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Architecture begins in the mind. It all starts with an idea. Then come the first pictures. Many questions arise. What is possible? Does the form follow the function? What colours and materials speak the right language? And to what degree can creativity be the benchmark?
In a recent news piece, students at Barcelona’s Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IaaC) created a composite material that has the ability to lower the interior temperatures of buildings by up to five degrees when actuated. Called hydroceramic, the façade prototype is made of fabric, clay and hydrogel, a polymer which expands in water up to 400 times of its volume. Made predominantly of water (98%), hydrogel cools down its surroundings as it evaporates in warm environments, a process which returns it back to its original solid state.
The incorporation of the slow-evaporating hydrogel into ceramic allows hydroceramic to act as a responsive cooling system for buildings.Sandwiched between a supporting clay layer, a stretchable fabric, and an exterior ceramic layer, the hydrogel expands when it is exposed to water (rain), and evaporating when it is warm.
Building envelopes are the key for indoor comfort and operational expenditures. The façade is responsible for cost of operations of the building’s mechanical systems, and can also determine whether (or to what degree) a building needs such systems in the first place.
Kamlesh Choudhari, managing director at Glass Wall Systems says, “The façade industry is in a continuous evolution path. There are many innovations and improvement that happen as designers and clients push the boundaries for better designs and comfort levels. The façade is no more a protective layer but a responsive face of the building structure that wants to function and communicate as per the desires of its occupants.”

A façade needs to be designed as per the geographic location and the climate to 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. The choice of material for the building envelopes, correct fabrication techniques and good quality systems are important to ensure that the structures are protected from outside elements and function at their best.
Dr Prashanth Reddy, MD, FunderMax India, says, “FunderMax opens up a world of innovative designs with which you can give your buildings a unique character. Thereby our innovations have been driven by both aesthetics as well as functionality. There have been new additional façade applications like lap siding and perforations contributing to high degree of design freedom to functionalities like louvre applications, soffits, canopies, signages, pergolas, etc. Another important aspect we have been working on is double skin façades with LED lighting in background which creates a special effect in terms of both aesthetics as well as functionality of façade.”
The façade needs to possess and deliver superior resource efficiency across its entire lifespan. This needs to be a result of energy and material efficiency in concepts and materials as well as in the development of highly efficient design, construction and operations. Over the years – especially in Germany – not only have highly sophisticated façade systems been developed but they are also more intelligent and efficient. But what is essential to understand is that façades need to be designed and operated differently, according to region, climate and time to successfully minimise and optimise its functional aspects.
Energy efficiency is extremely important in the Indian building boom. Modern technologies and prefabricated units can make a key contribution here. Glass, windows and façades are a major factor of every building. For example, the right choice of glass and frames and professional installation can save up to 30% energy. The correct fenestration technology is necessary to make a building green and energy efficient at the same time, minimising dependence on synthetic requirements of cooling, heating and lighting.
Smita Limaye, project technical support, Deceuninck, says, “We are one of the top three companies in UPVC profiles for doors and windows in the world. A lot of research goes into designing of products to produce the best performing window solutions for every market and the latest standards adopted. Currently in India we offer Zendow Casement system which is the only five chamber, 70mm, Class B as per EN 12608 series in the market with high acoustic insulation and good thermal insulation – tested by IFT Rosenheim, Germany to offer U value of 1.4 W/m2.K.”
With better performing glasses, this value can be even lower. Our new series in this series – the Zendow Neo can offer as low as 0.65W/m2K. Most people feel that for a country like India high performance windows are not required as we design buildings which are VASTU compliant and naturally ventilated. As per study conducted by BEE in addition to orientation of the building, having sunshades, good window to wall ratio and insulated double glass reducing energy consumed by air conditioners by nearly 50%. Glass alone cannot be fixed to the opening. A good performing window adds a lot value and utility to the opening.
Anjan Putatunda, general manager (India), Kawneer, a division of Alcoa India, says, “We offer 2500PG unit wall, a unitised solution which accommodates glass or infill panels up to 32mm. It also complies with all thermal regulations. AA100 curtain wall is the most sought after curtain walling system from Kawneer. This particular curtain walling system is suited for vertical, sloped (from 7 degrees, with slope vent) and faceted applications. AA100 OSG structural glazing system is suitable for integration with AA100 and other systems. Thermally broken and high acoustically performing windows are also part of offering we make in India.”
For instance, FunderMax India had a world premier launch of 2015 collection at Bau Munich. It showcased over 30,000 stock-keeping units (SKUs) across three different surfaces especially the glossy surface with mirror finish and also spread across metallics, neons, and colours from light to bold shades including pastels.
In terms of sustainable façade, especially in India, the approach is more energy efficiency than thermal behaviour and moisture resistance. Presently, double glazed glass is order of the day while keeping in mind the solar heat control, lighting and glare control as well as noise insulation properties, says Rajesh Chawla, director, VEKA India.
According to Limaye, UPVC/composite PVC cladding is not popular in India. She suggests Deceuninck Twinson cladding profiles for external cladding applications. The company is currently studying the thermal expansion and contraction effect of this product in the Indian climatic condition before officially launching the product. In 2015, it plans to launch Deceuninck Storbox, a shutter system and Louvre shutters for windows which will give a new dimension to external window dressing.
Façades are expected to cater to changing environment and changing demands. More and more designers are now integrating energy efficiency and energy generation into the façade as integrated elements. A sustainable façade is designed to optimise glass selection as per the sun direction and heat gain. Using a high performance glass on south and west façades and a lower spec glass on other faces is an intelligent way of designing sustainable façades as in makes optimum use of resources, says Choudhari of Glass Wall Systems.
Façades have to ensure comfortable internal environment by intelligent choice of glass and solar shading devices. Thermal checks need to be done to ensure that all elements of the façade give the desired results. Façades are increasingly being integrated with photovoltaics to generate electricity for the building structure. The future of façade is to have an envelope that will be completely dedicated to power generation as it’s the cleanest and the easiest way of energy generation through solar and wind. Newer technologies are integrating bio fuel generating façade for self sustenance and moving towards 100% self sufficiency which is the next big thing of the future of façades, Choudhari adds.
Intelligent façade is the need of the hour, says Putatunda. Intelligent façade cannot be seen separate from building as a whole and other project factors. It is designed to maximise day lighting usage keeping thermal comfort in mind. Curtain walling helps the sunlight seep through the building hence there is a huge saving in terms of electricity in day time. Kawneer provides many elements like Brise Soleil and Light Shelves, which act as passive element for intelligent façade. It is also affiliated with LEED. “Apart from that aluminium systems are durable and have long service life with good resistance to corrosion and extreme temperature,” he adds.

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June 2020
10 Jun 2020