façade contractors, it’s hard work. Much much thought and engineering go into making a façade that is vibrant and modern. Right from design to choosing the right material to the contractor to installation, there is much engineering that goes into making a façade.
In the last few years, researchers have developed revolutionary façades that cool, heat and neutralise smog. Innovative technologies make buildings more energy-efficient and have a positive impact on the CO2 balance.
Façades are the most important building element from both the users and the architect’s point of view. And, they are not easy to design too since the perception of iconic and technologically advanced façades is changing frequently. Highly technical designers continue with their research and experiment with new and complex façade forms and patterns. The glass aluminium façades are bygones now as we see a lot more new materials in the market such as rusted iron panels, zinc, copper and steel, even high pressure laminates.
Shyam Raghunandan, MD, Schüco India, says, “Now a days, façade is considered to be more than an elevation skin on buildings. It is not just an aesthetic element any more it is considered as an essential parameter for building performance. We consider innovation that offers solutions to building envelope of a superior quality in terms of technology and architectural innovation.”
That is not all. Besides the materials that furnishes the look and feel of a building, technologies applied to façades are also changing. The leading-edge technologies play a crucial role in terms of sustainability and operational cost-effectiveness. Truly successful façades do far more than merely projecting an iconic image, they play a vital role in driving or transforming building performance, engaging with the external environment, significantly enhancing durability and reducing energy consumption.
A new front
Façades are supposed to be smart. They have a mind of their own? And how smart can they truly be? Moreover, it would be interesting to know the extent to which technological developments are transforming the façade performance. Are there ways to judge and build these smart façades?
Kapil Chikodi, VP, business development, Glass Wall Systems, says, “It is important that a façade contribute positively to its performance without losing out on an aesthetically-pleasing form. Globally, much innovations in façade and curtain wall technology aid in green building movement. This is the ultimate goal for developed countries.”
FunderMax has come up with a new shading system called Max Lato which is a louver system. This system is specifically aimed at improving daylighting, glare mitigation and energy-efficiency, without compromising on occupant comfort.
Ashwani Khanna, AVP, marketing, FunderMax India, says, “Technologically advanced façades are mostly termed so due to their adaptive and active nature. These iconic façades are unique and customised to better suit the functional requirements of the building. They cater to the sustainability and efficiency aspects of a building throughout their life span. e.g. kinematic façades.”
For some time now, architects and building scientists have pictured the possibility that future buildings will possess envelopes that replicate our skin’s adaptive response to changing environmental conditions. Advances in material technology and building automation systems are making these parallels drawn between adaptive envelopes and the intelligent response of human behaviour and our own skin, to environmental stimuli, increasingly feasible for regulating energy flow through a building’s thermal barrier in a controlled manner that benefits energy reduction and occupant comfort.
Ketan Khaire, director, 3D Mega Structures, says, “Components such as solar panels use ventilated solar façade technology that offer façade insulation, extra thermal properties, noise reduction with design aesthetics, grattified walls, façade lighting used as tools of expression, biomimicry for creating solutions to human challenges by emulating designs & ideas found in nature & even materials like Velcro, green façade, dynamic façade are known as responsive façades.”
Innovative façade technologies aim to develop long-term solutions for intelligent, sustainable façades: Maximum energy efficiency and comfort should go hand in hand with minimum resource consumption. Because nowadays a façade has much more to offer than just good looks. The key energy data must also be correct.
Navin Keswani, MD, Aluplex India, says, “Innovation in façade is something that is radically new with complex geometry of aluminium profiles and glass to create an outstanding structure that tickles the imagination. Right from concept to reality, the façade fabricator forms a pespective that is generated by the architect and based on a thorough study of the integrated elements between the structure and the anchoring elements. All it requires after that is to fabricate the metal and erect the same to create something iconic. But the sustainability of the curtain wall or the façade is to be understood based on the lifespan of the façade wherein the performance can only be experienced over a period of time. A well defined façade would have a lifespan of 40 plus years if it’s well designed and engineered and made with the right raw materials.”
Technology and availability of advanced material plays a vital role in the performance of façade. The performance of a façade can be evaluated on various parameters like visual comfort and performance (illuminance, light distribution, glare, etc.), thermal comfort, energy consumption of the building (artificial lighting, air-conditioning, etc), economics, durability, and ease of maintenance. Niraj Borikar, country head, Danpal India, says, “These performance parameters depend on the controllable and uncontrollable variables like climate, daylight availability, site location, etc. Microcell panel technology in polycarbonate panels along with the technology to reduce the glare and block UV Rays reduces the need for artificial light and provides uniformity in the diffusion of natural light, achieving energy efficient façades and the illusion of spaciousness in interior spaces.”
While designing the building envelope, the integrated approach is becoming more important today to cater to the central idea of low energy architecture. Hence, the design strategies for façade, shading elements, artificial lighting control and heating and/or cooling presents an opportunity to design optimum solutions for reduced energy consumption, operating and maintenance cost.
Sustainability is becoming a critical topic in today’s construction industry and much research is being done to harness available solar energy to cater to the needs of the building. Raghunandan says, “Since a façade occupies the major surface area of a building which is exposed to solar incidence, a lot of research is going on to integrate the elements of the façade to technology which can convert solar energy to electricity. Building integrated photovoltaics are being used along with the façade to generate electricity from the incident solar radiation. Moving from the big solid panels, thin film technology is now being focused upon since it can be directly printed or sandwiched between the glass panels which gives plenty of better options on the aesthetics front while having approximately the same efficiency as that of the solid panels. Research is focussed on improving the efficiency of these cells.”
Rohit Sharma, director, Innovator Façade Systems believes that one may go looking out for the best innovative façades, but if the façade is not cleaned periodically, then the building may not appear presentable. One should look for innovations in technology that can be integrated with the façade and offers a self cleaning process.
Most offices today seek certified products and prefer green-rated buildings with innovative designs. They are willing to explore and experiment to learn about newer cladding systems and this will significantly increase the market demand for efficient cladding materials. Khanna says, “Sun path analysis, wind loading patterns, dynamic sun shading, and thermally efficient materials are some of the factors that are computed to achieve the best functional output from a façade. The original FunderMax panels are manufactured using patented NT technology and are in accordance with EN438-6 and CE certified.”
The experts have spoken.