Future Facades: Designs, Technologies & Materials

By: | March 25 , 2020

Buildings, as the largest users of energy, are also our greatest opportunity for energy conservation and protection of the environment. The rapidly growing energy needs have raised global concerns over continued depletion of energy resources and their negative impact on the environment. The façade is one of the most significant contributors to the energy conservation and comfort parameters of any building. Strategies and technologies that allow us to maintain our satisfaction with the interior environment while consuming fewer of the resources have always been the major objectives for contemporary façade design. A well designed façade can effectively control the physical environmental factors such as heat, light and sound, thus improve the occupant comfort within a building. The location and climate are crucial factors in selecting appropriate façade materials and deciding on the design strategies for sustainable facades. The cover story of this edition focuses on the various approaches for designing sustainable facades for the future, which are high performing, comfortable, safe, at the same time aesthetic. It also discusses emerging façade technologies, and advanced, smart materials for facades, describing their properties and applications.

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Ar. Sunil Patil
Ar. Sunil Patil, Founder,
Sunil Patil & Associates

Architecture is a great responsibility to strike the right balance between human aspirations and our ecosystem, says Ar. Sunil Patil, Founder, Sunil Patil & Associates. Today, the growing aspirations of the mankind and the random use of the natural resources of the earth has posed a great threat not only to the environment but also to the planet itself. Hence any development on the earth has to be carried out cautiously. Environmental sustainability is of paramount importance. Eco-friendly and sustainable architecture is not a fashionable design concept anymore, but it is the only way to deal with architecture today.

The architectural façade, an inevitable part of any building, has long been a compelling focus of interest for building physicists and designers combining attributes of both appearance and performance in a holistic manner. Façades, as building envelope, form the outer skins of buildings as a projected image and creative intent. Increasingly, they are also understood as important environmental moderators. A thoughtfully designed skin can make a new building work more effectively for its owners, occupants and environment. It can also transform the performance of an existing building.

Kirtisagar Bollar
Kirtisagar Bollar, Associate
Architect, Architect Hafeez

Façade today has evolved from a skin around the building to an element which needs to have a soul, a purpose and a reason to be there, observes Kirtisagar Bollar, Associate Architect, Architect Hafeez Contractor. Today projects demand a significantly larger chunk of design and planning around facades.

Ninad Tipnis
Ninad Tipnis, Founder & Prin-
cipal Architect, JTCPL Designs

It is a common knowledge in the industry, observes Ninad Tipnis, Founder & Principal Architect, JTCPL Designs, that the facade of any structure is often considered the most important aspect from a design POV, as it lays the groundwork for the rest of the building. As far as the engineering front goes, the facade is also of great importance due to its environmental impact.

Rishi Raj Khare
Rishi Raj Khare, Principal
Architect, Inspire Design

Rishi Raj Khare, Principal Architect, Inspire Design, notes that novel facade technologies, showcasing new patterns and designs which are more visual, are evolving constantly in order to create greener healthier eco-friendly places for users. He adds that the builder’s expectations are sky rocketing and designers is a very challenging job. According to him, the target of the designer has always been to deliver more scalable designs with commercial appeal, at the same they should be cost effective and perceived as an investment.

Adani ‘INSPIRE BKC’ by Architect Hafeez Contractor

Hiten Sethi
Hiten Sethi, Founder and
Principal Designer of Hiten
Sethi Associates

Ar. Hiten Sethi, Founder and Principal Designer of Hiten Sethi Associates (HSA) adds that the whole building performance approach should be used towards achieving the efficiency in order to find the most cost effective solution. The envelope of a building is a very critical component for evaluating the efficiency and lifecycle of the building. Façade has an impact on the interior spaces as well as on external neighbourhood.

Ashish K Jain
Ashish K Jain, Partner-
AEON Integrated Building
Design Consultant

Technology has gradually emerged in recent decade, driven largely by the pursuit of transparency in the building façade among international building designers, says Ashish K Jain, Partner, AEON Integrated Building Design Consultant LLP. The façade is also the focal point of energy efficiency in a building design because it works as the first frontier to face the intense heat and a major source of heat ingress into the buildings. As an enclosing building component, it connects or separates the interior and the exterior. All components of the building façade, therefore, need to work together to regulate the indoor environment, responding to heating, cooling, ventilation, and natural lighting needs. It must balance requirements for ventilation and daylight while providing thermal protection appropriate to the local climatic conditions. The optimally designed building façade is an important factor not only for achieving the energy efficiency, but also the human comfort for which the buildings are actually designed. Agreeing to this, Ar. Bollar adds that the design community today has moved ahead from creating fancy looking non-functional facades to more climate and context responsive ones which are much more sensitive than it has even been.

Amit Bhat
Amit Bhat,Principal Archi-
tect, AB Architects
Hans Brouwer
Hans Brouwer, Founder,
HB Design

The main challenge with building performance in the tropical and subtropical environments is how to minimise heat gain, observes Hans Brouwer, Founder, HB Design. According to Amit Bhat (Principal Architect, AB Architects), “Efficient, Adaptive & Scalable” these are the terms which will define the future of facade systems in India. For gaining maximum benefits of natural resources with maintaining comfort of user inside a building, facade and fenestration will always play an important role.

Indrajit Kembhavi
Indrajit Kembhavi, Managing
Partner, Kembhavi Architects

The façade design is transiting from staid static to responsive dynamic, remarks Indrajit Kembhavi, Principal Architect, Kembhavi Architects. Cutting edge technological advancement is leading to the generation of façade design that is responsive to environment changing dynamically with weather and seasons, aligning with nature, nurturing a green ambient environment and is constantly evolving. In addition to being sustainable, these emerging technologies are instruments of visual drama that is again non constant, but presenting it differently creating a play in the skyline, he adds.

Like Kembhavi, Gautam Bhasin, Regional Manager – Inhabit Group, India says that technology for the last few generations of building facades has been focused on conserving energy, improving aesthetics while enhancing comfort.

Gautam Bhasin
Gautam Bhasin, Regional Man-
ager – Inhabit Group, India

A building façade can have both positive and negative effects on work performance, adds Ashish K Jain. Negative effects are associated with discomforts, distractions or health risks that interfere with peoples’ ability to do their work, whereas positive impacts are associated with enhancing work performance, psychosocial well-being, and health to enhance the overall performance.

VVIP Circuit House by Sunil Patil, Sunil Patil Associates

Let’s have a look at the parameters for responsible and effective facades:

Design and Engineering

Most of the times facades we see are output by placing some components externally, after designing the whole building. According to Amit Bhat, whatever type of building we may design, envelope of these should be a product of consideration of climate, function, surroundings and most importantly planning aspects of that building.

“Climate Responsive Architecture” is the key to achieve sustainable architecture, points out Ar. Patil. It has been proven for decades in our traditional buildings as well. The building envelope has to be designed to suit the climate to achieve the thermal and visual comfort of the space. India, being a tropical country, has ‘hot dry’ and ‘hot humid’ climate in most of the regions. Hence the real challenge is to deal with harsh radiation from the south and west at the same time allowing natural ventilation. Every facade needs to be treated differently as per the climatic conditions.

Taken to its ultimate development, an interactive facade should respond intelligently and reliably to the changing outdoor conditions and internal performance needs. It should exploit available natural energies for lighting, heating and ventilation, should be able to provide large energy savings compared to conventional technologies.

Design for ONGC by Architect Hafeez Contractor

A project for KBS Creations by JTCPL Designs

According to Bhasin, the next evolution of facades will be expected to be more responsible towards the energy it consumes – both while manufacturing and across its installed design life. Facades could even feed energy back to the grid to reduce the burden of peak loads on the sources of power generation.

Building Materials
Building materials make or break any project. Continuous innovations in building materials towards performance and efficiency help to reduce carbon footprint; e.g.

  1. High-strength hollow block masonry units using natural mineral-based geopolymers help in reducing the load on the building at the same time give a better thermal performance.
  2. Light, responsive façade that ‘breathes’. This façade is made up of series of faceted fiberglass rosettes, which open and close in response to the temperature of the façade thereby avoiding excess of heat to come inside the building.
  3. Double screen façade made from special tiles that can clean the air around it. UV light activated free radicals from the tiles destroy any existing pollutants from the air leaving it cleaner for the people inside the building.

Design for a residential project by Inspire Design

Residence for Gaurav Agarwal by Inspire Design

Ar. Patil reiterates the need for reinventing the vernacular ethos of traditional buildings. “We have been using stone jalis in our traditional building facades which can be derived in the form of metal louvers or fins in a contemporary style todays facades. This can be pursued further by creating dynamic facades using modern technology, which will transform itself in response to the changing sun positions, lighting conditions and the functional requirements,” he adds.

Glazed Facades: Why & How

Man needs natural light to survive and the glass makes it possible to allow light into the interior. Towards the end of the 20th century, glazing became the ideal design solution. Early 21st century saw the growing interest in highly glazed building facades, driven by a variety of architectural, aesthetic, business and environmental rationales. Today, the highly glazed facade has become an indispensable component of a ‘green building’, and building designers and owners have dependably been intrigued by the broad utilisation of glass in building envelopes. But many of these buildings are with profoundly reflective glazings or utilise exceedingly transmissive glass and come across serious internal comfort issues that could only be overcome with extensive HVAC systems, resulting in significant energy, cost and environmental penalties.

Glass, in its present form is not very safe (unless it is processed and tempered or laminated), says Rajeev Trehan, Senior Associate, Architect Hafeez Contractor. It has to ultimately evolve into a safer building material. Major issue with glass is safety and excessive heat gain. At present, the research on production of more efficient and safe glass is at a very basic stage. As we move on, we hope that the research would result in high performance, energy generating glass which is inherently very safe as a construction material, adds Trehan.

Demand for more efficient, responsive facades lead to the replacement of conventional glazing by a new generation of high performance, intelligent facade systems that meet the comfort and performance needs of occupants while satisfying owner economic needs and broader societal environmental concerns. Products such as heat absorbing glass, reflective glass and double glazing glass emerged.

Experts tried to optimise the use of these products and to come-up with an ideal, static design solution to make the facade more responsive. Thus more sophisticated design approaches and technologies have emerged using new high-performance glazing, improved shading and solar control systems, greater use of automated controls, and integration with other building systems. Another relatively new architectural development is the facade that can provide improved acoustics, better solar control and enhanced ventilation.

Window Wall Ratio

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