Back in the 80’s facade was like a new kid on the block, with changing notions of building design today it is here to stay and amaze.
The human body is made up of six different elements, if we were to use that as a metaphor for new age construction, the facades would serve as one important element of the built environment. Especially for the buildings which envelop our urban cities.
And considering that the vertical ambitions continue to rise, installation, selection and maintenance of facades are some of the core challenges which the industry needs to address from time to time.
Addressing the vertical challenges
“Façade installation in high rise buildings has to be designed to cater to a multitude of micro climates as we progress vertically, to also the real estate cost implications of catering to a variety of vistas. A carefully designed building may thus well have a façade that changes gradually with height, and the smooth fabrication and installation of these elements is key.” points out Ashok Kularia, MD, ANJ Group. “In addition to the constraints like wind direction & pressure, weather conditions, seismic movements and other climatic impact, It is also key to safeguard a building from fire accidents keeping in mind the risk of fire jumping from one floor to another through facades. Incorporating the right material in the façade compositions becomes prime.” says Ishvinder Kaur, Founding Principal, ivpartners. “Strict safety measures are another factor to be contemplated,” says Manish Dixit, Principal Architect, AUM Architects. “In dense cities like Mumbai; the authorities have set certain mandates taking into consideration the proximity of the building boundaries setting an apt set of protocols. And it is essential to ensure that these are followed for the safety and security of the building, workers and the future habitants of the building.”
The Climatic Factors
Climatic conditions have a great impact on the selection of facades. A designer needs to engage in different design strategies for specific climatic zones.
“Colder climate zones,” says Ishvinder “benefit collectively with solar radiation, passive heating, heat storage, improved insulation to reduce heating demand, and one can incorporate daylighting to reduce lighting demand. In hotter climates, on the contrary, protection from the sun and direct solar radiation are prime considerations.”
“Maximizing daylight can be challenging while minimizing heat transfer with shading can be an apt solution,” points out Manish Dixit “Skylights and light shelves is another effective strategy. Heat transfer is mitigated from the inside to the outside with increased building mass and insulation levels. It is best to take a balanced and nuanced approach. Each façade orientation should be analyzed and specific climate data should be looked into so that one can differentiate each season.”
Given the nature of the climate, may be its time for facades to be tailor made. As Ashok Kularia elucidates “The general climate of a region will influence the depth of the elements that comprise a façade, as this will dictate the modulation of interior climate by controlling the admission of rain and of natural light. With technologies available to us today, we can meticulously map the attributes of a façade tailored to a specific interior environment required.”
Façade Design Planning
For successful installation of facades it is essential to ensure that the designing and planning of facades is done at the correct stage. “Facade design comes into play once the basic planning has already been done for the building,” says Ishvinder “More so because it is largely governed by the functional zoning of the building.” Voicing an agreement of sorts Manish Dixit says Once the site works, foundations and superstructure are done, facade installation is usually the fourth stage of a construction process.” Ashok likes to a bit cautious in this regard and opines “Façade design should ideally be approached simultaneously when the interior spaces are being planned, as their exact physical attributes will evolve in tandem with the activities they engender. A general study of the climate of a region, which is advised at the very start of a project, will also have a direct implication on the contours and materiality of a façade design.”
Heat and Sound Insulation
A facade has a lot of functions to perform in the overall narrative of building design, one of the prime criteria which it has to satisfy is to offer the right dose of heat and sound insulation. “First and foremost,” says Ashok, “it is important to get the basics right with the zoning of interior spaces at the planning stage itself. Space that require more privacy vis a vis heat and sound insulation are ideally zoned to the interiors of buildings, or in proximity to site contexts that will engender less human activity. Thereafter, further tweaking is always possible by choosing materials with greater insulatory properties.”
“Thermally insulating the facades significantly reduces the energy consumption in places destined for heating or air conditioning,” says Manish Dixit “this in turn saves the heating expenditure. Thermal insulation serves as a vital issue while building and restoration of buildings.Sound insulation mostly depends on the material used. Choosing the apt insulation is critical. The designer must understand the combination between the substructure and insulation, which is imperative in exceeding the projects soundproofing criteria.”
“With the partial reflection of solar radiation by the covering, ventilated air gap and application of insulating material, a designer may achieve a considerable reduction in the costs of cooling & air conditioning.” says Ishvinder “Vice versa, in winters, ventilated walls can manage to retain heat, resulting in savings in terms of heating. Understanding the construction needs of the substructure and incorporating the right material palette is important for the soundproofing of a façade.”
Green Facade is one of the most promising ways to ensure energy savings in buildings nowadays. It contributes to the reduction of the urban heat island effect in the hinterland. The shadow effect provided by the plants on the facade is the most significant parameter that serves the purpose of controlling the heatwave and pollution.
“A green facade,” elucidates Ishvinder “uses a trellis system to hold the vines of plants that are rooted in the ground. These facades are enveloped with vertical vegetation i.e., Self-climbing plants which climb using tendrils, twining stems or suckers. Green roofs provide numerous benefits, including economic returns, cleaner, cooler air and reduced noise. Their beauty and serenity can even improve one’s mood, energy level and general satisfaction. For a business, that means happier, more productive employees. The major aspect to be considered is that green facades usually do not require any extra structural requirements. Regular facades on the other hand lack this provision of sustainability. Green facades help in decreasing the carbon footprint to an extent, reduce noise and increase thermal insulation.”
“Green facades can be maintained using various advanced hydroponic or drip irrigation techniques available to us today,” points out Ashok “Having plants that adorn facades do more than just aesthetically add value to the interior and exterior. Plants directly help modulate micro climates within a structure, and by attracting various fauna into their fold, create a holistic sense of well – being within a space.”
Facade and Aesthetics
“Contriving a facade that is eye-pleasing,” says Manish “involves various techniques including playing with colour schemes and textures. Use of lights in facades to create specific illusions with the combination of glass is predominant in this practice, hence influencing the aesthetics in the overall design schemes.” Ar. Ishvinder believes the fact that facades are made of glass turns it into an aesthetically pleasing element in building design “Glass acts as the perfect aesthetic envelope for a modern building, granting an inviting more transparent appeal. Glass facades confer onto a contemporary aesthetic image of buildings which also use daylight as the main design strategy.” “Glass facades helps promote a sleek, welcoming aesthetic that steers from the behemoth-ic look of brutalist/industrial buildings of a similar scale,” opines Ashok “In addition, the connotations of glass as a modern material, have psychological impact on a beholder it also creates the perception of prestige. However, we advise proper climatic studies before adopting glass as a construction material for facades, due to their innate heat-trapping properties that make it essential to use artificial cooling systems to moderate interior environments they host.”
Regular maintenance of a facade is the key attribute that needs to be taken care of regularly.“Nanotech treatment,” says Manish “is one unique technique that can be done additionally to give the materials more life.” Façade maintenance Ishvinder believes contributes to the continued attractiveness of a building with a combined agenda of prolonging the lifespan of a building and to keep a check on wear & tear or current damages to it. “However,” she says, “it is to be done by using reliable equipment & agencies. Façade maintenance systems have to meet all appropriate rules and regulations and take into account the cost of recurring expenditures. Facade maintenance can become much easier if the designer takes note of it during the design stage itself. As Ashok Khularia points out “At the design stage itself, if a façade is planned keeping in mind the climate of a region vis a vis humidity, dust and wind etc, this can directly influence the ease of maintenance as well as the aging of materials used. That being said, easy access from the interior of a space can play a part, and façade structures that use a modular approach of pre – fabricated parts may also undergo repair or maintenance more easily.”
Thermally insulating the facades significantly reduces the energy consumption in places destined for heating or air conditioning
Manish Dixit, Principal Architect, AUM Architects
The general climate of a region will influence the depth of the elements that comprise a façade.
Ashok Khularia, Director, ANJ Group
Green roofs provide numerous benefits, including economic returns, cleaner, cooler air and reduced noise.
Ishvinder Kaur, Founding Principal, ivp Partners