Facade design rides the wave of technological updates
The focus is on eye-catching options that simultaneously improve the building envelope performance
Important exterior elements that impact the functionality and internal comfort of a building are its envelope or skin and the way the openings – windows and doors – are orchestrated. While the façade helps to define the unique architectural aesthetics of the building, it also plays the critical role related to energy performance and the interior function of a building. Fenestration, too, affects the energy efficiency of a built-form, besides impacting thermal and visual comfort. As technology continues to improve, different options that are also eye-catching are available for both.
Facing the heat
One of the biggest challenges for a tropical climate such as India’s, is to keep the heat from entering the building. Prashanth Reddy, managing director, FunderMax India, states: “It is important to use the right façade system for optimising temperature levels inside a building. The primary objective is to keep the heat at bay. This can be achieved by using façade systems made of materials with low U values.”
Clay has been used in architecture since the early 1800s and, in its unglazed form, eventually became fashionable as a versatile construction material with superior aesthetics and cost-effectiveness. Terracotta is a glazed or unglazed ceramic resulting from the fired clay and has a porous body. Unglazed terracotta went out of fashion from around the 1890s, giving way to modern-day glazed terracotta which does not attract grime and is easy to clean – thus giving way to a more colourful architecture.
Monnanda Appaiah, managing director, Wienerberger India, believes that for the Indian climatic conditions, the most ideal cladding material would be clay. “While both clay façade tiles and fibre cement panels work for us as they can withstand tropical climatic conditions, clay façade tiles, particularly, can enhance thermal and sound insulation. Also, the ventilated installation systems act as a second skin, like a rain screen and sun screen to the building.”
Aluminium is one material that has enjoyed increasing popularity when it comes to external cladding, owing to the unique shaping that is possible – unlike steel. Piyush Srivastava, national façade manager, Schueco, says, “The aluminium façade has been specifically developed to meet the requirements of markets with tropical climate like ours, which makes it perfect in regions with high wind loads and torrential rain. We recommend Schueco SC 50.NI aluminium façade system, as it provides a versatile mullion/transom construction that combines flexibility and efficient fabrication with stylish design…”
High levels of humidity and solar radiations add their bit to what façades have to battle – and changing climatic conditions and pollution make the situation worse. Non-porous, exterior-grade porcelain slabs, such as Lioli Ceramica’s TechnoSLAB, which are fired at 1,200oC, look like a promising solution.
Vikas Kesarkar, chief executive officer, Lioli Ceramica, observes, “India, especially many of our urban regions, experiences hot weather throughout the year. Contemporary architecture is popularising the use of ultra large format porcelain slabs in façade applications. Being durable and light in weight, the slabs can be installed with utmost ease. Being less porous makes them resistant to moisture and heat as well as keeps them stain free – lowering the maintenance needs and increasing sustainability.”
Amit Shah, managing director, Classic Marble Company, too, highlights the positive aspects of this cladding material – which is now being produced, thanks to technology, as large single units that are light and ergonomic. “The function of a façade is to protect a building from external conditions that affect a structure, thereby increasing its lifespan and reducing maintenance. With high resistance to water, dust and heat, porcelain tiles address the most common issues associated with tropical weather and are the best solution for façade installations,” he says. “Besides this, the products are totally fire resistant, nonflammable and UV resistant.”
Open and shut cases
Doors and windows are an important part of façades and have to be chosen carefully with regard to the climate. Parul Mittal, director, Greenlam Industries, feels, “India is home to a variety of climatic regions, and it is hard to choose doors and windows that are durable and will last long in a variety of weather conditions. Houses built in a tropical climate require doors which can resist high temperature.” Keeping this in mind, installing products that are capable of withstanding these kinds of onslaught seems wise. A frontrunner in this segment are Dura doorsets from Greenlam Industries’ Mikasa brand. “The Dura doorset is a function of five layers of tubular core and a 6-side protection that shields the doors from the hostile weather and makes them apt for both, residential and commercial ecosystems,” elucidates Mittal.
While India may be blessed with abundant natural light throughout the year, most of it is wasted because buildings, especially tall structures , are exposed to glare issues due to excessive light. Furthermore, studies have shown that productivity of people in our country is affected due to poor conditions of visual comfort. Dr.Reddy explains, “Tall buildings are exposed to climatic extremities and, hence, designing a façade for taller structures is a relatively challenging task. It involves detailed structural calculations revolving around the wind load requirement. This is also to help withstand the current spate of floods and cyclones. Ignorance or wrong calculations may lead to weak installations, thereby running the risk of damage and injury. The ideal façade system in tall buildings must be able to accommodate building movements, and they should have a hard surface for high-impact resistance. Additionally, the smog and silica particles may cause visual defects and, hence, the material should also have anti-graffiti properties.”
Porcelain comes into play in the case of tall structures, too, owing to its light weight and a host of attractive features that include ease of maintenance and installation. Kesarkar explains, “TechnoSLAB is installed with cladding systems that leave a gap of approximately six to eight inches in between the product and the building. This limits the heat directly transferred to the building – which helps in keeping it relatively cooler, saving energy and electricity costs.”
Shah brings into the discussion the issue of wind pressure and tall buildings, and points to porcelain as the material of choice. “The taller the building, the higher the pressure of wind acting on it. Porcelain tiles with a degree of elasticity can absorb this pressure without getting damaged.” The intensity of heat increases with height, so the tile needs to refract as much light as possible and not absorb heat. The lesser the heat transferred into the building, the more efficient its air-conditioning will be – translating to lower costs and electricity saving.
Form and Function
The revolutionary rear ventilated façade system from FunderMax maintains a gap between the building envelope and cladding, and between cladding elements. This ensures there is sufficient flow of air behind the cladding. In other words, when the building gets heated, the hot air between the cladding and building envelope rises to the top and escapes, and cold air from the bottom flows in to occupy its space. “This way, there is continuous air movement and the building is able to sustain a comfortable temperature. It helps in reducing power consumption due to air conditioners and improves the thermal comfort of the occupants. This unique and innovative façade system by FunderMax is a sustainable model and is compliant with green building technologies,” says Dr.Reddy.
When it comes to aesthetics, the Schueco Façade UCC 65 SG (Unitised Customised Construction) is a flexible and powerful modular system for unitised façades. “This product combines the high-quality appearance of an all-glass façade with the efficient construction of a high-performance unitised façade,” explains Srivastava . “The façade looks impressive on the outside with an expansive all-glass appearance. On the inside, its design is that of a unitised façade with narrow face widths of only 65mm.”
In the case of doors, Mikasa’s fire-rated doors and frames provide a safe exit in case of fire emergency by preventing the spread of fire and smoke. “It’s an integrated fire protection system – a fire door panel, with frame and fixtures – which complies with BS476 Part22 certified by Exova BM TRADA, UK, and is available in fire ratings of FD30 and FD60 and in thicknesses of 44mm and 54mm respectively,” says Mittal.
Environment friendly is a subjective term that encompasses the entire lifecycle of a product – starting with the raw material, whether from sustainable sources and whether it has any adverse effect on the environment. “FunderMax products are derived from paper, from sustainably managed forests that are FSC or PEFC certified,” informs Dr.Reddy. “There are no harmful VOCs that are released from the panels during its use, thus making it perfect for use as interiors also. Proper choice of reflectance properties also ensures that the heat island effect is mitigated in the areas surrounding the building. It is a minimum maintenance material and, hence, requires less water for cleaning. This reduces the strain on water bodies around us.”
Classic Marble Company’s Kalesinterflex is design-friendly as well as environment-friendly. The production process has lower carbon emissions than conventional tiles production (by a thousand times), and the tiles themselves are made from natural raw materials. “The products are GREENGUARD certified. In the case of tall buildings, taking all the factors into consideration, we recommend Kalesinterflex as the most suitable and environment-friendly choice,” says Shah.
With a 360° sustainability approach, Schueco offers aluminium window and façade systems for economical and future-proof buildings that conserve resources, along with necessary technical documentation and certification. “For us, it is important to use materials with great potential for recycling, such as aluminium. So, the ultimate goal is to reduce the extent of pollution of the environment. The reduction of CO2 emissions is another very important requirement that must be considered in the construction field,” states Srivastava.
Greenlam Industries also takes being green seriously, and constantly works towards saving and preserving nature. “The raw material used to make the products are sourced ethically from all over the world; the technology used for making the products is environment-friendly; and the waste from the products is fully recyclable – which guarantees minimal carbon footprint,” informs Mittal.
Several factors drive product development in the façades and fenestration industries – climate, ecology, ease of use… which has created solutions that ensure comfort on both, individual and ecological levels.