Analysing the architectural skin of a building

Analysing the architectural skin of a building

Aside from aesthetics, the choice of facade systems significantly improves a structure’s environmental performance

Architectural facades, Building facades, Facade systems, External cladding systems, Curtain walls

As important as appearances are, so is functionality of every element that goes into constructing an edifice. It is imperative that each addition, including the choice of facade, ideally balances aesthetic appeal and function.

Facades no longer just shield the interiors from harsh weather conditions; they act as a status symbol too. Like most aspects of architecture, they fuse art with science, providing inspiring concepts such as interactive/moving, media, double skin and living wall facades. Such innovations bring lay people and professionals together, in appreciation of architectural skins.

The brilliance in these trends comes not merely from the visual appeal but also from clever use of technology to regulate daylight and ventilation as well as to provide privacy. Significant improvements can be noted in the understanding of building envelope — with increasing forums and exhibitions, architects and profes-sionals are putting in considerable thought in determining an architectural skin of a building.

Creative facade solutions by FunderMax (above and below).

FunderMax’s marketing head, Niraj Borikar, explains, “Facade design is a continuous process of evolution, so much so that trends are emerging in cladding design and materials as well as systems. The requirement of adherence to the strictest energy and quality parameters and norms have given rise to more robust, energy efficient, innovative and adaptable systems such as dynamic louvers, energy efficient and facades such as rear ventilated, double skin, kinetic, etc. This is also encouraging the creation of complex facades ranging from geometric shapes and aerodynamic compositions to perforated designs that turn architecture into the nerve centre of the environment.”

Adding to this, Kapil Chikodi, head of business development for Glass Wall Systems, states that some of the new system designs like double skin facade with basic window wall system on the inner and outer layers with aluminium louvers or with perforated aluminium sheet are trending across various sectors.

External cladding

Glass has been the foremost choice across the country, although bemoaned by many architects. But the understanding that glass as a complete facade solution may not be ideal, has paved the way for other trends as well.

“With India becoming the fastest growing economy in the world, there is an increase in demand not only for quantity but also quality. And facades are gaining higher importance from a design stand point, setting the tone for the rest of the structure,” comments Anuj Sangal, country head, Sales & Marketing, Laminate & CAA Business, Greenlam Industries. After glass, he says, the choices for cladding material include high pressure compact laminate, stone, cement boards, wood, metallic sheets like copper, etc.

To limit incoming solar heat in the rooms and emphasise on the elevational lines, the planners of this hospital building chose awnings and aluminum blades by Renson.

Aluminum is another material that has dominated this industry. Awanish Mishra, area sales manager, Renson, adds, “Design and aesthetics enjoy immense importance nowadays, together with sustainability — both in terms of energy-efficiency and materials used. Techniques have to fit in as subtly as possible.” Catering to this demand, Renson’s Linius and Linarte aluminium cladding systems are sleek and available in multiple colours, finishing, and also provide technical requirements such as ventilation, acoustics, etc.

High pressure compact laminate facades are gaining higher importance from a design stand point.

For a seamless look, Dupont’s Corian makes for a good exterior cladding. Its appearance can be maintained by easily sanding and cleaning the surface. Even graffiti can be removed through standard pressure wash¬ing with mildly abrasive cleaning agents. Another benefit of Corian is its ability to adapt to any challenging shape. Striking illumination features too can be added to the facade using the translucent variety. Dupont also offers low moisture absorption and resistance to stains, environmental pollutants, detergents and humidity conditions. Additionally, with Corian solid surface, there is a possibility of engraving intricate designs to exact specifications using CNC machinery, since facades are also used as an effective means of advertisement and brand imaging.

Curtain walls
After making its mark in Europe, double-wall or double-glazed operable facades are gradually garnering popularity in India for its ability to utilise natural ventilation and solar heat gain. It is made up of two layers: an outer curtain wall and an inner glass pane, with an interstitial space that provides a thermal buffer. The layers can be opened or closed depending on the time of day and season. For instance, in winter, the sun heats up the air in the interstitial space, releasing it into the building by opening the internal glazing results to receive free heating. During summer, the internal pane stays closed and the exterior glazing is opened, releasing heat outdoors and keeping interiors cool. On moderate days, both glass panes can be opened to optimise natural ventilation and minimise HVAC requirements.

Also trending are green facades that provide better air quality, noise damping and natural beauty. Living facades are low-cost and low-maintenance, and can maximise a project’s green space with a minimum-sized footprint. Architecturally designed green facades usually boast eye-catching designs, while simultaneously improving the local environment and increasing the desirability of the building. Pradeep Barpande, MD of ELT India, considers living or green facades as the buzzwords. “Buildings receive a four-fold insulation with the help of plant leaves, moist growth medium, shade and buffer space for air between wall and facade,” adds Barpande, “Among other recent innovations that provide an impetus are soil-less growth mediums and self-watering systems.” The ELT cladding system has modules, growth medium to grow plants, vegetation, and irrigation and drainage systems. Access is also necessary for the maintenance of vegetation, and provisions are to be made at the design stage.

Living facades can maximise a project’s green space with a minimum-sized footprint.

Given that maintenance is a critical aspect while selecting a facade system, Debashis Roy, VP, Kaskal Facade, sheds lights on self-cleaning facade solutions. He states, “Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is applied on both the solid walls and glazing system as it acts as a type of photo-catalyst. When exposed to sunlight, TiO2 activates its oxygen molecules to decompose germs, bacteria and organic matter. This helps reduce maintenance and cleaning requirements.”

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