Facades – Defining a Building’s Personality

By: Marina Kindelan

Date Published: September 8, 2022

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You never get a second chance to make a first good impression

In the context of building design, the façade is a bit like the “outfit or dress” of the structure. Together with the actual shape and massing of the building, the façade helps define the building personality, its “signature” on the skyline.

Similar to an outfit, the building façade isn’t just an aesthetic choice, it has other jobs to do. A building is a “system of systems”, and the façade is the single most important system. In addition to making the building look good, the façade is:

  • The physical separation, the “skin”, between the unconditioned exterior and conditioned interior of a building
  • A regulator of infiltration, exfiltration and building pressurization
  • A regulator of natural light, noise, and energy

Assuming an aesthetically pleasing design can be developed, how do we ensure the most important and consequential building system, the façade, is designed for high performance?

This is my façade design project check list:

  • Define Objectives & Understand Constraints
  • Materials & Design Tools Selection
  • Façade Design Optimisation Check List

Define Objectives & Understand Constraints

  1. It is key to determine the climatic or weather challenges that the façade will need to withstand to maintain the required conditions inside the building.
  2. Discuss and agree with the client the target service life of the building and façade.
  3. Discuss and agree with the client the target energy performance of the building. Yes, facades have a huge impact on the building energy profile.
  4. Discuss and agree with the client the target IEQ performance of the building. Yes, facades impact building pressurisation and can be integrated with other building systems to enhance IEQ and IAQ.
  5. Define and specify façade performance in the context of the carbon footprint. Look for balance between operational and embodied carbon.
  6. Discuss and agree with the client about specifying building envelope commissioning (BECx) to ensure that design intentions are achieved and validated.
  7. Assess the proposed site and adjacent structures for limitations on building orientation, materials and potential use of biophilic and biomimicry techniques during design.

Materials & Design Tools Selection

  1. List materials options that respond best to the climatic conditions, rather than trying to modify them to meet the required performance. Like layers of summer clothing for use in winter rather than actual winter clothing, facades require appropriate materials for actual climatic conditions.
  2. List materials that best protect from direct solar radiation. This is crucial in hot climates.
  3. Consider use of parametric design tools at early stages of the design to optimise design outcomes.
  4. Consider use of energy modelling tools at early stages of design to optimise design outcomes.
  5. Understand facades system / materials limitation and opportunities. Use these parameters as a tool not a limitation.

Façade Design Optimisation Check List

This is a game of “optimisation” i.e., how can we deliver the highest performance façade design whilst respecting project objectives and constraints.

Another key design concept is “design for persistence of performance” i.e., simplicity in systems design plus passive solutions where possible, delivers the most predictable performance. It should always be remembered that facade design and performance has a huge impact on the resulting size of the cooling and heating systems. In simplistic terms:

Failure to consider all the above parameters during the early design stage, may result in having to add elements at later stages that diverge from the architectural intent. This can result in:

  • Specifying additional materials to overcome energy losses generated by a sub-optimal design
  • Cost and schedule growth
  • Unnecessary additional embodied carbon

Once a good first impression of an aesthetically pleasing facade design is met, functional performance of the facade is vital to the long term performance of the building and the comfort of the people who will use it every day. Function matters just as much as aesthetics!

How can AESG help?

AESG is a specialist consultancy, engineering and advisory firm headquartered in London, Dubai, Riyadh and Singapore working on projects throughout Europe, Asia and Middle East. We pride ourselves as industry leaders in each of the services that we offer.

We have one of the largest dedicated teams with decades of cumulative experience in sustainable design, fire and life safety, façade engineering, building commissioning & digital asset management, waste management, environmental consultancy, strategy and advisory, acoustics, and carbon management.

Marina Kindelan

Associate Facades Director, Dubai

Marina is AESG’s Associate Façades Director. She has Master’s Degree in Architecture with a focus in Sustainable Facades. Since joining the firm in 2017, she has been involved in a varied range of projects such as the writing of thermal insulation guidelines, a residential development with a GFA of 300,000 sqm. In Abu Dhabi or a 5-star hotel in Dubai. She has over 10 years of professional experience in various countries such as Korea, UK, UAE, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

She is involved from the early stages streamlining the façade design process through solid management skills and design flair to tender documentation. She possesses a solid background in façade systems, detailing and materials across these different countries. Her expertise also lies in parametric optimisation, daylight optimisation and glare analysis, façade access strategy, façade design consultancy and thermal analysis. Some of the noteworthy projects she has worked on include the CIEL Tower which upon completion will be the world tallest hotel, she has also worked on the Masdar City project which is a mixed-use sustainable community.

Marina has played a key role in expanding the Facades Division at AESG in the Middle East. She currently manages a multidisciplinary team of façade engineers, façade designers, façade access consultants, façade engineers and CAD/BIM Specialists. Marina has authored several industry white papers and has been invited as speaker for several international forums/conferences. She is passionate about furthering the importance of sustainable, efficient and resilient facades and is also guest faculty at the Polytechnic University of Madrid.

For further information relating to specialist consultancy engineering services, feel free to contact us directly via info@aesg.com