The façade industry is facing a crucial moment, as many other industries and in particular, the construction industry is in the middle of a very convulse time, affected by either global and local economic situation, pandemic or other different factors. In this article we are going through these factors and the way the façade industry is taking to overcome them.
This year has been a quite peculiar one due to the COVID world pandemic that had affected seriously all the industries, however the construction and façade in particular has reacted very fast and adopted the required safety measures and embraced the new communication possibilities such as video calls and internet presentations, by the use of the actually available tools a good level of coordination has been maintained between the different stake holders making possible the progress of the projects.
Apart from the stationary challenges, the façade industry is affected by some other functional and structural challenges that defy the façade industry capacity to adapt. The origin of the actual challenges for the façade is diverse and interrelated, some of them come from the economic situation, some others come from the environment and climate condition and also from the design intent itself.
Time and Cost
Façade industry as any other industry is subjected to the time and cost constraints, projects have to be executed at the establish time and in the foreseen budget, this is a primary condition, no business is sustainable without complying with this. The actual trend is going on the way of cost and time reduction and the façade is not immune to it. The façade in its role of the building envelope is the one of the most visual part of a building and its appearance gives already a very powerful impression of the building, this has a direct implication of the investment return of the project.
This time and cost constrain is sometimes leading to the use of less quality materials and reduce of the installation quality. To overcome to this challenge, the façade industry has several ways to tackle, time constraints can be overcome by the correct planning of the project or by adopting façade solutions that reduce the installation time that normally is the leading factor. Cost constrains shall be considered at the early stages of the project, during the design stage all the materials need to select to avoid problems of cost in the future. Early coordination and technology integration are key tools to embrace this challenge.
Sustainability must be a goal for all the industries, for the façade as separating element between the interior of the building and the external weather conditions (sun, rain, wind…) the sustainability is part of its DNA, as we all are aware of the climate changes the façade has an essential role on the fight against it, from more efficient façade to reduce the building energy consumption to energy producing façades, we have the technology and all this possibilities need to be presented to the Architects and Developers beyond the established regulations, the aim for Net Zero buildings should be the standard to follow.
Façade industry can actively collaborate on this achievement, starting from the design intent of the building, shading or building orientation, to the sourcing of materials by increasing the percentage of recycled materials, some typical façade material such aluminum profiles are obtained by very energetic process instead of recycling, local source of materials to reduce the carbon footprint, use of more efficient glazing or low conductivity materials like GPR profiles.
These are some of the passive measures that can be considered, in the other hand there are also active measures focused on the obtain of clean energy from the façade itself, technologies such as the BIPV (Building Integrated Photovoltaic), recent solutions include the use of biomass as source of power and heat integrated on the façade (Algae Bio-reactive façade). The use of electrochromic glass or active shading elements are also well known on the market.
Complex geometry façades are other of the actual challenges to the façade industry, with the surge of 3D and parametric design software the complexity of the buildings’ design and the façades has increased rapidly, the façade industry need to be prepared and be able to follow the market requirement, use of 3D and BIM software are some of the tools that the façade industry need to use generally to provide the proper solutions to a more demanding market.
The use of new materials is in close relation with the increasing façade complexity, the use of composite materials such as GRP, GRC or UHPC is giving to the architects a much bigger freedom on the design of the buildings including the façade, the list of newer materials is large depending of the desired appearance, form metallic to stone, from wood to plastic, these materials are giving the possibility of explore all kind of shapes and dimensions of façade elements not possible before, is crucial for the façade industry to be aware of all the available materials and their design possibilities to be able of incorporate them into an efficient façade design.
In summary, façade industry needs to be at the state of the art of the following factors to be able to provide the solutions that the construction market and the society is demanding:
- Knowledge: Façade industry needs to invest in research to answer to the developers and architects demands
- Technology: Façade industry need to be at the latest design and fabrication technologies and materials to provide optimised solutions
- Commitment: Façade industry need to be engaged the sustainability goals and provide greener solutions