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Curtain wall System: An Amazing Design Element
The curtain wall glazing system is an amazing design element and integral of modern building architecture and construction. Though from the layman point of view “it’s just glass panels stuck to the building”, however there are intensive specialist design involving several modern technologies, skills are the key drivers of any curtain wall glazing systems exists for the past several decades with buildings around the globe.
Types of Systems
There are unlimited ways the types of Curtain wall system can be classified, following illustrates the chronology of most widely used façade types.
Work Flow or Process
Like any other pre-fabrication approach, a lot of pre-planning, and workings are paramount and make several aspects much more disciplined in the workflow.
The following illustrates the key process of design and implementation.
Building envelope/building façade is the key communication of the building architecture defining the design intent and desire to achieve a particular visual appeal. Hence the architectural/visual plays a vital role in defining both macro and micro levels of details including materials, joints, etc.
Façade Engineering which deals with several different disciplines such as Structural engineers, Materials Specialists, Product Designers, Mechanical and production specialists. Façade Designers or engineers are the key communicators between architects and constructors, their job is to translate the architectural design into a building design solutions that has been engineered with a greater level of detail.
Façade engineering defines several key visible elements which have architectural impact, hence the approach of the design is architecturally driven with a balanced approach on architectural and engineering requirements. This pushes the boundary of engineering limits and often challenges to achieve the highly optimized, lightweight and simple design solutions.
Product Design & System Design
Building facades are one of most advanced among the construction sector, the industry has adopted technologies and trends of industrial designs and techniques. This has greatly helped the façade industry with the approach standard / customized design solution through product design approach rather than just a design solution. Time-tested designs and innovative solutions are boldly tried and succeeded in numerous buildings around the globe.
The concept of pre-fabrication and factory-finished approach has not only helped in the project but has resulted in improved confidence of the design solutions which can be worked out for any complex requirements. The availability and affordability of design and production technologies has made positive impact on the constantly evolving façade industry.
Image 5: Curtain wall glazing – close up inside view
Variety of Designs
There are no boundaries in the design solutions for the Curtain wall systems, there are no rules or limits on the designs but all limits of imaginations and skills of designers.
Though the looks and physical appearance are different, design principles, functions and behaviors are similar.
Primary design and functions of curtain wall systems as elaborated below, irrespective of any systems and designs these remains principle design philosophies.
Image 7: The design process
Image 8: The design process
Mondeal Heights, Ahmedabad
Arriving a most practical and appropriate design solution, which would address the need for iconic architectural building designs and to meet the project timelines, has been a very important and challenging task.
BES has been responsible right from design conceptualization stage since any decisions at this stage will have the greatest impact on the project outcome which was majorly based upon BES expertise.
Various aspects starting from design to final completions were focused on while keeping end in the mind. The following illustrates the design process.
The design of the building envelope displays a mixed use of glazing and cladding materials.
Careful thoughts were given to the appropriate selection of the glazing system. Out of many other aspects, quality, timely completion and overall cost were the key factors to consider. While quality was set as one of the key aspects, BES decided that a pre-fabricated façade with less site work needed to be implemented.
The following elaborates on the key process and finalization strategy adopted:
Details of Glazing System
A unitised curtain wall system was adopted throughout the project, A Continuous glazing system runs along the building envelope, without any interruptions at the cladding locations. This has given huge advantage of less site work, better weather performance, etc.. This key decision was one of the main reasons for the project’s success, which has been realised upon completion.
With significant area of the building in the cladding, they need to be fabricated in specific forms. Hence appropriate materials for the cladding was the essence of the overall façade design. Several materials have been evaluated by BES and final list was made based on merits.
Aluminium / ACP panels
Economical and widely available
Require joints and a seamless approach difficult to achieve
Fibre cement boards
Require backing supporting frames, long-term durability in question
FRP – Fibre-reinforced Plastic
Complex shapes possible, durable material
Limited local availability, finishes and local skills not proven
Highly versatile material, time-tested approach, good local sourcing and supply
Overall Cost, large scale project on similar application not executed.
Although plenty of as-built references were available, however those completed works are generally ornamental, and decorative such as jalli, screens etc. Large architectural building external applications were nearly none.
BES took the challenges of developing the available vendor and supply chain and bringing adequate technology and construction techniques which has helped the vendor confidence. BES’s practical approach and layman level of design and details have helped the local vendor to implement correctly. In addition to design and detailing, BES spent a considerable amount of time on fabrication and installation methods. A detailed installation sequence, lifting methods and site fixing methods were prepared, tested and monitored by the BES team which has resulted from ease of site construction.
Image 11: Installation method study and preparation of right site construction methods
Façade lighting has been considered as one of the key design features, particularly the client had greater expectations to achieve unique facades and lighting. BES has closely worked with the Lighting Designer (Atelier Dada, Architects of Light) of the project so that the design has been implemented in the design stage rather than a post-completion approach.
Image 13: Lighting integration
Project: Mondeal Heights, Ahmedabad Client: HN Safal Group, Ahmedabad Architect:Architect BlocherBlocherIndia BES Scope: Building Envelope Design & Consultancy Services covering concept to completion Completion: 2016