The façade is an important part of the superstructure. Known as “facciata” in Italian, it is the exterior faces of the building which usually draw the attention of passersby. Since it adds character and personality to the overall design, it helps mold a structure’s architectural identity. Its design elements and articulated form are those that stick to the memory. However, the changing times seek to upgrade its value into something more purposeful. 

As architectural style progresses so are the façade systems. These systems comprise structural elements that ensure a firm structure. It produces a building envelope that shields against external factors with consideration to natural ventilation and acoustic insulation. It aims to reduce energy consumption while offering comfort and productivity to the users.

The advances in Science and Technology do not only enable new building facades that give a secure environment but one that adds life to the architecture as well – as if soul to a new creation.  

Innovative Materials

Most façade systems in the modern day usually use stainless steel. It is best applied in modern architecture giving a polished and expensive finish touch to the design. One of its advantages is that it’s easy to install on any façade – saving time and energy. Since it is resistant to corrosion, it lasts longer than any other material. It is easy to reuse and can be recycled once deemed necessary for a particular project. A few other innovative materials used in the industry include aluminium, copper, zinc, titanium, and steel alone. The market produces more innovative façade materials using steel such as profiled sheets and composite (sandwich) panels, cassette panels with folded edges, light steel infill walls, hollow steel sections, stainless steel, and glazing support systems (Facilitator, 2021).

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The Smile by Bjarke Ingles use of stainless steel façade system _©www.thesmile.com
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The Hans Rosling Center’s glass and aluminum fins _©The Architect’s Newspaper

Curtain walling is another promising façade system used to create an elegant finish with the use of a metallic lightweight or glazed cladding system. This technology is directly supported by a structural frame. Curtain wall systems are prefabricated and can be assembled on-site.  This technology gives a sleek appearance that adds character to the design while maximizing new vistas. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but it also slows down the spread of fire, especially in high-rise establishments.

Glass Curtain Walls _©nvision glass.com

Another cost-effective choice of material is the use of Aluminum Composite Panels (ACP). It is widely used in the construction industry due to the advantages it possesses. It is lightweight, easy to install, strong, and durable. Since it is corrosion-free, it has high resistance to acid, alkalis, and salts. Also, it is colourfast and requires less maintenance than the usual use of paint. Architects and owners alike have a variety of colours and designs to choose from. This material has high resistance to harsh elements and is considered safer to use. It is commonly used in commercial establishments.

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Aluminum Composite Panel Facade _©Modern Façade Systems

The use of precast architectural panels is also an innovation in the practice. Since the materials are prefabricated and assembled on-site, it also makes the work faster and maintains uniformity. It allows thinner external wall construction allowing a larger lettable floor area and is a very good investment, especially for condominiums, hotels, and similar projects. 

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Precast Concrete Facade _©MPA Precast

Shading Device

The panel frame façade is a new addition to the façade system in recent times. This type of façade is characterized by mullions framed on the vertical edges and transoms occupying the horizontal. This combination of mullions and transoms is strategically placed to prevent cold bridging and prevent condensation. It also serves to break sunlight penetration, hence minimizing heat distribution suited in a tropical environment. These structural shapes are cheaper to manufacture in large quantities (Facilitator, 2021).

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Industrialized Panel Frame Facade_©Stonesize

Unique Systems

Clay facades are not just a trend but also sustainable in one way or another. Made from terracotta, this material can be cladded on the exterior faces of the building – projecting an interesting contrast between modern and traditional styles. It can last a long period and is more durable as compared to paint which deteriorates faster. 

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Clay-Terracotta Façade Panel_©Archello

A combination of steel and glass is a new technique used in multi-story buildings. The glass panels are securely installed and supported by separate vertical steel elements. This innovation maximizes the vista view without compromising the strength of the material. Stainless and hollow steel is usually used as sections and in combination with glass (Facilitator, 2021).

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Glass panels supported by Steel Façade System_©MT Copeland

A solar shading façade is a form of shading device that help eliminates direct sunlight to keep a space temperate. It harnesses solar energy to its photovoltaic cells that convert a few to electricity hence creating a significant impact on the energy use of the building. It reduces energy costs by providing glare-free natural light. Solar shading minimizes the use of artificial lighting during the daytime. In addition, it considers passive design strategies that diminish the use of air conditioning or similar cooling devices. This strategy can be applied to Brise Soleil or sun breakers. 

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Solar Shading Façade System_©Pinterest

Another unique material available in the market is the homeostatic façade system. It is a self-regulating façade system designed to suit changing exterior environments and functions concerning natural principles. The system is composed of an engineered ribbon inserted into a double-skin glass façade. (MaterialDistrict, n.d.). Made from dielectric elastomers, it helps the façade regulate the temperature inside the building by distributing electrical charge across the material – as if contracting muscles. As a huge advantage, it regulates specific solar control in the façade and it also automatically functions. 

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Homeostatic Façade System_©Material District

Lastly, the use of a self-cleaning façade system is a promising one. The name itself speaks one of its main and distinct characteristics. It has photocatalytic coatings containing titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles which allow it to organically cleanse. This material is also applied and treated on concrete, stone, glass, and ceramics, as textiles, wood, stainless steel, aluminium, and plastic (Facilitator, 2021).

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Bios Self Cleaning Ceramics_©BigSEE

Colour Technology

The use of colour ultimately transforms the whole architecture into one that is relatable. It helps set the mood of a project. Today, new eco-friendly colour technology for fibre cement façade is already available. The coloured fibre cement is made with minerals and mixed with mainly local resources.  These panels are produced in various coloured versions which perform well. Since it of quality product, its high performance also lasts longer allowing for a functional and attractive design suited for modern times. 

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A perspective of a colored fiber cement facade_©CanWel Building

Materials

There are many emerging innovations related to the façade system. And more will be introduced as society progresses. The façade may just be a portion of the structure, but the appropriate use of material helps narrate an abstract story translated into reality. It is important to pay attention to the real motive of a project to apply the best design strategy for it. If it serves its purpose – all while reflecting the essence of its time and people – any façade system is deemed possible. 

There are many ways to rethink the future of the façade system with the advancement of science and technology. But the combination of a meticulous mind, sincerity, and dedication allows for a better creative pursuit – like a burning passion to explore and improve. And a lot more will be uncovered in the coming years. 

References:

Facilitator, C. (2021). Different types of facades for commercial buildings. [online] Constro Facilitator. Available at: https://www.constrofacilitator.com/different-types-of-facades-for-commercial-building/. [accessed 3, November 2022]

Ting, R. (2006). Functional Isolation Concept in Curtain Wall Design. Building Integration Solutions. doi:10.1061/40798(190)13 [accessed 3, November 2022]

‌Architectural Facade Solutions International. (n.d.). Stainless Steel Facade | Architectural Facade Solutions International. [online] Available at: https://architectural-facade-solutions.com/landingpage/stainless-steel-facade/. [accessed 3, November 2022].

Writer, W. (2020). The Benefits of Using Aluminum Composite Panels in Commercial Building. [online] Parklane Commercial Corporation. Available at: https://www.parklane.ph/the-benefits-of-using-aluminum-composite-panels-in-commercial-building/ [Accessed 3 Nov. 2022].

Breen, L. (2020). What is Solar Shading? A Complete Guide. [online] gb&d magazine. Available at: https://gbdmagazine.com/what-is-solar-shading/. [Accessed 3 Nov. 2022].

‌MaterialDistrict. (n.d.). Homeostatic Façade System. [online] Available at: https://materialdistrict.com/article/homeostatic-facade-system/ [Accessed 3 Nov. 2022].

Designingbuildings.co.uk. (2017). Precast concrete cladding. [online] Available at: https://www.designingbuildings.co.uk/wiki/Precast_concrete_cladding [Accessed 3 Nov. 2022].

Alexander, R. (2017). Advantages of Curtain Walls | Tom Brown Inc. [online] Tom Brown Inc. Available at: https://tombrowninc.com/blog/advantages-curtain-walls/ [Accessed 4 Nov. 2022].

Author

John Victor Gonzaga is a young architect practicing in the Philippines. He is a highly driven and motivated man especially when it comes to his creative pursuits. He enjoys exploring anything related to the abstract arts; few other interests include writing, painting, reading, music and travel.

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