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Take a shine to your building

Design

Facades and building envelopes are stage effects for your building. Not only do they offer residents temporary or permanent respite from the dust and grime, they also act as landmarks of a city

When the railway terminal, Victoria Terminus (VT), was built in 1888, Mumbai had yet to see anything like it. Built on the Gothic Revival elements with matted gargoyles leaping off its facade and a pair of imperious lions guarding its entrance, the facade is a piece of art that inspires awe.

That was then. Since then, there have been much advancements in the aesthetics of exterior surfaces. Today, besides stone, facades are made of hurricane-resistant aluminium composite materials with high strength organic fibre, bolted glass and fenestration components, liquid-applied flashing system, and some more.

The technicalities

Kanchi V, a project manager with Cushman & Wakefield, says: “Innovations in building envelopes and facades have been seeing a gigantic leap in terms of technology over the last 25 years. However, they should be able to address a few prospective problems. Facades and envelopes should be sustainable and energy efficient, minimise liability and stem risks from mould issues.”

It is important that the mechanical components of a facade comply with the above-mentioned standards. These include a large number of low-emissivity openings, high-performance lighting in corridors and rooms in the building, a closed loop geothermal system, radiant floors and corridors, ventilated thermal panels and a heat recovery ventilation system.

The outer faced works in several ways and can offer multiple benefits. The double-paned glass envelopes can reduce heat loss and provide an insulating inductance that help conserve heat in winter and allow cool air in summer by eliminating direct contact with the exterior. Here the most important factor is reducing infrared radiation without neutering the light of the sun.

Giant leaps in facades

Ventilated facade: Modern architecture demands sleek finishes by using materials that are aesthetic, and diverse in nature. This type of facade can ensure protection of the outer wall while meeting architectural requirements.

Most important, it offers two important aspects which put together are rare – weatherproofing and protecting the ventilation of the walls. Here it is the aluminium substructure that bears the load of the facade, thus making the cladding dependable and lightweight.

This type of facade creates an air pocket that moves between the wall it covers and the external cladding.

Glass facades: These are the most common types of facades. Usually used to distinguish commercial buildings, glass facades add a sheen that liquid-applied flashing system cannot. Moreover, one need not drill the glass anymore. There are special clamps available in anodised version or high-quality aluminium that can be used to look pleasing and part of the design.

However, the ill-selected glass will not only offer poor daylight in building interiors but also contribute significantly to fatigue, insomnia, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and above all increase CO2 emission.
In a country like the UAE, where sunlight is abundant, glass is a most common element to be used as building facades.

Concrete facades: offer a double skin facade whose outermost skin is constructed from 40c, thick perforated concrete. Architects when using this material ascertain that there is usually a metre space between the skins thus creating a chimney effect and in turn cooling the building.

While an ancient building material, this precast offers one the flexibility of design and build, and durability. Since the material can be moulded, designers can add colours and textures thus using their creative freedom to construct a facade with concrete. The advantage here is that this type of facade is durable, fire resistant, offers excellent insulation, is structurally capable and has low maintenance.

Steel facades: Mirror polished stainless steel can accentuate the curves of the building. While perforated stainless steel cladding acts as a sunshade for windows. A functional, practical and long lasting material, stainless steel, unlike concrete, requires periodic washing and is harmonious with other building materials.

The commonness of facades

In India, facades for residential buildings are just catching on. Most developers have been wary of using facades for residential developments as they thought it implied higher costs. In Mumbai, Hiranandani Group was one of the earliest developers to build an urban cluster with a facade for every building. At a time when very few builders were ventured to buy and build in Powai, Hiranandani decided to create a landmark.

Rakhee Iyer, consultant with Frost & Sullivan, says: “The vast tract of agricultural land has changed hands several times before coming into Hiranandani’s possession. He, along with Hafeez Contractor, decided to design and build the entire development on a classical style which offers a ubiquitous look. This was the time when facades for buildings were considered fancy. However, Contractor convinced Hiranandani to make the place up-market and that’s how the buildings have this look.”

“Building envelope systems must be created with the sole aim of reducing field labour costs, offering greater thermal efficiency, and more flexibility for off-site assembly, sealing, and glazing. This will result in savings that can be passed on to building owners and then ultimately buyers too,” says Thomas Matheus, property consultant at Runwal Group.

A consultant for Gera Group says: “Architects must be careful in utilising facades, especially when imported from one climate and location to another without understanding how suitable it could be. More important, architects must do a critical analysis of the surroundings before employing a facade.”

Just as well. Like it’s said: The angel is in the detail.

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May 2020
11 May 2020