Challenges Faced During High Rise Facade Construction

By: | September 13 , 2022

The race for high rise buildings began in the nineteenth century in New York and Chicago, as demand for land far outstripped supply. As engineers continued to make breakthroughs in construction methods and technology, the race for making taller buildings never stopped.

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High rise construction has become shorthand for ambition, success, prosperity and technical achievement. Cities that have built high rise buildings have their own recognized silhouette, whereas other cities are seeking to create their own iconic skylines with a startling range of ever taller, more daring structures.

Along with the height of a building, the risks associated with its construction have also grown manifold. These risks can be categorized into five key components: the groundwork, the frame, the cladding, the mechanical and electrical systems and the lifts. To mitigate these risks, a rigorous command over logistics is required.

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Out of these five key components, the façade is by far the most significant. As the primary barrier between the occupants and the elements, the façade system must be strong, fire, water, and wind proof and energy efficient to support a LEED, BREEAM or Green Star rating, all on top of looking good and unique.

However, façade system setup in a high rise building poses a lot of challenges. The main issues that must be addressed relate to the logistical problems faced while installing the façade system and the stability of the façade system under trying conditions.

High Rise Facade Design
High Rise Facade Design

One of the ways to offset the logistical issues is through the implementation of a Unitized façade system. Unitized façade installation systems entail serial production and factory fabrication, and assembly of panels. These completed units are then hung on the building structure to form the building enclosure. This permits rapid and economical implementation for buildings of any size, whilst simultaneously enabling creative diversity and a delicate appearance.

The Unitized system is the most cost effective, high quality and quick installation exterior façade system available. A Unitized HPL system comprises of HPL panels mounted onto a prefabricated aluminium frame. Most of the system components are assembled in a plant under controlled working conditions. This promotes quality assembly and allows for fabrication lead-time and rapid closure of the building.

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The Unitized system is assembled on the building as panels. The panels are installed in single fashion, starting either from the bottom or top of the building and going around each floor until the whole building is dressed up.

The Unitized system offers many advantages with respect to quality assembly and speed up the site construction time. By design, the system allows for waste reduction in the building process: façade installation is decoupled, and can thus progress separately from other trades’ work, while itself proceeding in a continuous flow process.

High Rise Facade
Jain Heights, Bangalore, India

Various kinds of waste are reduced, for example:

  • Inventory: No on-floor staging will be needed since façade elements are transported via the system directly to the elements’ installation positions or to their dedicated staging area, thereby not affecting space on the ground or inside the building.
  • Transportation: On-site transport will be minimized by lifting the façade elements directly from the truck onto the system and forwarding them to their installation positions, without any interim on-floor staging. This avoids internal transportation.
  • Waiting: Installing the façade system independently of the site crane and hoist, and freeing up floor space area for others, reduces the waiting time for the façade installers and for other contractors.
  • Defects: Risks of damaging the façade elements will be reduced given that no onground or on-floor staging is necessary and that there is full control over on-site transports using fully integrated equipment.
  • Motion: The system will have equipment that handles the material flow through the whole process; from factory to installation point. Thereby, contractors will not be subject to unnecessary handling or reliance on potentially unsuitable lifts.

All exterior walls, of whatever materials, are subject to, and must withstand the ravaging effects of nature. These nature forces are sunlight, temperature, water, wind and gravity. All of them must be considered, and their effects provided for, in all locations. They may act upon the wall either individually or more often in combination, but to understand their impact on design requirements the effects of each should be separately examined. The façade system must prove itself to be extremely stable to all external conditions faced by high rise buildings.


Exterior walls made of any material must withstand the ravaging effects of nature

For overall façade design using a Unitized façade system the following general parameters should be considered:

  • Architectural requirements/restrictions
  • Thermal performance to be achieved (U-value,g-value, layer temperatures)
  • Flexibility (adjustable performance)
  • Interaction strategy with HVAC systems(extract rate, natural ventilation)

Apart from these parameters of a more general nature, the following more specific parameters have significant impact on possible design and, therefore, façade performance:

  • Loads
  • Maintenance (interior or exterior)
  • Investment vs. running costs (integrated view)

For high rise buildings in particular, the wind load plays a significant role in dictating the structural strength and in determining the thickness of the cladding material and the support structures used. All of these parameters must be considered and their impact calculated prior to the fabrication of panels in a Unitized system. Before using any specific cladding material, a thorough testing must be done as per the ASTM standards. All of these requirements and strict quality norms have led to technological innovations including the introduction of new cladding materials for building high rises. Compact Laminates is one such material that can withstand the external load pressures and provide adequate thermal performance due to its sustainable and robust properties while at the same time maintaining the aesthetic look of the building.

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Wind load plays a significant role in dictating the structural strength

Designing a façade system today encompasses structural engineering, building physics, materials science, weatherproofing technology, architectural detailing, production engineering, construction management and buildability. The façade also accounts for a significant proportion of project costs, so the engineer’s role is to balance visual and performance requirements to create an economically viable solution that can be built safely. High-rise façades are becoming even more complicated as architects abandon the glass box in favour of ambitious multifaceted forms.

Engineering high-rise buildings is half art, half science – an artful application of science empowered by experience. If done correctly by mitigating the risks involved at every stage, it gives you an enjoyment that you may not have in other fields of endeavour – you can see the results.

Another tall residential project with FunderMax exterior
Compact Laminates can withstand the external load pressures & provide adequate thermal performance

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