Changing face of facades
There has a slow but very perceptible shift from the use of traditional masonry towards the use of compelling façade materials. The facade combines attributes of both appearance as well as superior performance in a manner unlike any other building system. The concept is fast catching up in India but the changes go beyond skin deep alterations or a facelift and apart from the aesthetics, they offer better natural lighting, better air flow and are in line with the increasing adoption of green and sustainable building practices.
Recent trends throw up an array of structural practices and lightweight building materials. The choices offered are multifold and the benefits may vary depending on the customer’s need.
Meanwhile, material suppliers continue to develop architectural products with ever-improving performance attributes even as the façade trajectory is showing an upward movement as can be seen from the latest skyscrapers that are taking shape across Indian cities.
Queried about the latest innovations in the West that we could emulate, Satish Kumar, country manager, Elumatec India, said, “Rainscreen façades and sun breakers have been the latest imports in facades these days. Dual wall façades are being tried out. Building Integrated Photo Voltaic is being tried out in a small way.
Parametric façade technology with Indian architectural concepts will be the next big thing for façades in India.” Speaking about how the industry apart from aluminium composite panels is looking for superior products and moving towards unitised glazing and high pressure laminates, zinc, copper and steel, he said, “Today, the façade industry is more than just glass and composite panels for spandrel areas.
Sustainable buildings and sustainable products are being considered in many buildings. Combinations of glass, aluminium, steel, copper, zinc and composite materials have been explored in addition to terracotta and some traditional stone in some buildings.”
About products designed by his company in keeping Indian climate, dust, humidity and low maintenance in mind, he said, “The company with its vast experience and world-wide network has many modifications for the Indian market. We are the only ones to offer air-conditioning in the electrical cabinet to control humidity and temperature of the controllers and special spindle cooling in our CNC machines. In the double mitre saws, the distance is monitored by rack and pinion arrangement, ensuring positive engagement and accurate reading as against magnetic tapes or belt drives which most competitors offer.”
Asked to comment on the growth potential in view of the cost deterrent, other challenges and what should be done to lend impetus to this segment, he opined, “First and foremost, the industry should recognise itself as an industry and work on every aspect from manpower training, transparency in taxes/ duties, standardisation of components, improving quality of production and installation, project management and adaptation/ upgradation of technology. The government needs to look at the taxation and provide sops for factory-produced windows, doors and facades which can ensure a level-playing field for all.”
To ensure that buildings look good for years on end in terms of sun and building orientation and to protect such structures in terms of leakages and insulation, he said, “Sustainable design right from orientation of building, selection of materials, design of the façade, proper execution of the façade works, design and incorporation of building maintenance units (BMUs) would ensure that the building remains good and new. BMUs need to be designed along with the façade in the initial stage itself. Anchors or structures required for BMUs can be made a feature of the façade so that it doesn’t butt out and obstruct the view of the façade if they are well planned in advance. A proper design ensures protection against leakage and insulation. Test centres are available in India to check air and water infiltration under different load conditions. Seismic movements are artificially created and façade behaviour is checked to prevent failure in the future.”
About latest innovations in the West, Rajeev Antony, MD, Schueco India Solar and Windows Pvt Ltd, said, “The Indian fenestration and façade industry is in a growing stage in terms of the materials and technology we use and is laden with challenges which will take some time to iron out since there is a growing acceptability with regards to quality products in fenestration and façade application.
There have been numerous innovations that have happened in the West, especially in Europe. Energy conservation is an important subject there owing to climatic conditions. The design and integration of high performance facades with credible wind resistance and water tightness certification provides an opportunity to maximise performance benefits and saves unforeseen costs during the lifecycle of facades and windows. Another innovative development from an aesthetic point of view is the use of slim aluminium windows and façade system which are fully integrated into the architecture of the building. This maximises vision area without compromising on important performance parameters like wind resistance and sound insulation. The company’s TropTec systems are a very innovative way to use all the above benefits of German technology at Indian prices.”
About their company products which keep in mind Indian climate, dust, humidity and low maintenance in mind, he said, “The company’s TropTec range of products have been designed keeping in mind urban climatic conditions in India.
These systems have been fully tested according to highest American or European standards to fulfil the challenging Indian conditions of heat, dust, smog, rain etc. Moreover, all our systems are tested and certified systems in accordance with the highest European and American standards.
A clear and straightforward design in line with the European design aspect combined with long-lasting and durable products underline the premium character of our TropTec systems. The TropTec range of products have been installed at numerous projects pan-India and have gained immense popularity due to their precise fitment for Indian climatic conditions, ease of fabrication and top-notch German quality engineering.”
As per the growth potential in view of the cost deterrent, other challenges and what should be done to lend impetus to this segment, he said, “There is a vast opportunity in building and construction industry as we can see the growth in all the metros and neighbouring areas and hence a great potential in-spite of the perceived cost deterrent. The cost however is equated with the advantages of using a high performance material or façade systems in buildings. The current demand for aluminum in architecture and building industry is largely for doors, windows and stick façades. The usage of building systems with thermally broken windows and Unitised systems are yet to gain large-scale acceptance in the market. Challenges such as complex application, technical know-how, quality extrusions, focus towards buying ‘off the shelf profiles’ rather than ‘system solutions’ and pricing are amongst other challenges that this particular segment faces. A lot of action is happening and a lot more needs to be done with respect to educating the masses, sharing of expertise, exhibition of system solutions and bringing the entire eco-system of Indian fenestration industry at par with European standards. We are seeing self-regulatory bodies coming up which will lend more impetus to the façade and fenestration industry by establishing best practices, encouraging scientific researches and aids, and this is a good sign for things to come.”
As to what ought to be done to ensure that buildings look good for years on end in terms of sun and building orientation and to protect such structures in terms of leakages and insulation, he said, “It is important to understand that the façade needs to be designed as per the geographic location and the climate in order to successfully ensure sustainability and efficiency which includes ventilation, daylight penetration and energy optimisation.
In the Indian context, the most important function of the façade consists of weather tightness (against dust, rain, urban atmosphere such as smog and noise) and solar protection.
Choice of material for the building envelopes, correct fabrication techniques and good quality systems are key to ensure that the structures are protected from outside elements and function at their best.”
About the latest innovations in the West, Dr Prashanth Reddy, MD and CEO, Fundermax, said, “Western countries are on a continuous innovation mode and coming up with new technologies, especially in the façade segment. To name a few, these are interactive facades, double-skin façade and energy-efficient facades, etc. India too is gearing up for these special facades and our company can witness the surge in demand for these gradually after having worked extensively with the target group and also creating an awareness about the different types of facades and the technologies behind it.”
On how the industry apart from aluminium composite panels is looking for superior products and moving towards unitised glazing and high pressure laminates, zinc, copper and steel, he said, “The industry is undergoing a shift from conventional systems and new materials always excite the market in terms of aesthetics and most importantly sustainability matters. Our company is moving ahead in this direction to break this design monotony, propagate and practice something which is new and effective. It has taken us a lot of time to educate on the benefits of rear ventilated façade systems and has also been the first mover in this segment among organised players and now we are pleased to see that the industry is forthcoming for this change and at the same time adopting it as well, which for sure will make a difference.”
About products designed by the company keeping Indian climate, dust, humidity and low maintenance in mind, he said, “Our company has always been customer-centric in its approach and due to this it has always customised products and solutions to suit the needs of its customer in all situations.
The FunderMax HPL panels as Max Compact Exterior is produced as per EN-438/6 with norm conformity of EN-438/7 which is an international standard for exterior grade panels. Our panels are versatile for any kind of exterior application and are adorned with a lot of attributes which make it the best. To name a few, optimal light fastness, extremely weather resistant, scratch and impact resistant, frost and heat resistant, etc. Our panels are designed in a way that it imparts sustainability and does not involve any recurring cost for maintenance of the same.”
On the growth potential in view of the cost deterrent, other challenges and what should be done to lend impetus to this segment, he said, “Our company has witnessed growth year-on-year though it is just four years since commercial operations began as 100% subsidiary company of FunderMax GmbH, Austria. We have believed that quality always comes at a price. This only justifies our positioning with right value proposition. We are positioned in the premium category and have a strong customer base who value our products by their usage, service and performance and the testimonial is the over 3,500 projects that we have done in the last four years across India.
We see a big market with huge potential and we have our plans in place to tap the same and counter the challenges with the expertise we have in providing customised solutions with our innovative technology (rear ventilated, functional facades, etc.) backed by satisfactory customer service from our authorised business partners across India.”
About what ought to be done to ensure that buildings look good for years on end in terms of sun and building orientation and to protect such structures in terms of leakages and insulation, he opined, “This starts with the most basic and the first step of picking the right product based on required application which has been internationally tested for different weathering conditions for its sustainability and secondly backed by good installation mechanism which again comes with expertise and experience.
There is also a necessity of product manufacturers working together with architects and façade consultants to understand the complete dynamics of the application along with challenges before arriving at the most effective and efficient customised solution for that particular project to deliver world-class façades. Through this collaborative platform established by companies which are into facades directly or indirectly, together we can build infrastructure for such testing, promoting latest technology amongst the target group, discussion forums and constant improvement on all of these and together we can make a difference.”
About the latest innovations in the West, RS Sharma, MD, Innovators Façade Systems Pvt Ltd, said, “There is a vast use of GRC material in façades. There are also new products like porcelain, tile cladding and other clay tile products which can emulate as new trends in facades.”
On the search for superior products, he said, “There is no equivalent for aluminium composite panels. Some projects have been recommended with solid sheet cladding material since they are fire-resistant and also give a good finishing look in terms of flatness on facades. Unitised glazing and other high pressure laminates like fundermax, trespa, prodema, etc., are now-a-days being added as new facade products. These cladding materials give buildings an elegant look. Zinc, Copper and other metal cladding material are not so highly recommended in view of environmental conditions in India. We have many areas with dust and when it comes to installation and due to bad weathering conditions it is not suggested by many architects in India.”
“Going vertical with glass facade is the latest trend in India”
Kamlesh Choudhary, Director and Jawahar Hemrajani, Director, Glass Wall Systems (India) on the latest innovations
Kamlesh Choudhary, Director and Jawahar Hemrajani, Director, Glass Wall Systems (India) jointly responded to our queries. About the latest innovations, they said, “The latest in India is going vertical with tall buildings with glass façade be it commercial or residential. Aluminium curtain walls are light weight for the structure as they are factory-produced, easy to install, safe for working from inside the building and more aesthetic. In the façade envelope on a structure we need to identify critical drivers like glass with high performance, more light and less heat.”
About the industry looking for superior products, they said, “With time we are growing vertical with high wind pressure and all this has made it a necessity for unitised curtain wall systems. Usually it’s an aluminum-framed wall containing in-fills of glass, metal panels or thin stone. The framing is attached to the building structure and does not carry the floor or roof loads of the building. The wind and gravity loads of the curtain wall are transferred to the building structure, typically at the floor line. Curtain walls become cost-competitive with standard systems as the wall area increases.
In a way these systems are ventilated systems with better U-values and can withstand high wind loads.
The specification must reflect the design intent and be so written that façade performance is specific when laminates, zinc, copper and steel are pre-tested components and we recommend that they should be used in a building façade.” On products keeping Indian conditions in mind, they claimed, “Glass Wall Systems is a leader of façade and fenestration in India in view of its design, execution and production,” and added, “To check humidity we need a condensation analysis, which is not considered in many projects. It will help locate the point of condensation which helps increase the life of the building.
All large projects in the country are designed by most reputed architects and material specifications are also under professional façade consultants.
Our projects like Lodha World One, The Capital, Antelia, One Indiabulls Centre, One Horizon Centre, Mondeal Square, Ahuja Towers, Kohinoor Square, Mani Casadona and all others are on-going or completed and designed to suit Indian climatic conditions. Our project Reliance Petroleum HQ is the best example for the best sustainable façade solution against climate, dust, humidity and maintenance in mind which was executed in 2003 and still looks to be one of the best buildings in the country.”
About growth potential they said, “Façade and fenestration should recognise itself as an industry and work on every aspect from manpower training, transparency in taxes/duties, standardisation of components, improving quality of production and installation, project management and upgradation of technology with government support. We categorise actually into a material-intensive industry. Due to this developers/clients need to focus on proper cash-flow for scheduled handover of projects. There is also a need of proper technical resource capability comparison before award of the project to ensure right quality and price.”
To ensure buildings look good for years on end, they said, “Today, the façade is the most sophisticated element of a building. The scientific principle for the foundation is good design, performance and ultimately its durability. A good design and engineering is fundamental to achieve durability along with good workmanship and fabrication and supervision has a very vital role in getting the correct façade executed.”
Mondeal Square project
After completing the largest integrated lighting system in to a façade in India with the Mondeal square project, a G+11 twin-tower commercial building in Ahmedabad, we are confident that effective illumination of facades can turn a building into a real eye-catcher from far away and leave a lasting impression. Lighting on façade accentuates architecture and impressively emphasises on building design. The high-contrast interplay between light and shadow increases overall vividness. Different animations play differently during the working week, the weekend and different festivals celebrated in India. For each hour’s start a different video animation will link it with its respective hour and this lighting design solution allows a significant energy saving with a simple interplay between the on-andoff cycles. Probably the most satisfactory experience was when people stopped their cars on the road to look at the façade during Navratri — the festival of dance. With this project, we have started a new era in façades in India.
Avinash Gehlot, V-P, Business Development, Glass Wall Systems (India)