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Effective Façade Lighting and Shading
The beam of light in a room with a country tile roof – the small glass tile would fill up the room with divine light. This small little source of light would make a room lively on a gloomy rainy day. My childhood memories of the light filtered through glass are associated with this little tile that would let in the ethereal light on a full moon night and also the first beam of sunlight in the morning like a wake-up call.
In a way the natural light through a fenestration has always been magical and adds great value to the space enclosed. Considering the climatic conditions in India, surface area and the fenestrations of a building play a vital role in providing adequate light and cross ventilation for habitable spaces.
It is the spatial experience in the building that adds value to the moments of life. Harnessing the Sun’s energy to fill the space with diffused light becomes a challenge for the designer for any project.
In the current scenario of following the west, glass material has been used rampantly without giving a thought for the comfort and quality of light required for the users in sunny places like India. I don’t want to put the blame on the material. But the material glass if used wisely it can help to experience the natural elements like air, rains, shadows, patterns, sun light and the moonlight too. Controlled environment within built forms restricts one from exploring the perpetual changing cycles through days and seasons.
Heat loss through glass facade is inevitable considering the convection currents set in due to hot and cold air temperature difference. Such a condition is not comfortable for cold regions, but in India except for the northern region skylight with vents is very effective to set in convection currents for the escape of hot air and replacing with cool air.
Glass envelopes for large spaces in commercial or public buildings are advantageous. The entrance foyer with a glass atrium spreads good quality of light and also helps to grow healthy interior landscape in large volumes that makes the space livelier. Such large volumes can be covered with laminated glass with light weight supporting structure. Laminated glass filters, UV & IR light that protects the occupants and furniture from being exposed to hazardous radiation.
Airport Terminal Building, Bhopal
Most of the airports have large façades clad with glass material. Such surfaces with large volumes are difficult to reach for everyday cleaning and hence the need to provide for low maintenance glass. The surfaces of these glasses are designed such that they do not need to be cleaned very often, but can be done sporadically. These are especially useful for flat glass roofs – in difficult locations to reach. The chemically treated glass prevents contaminants bonding to the surfaces.
Any building that has a need to cover a large volume with diffused light could be covered with translucent PVC polyester membrane. These roofs can span across large volumes with lighter supporting structure and elegant forms. This material could be put to use in combination and composition with other Façade materials like glass, metal sheets, and concrete and also with bamboo or wood. Membrane roofs have advantages over other rigid building materials of being flexible and leakproof.
Depending on the need of the volume to be enclosed, there is a wide choice of
colours, meshes, translucency, and opacity, opaque and in varied Façade materials like Teflon Coated Fiberglas (PTFE) fabrics and High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), etc. The erection of membrane structures is clean, easy and fast compared to other construction materials. All membrane fabrics are maintenance-free, completely recyclable and fire resistance to meet building codes.
Membrane being a versatile material can be adopted for various types of structures from dam walls / godown to an umbrella/a tent for a single man.
Since ancient times various kinds of blinds, louvers and perforated screens in a variety of materials like stone, fabric, metal, wood and cane have been explored by the master builders. Now we have the new technology and state-of-the-art materials to take this further into new buildings instead of restricting our creativity by following blindly.
Taral Farmhouse, Pune
We have explored perforated metal sheet rolling shutters with automation at our residence successfully. The automation technology has made it easier to operate the shutter at a click of a button than a conventional folding shutter for a small child as well as a senior citizen. The rolling shutter also makes one feel safe and the perforations keep the interiors well ventilated. It has also reduced the total heat gain and retention mass of the house thus reduces the loss of energy spent on cooling.
IBM Food Court, Bengaluru
This food court in Bengaluru caters to the needs of IT employees who prefer to be out in the naturally ventilated spaces during their leisure times. Façade Materials like mesh membrane fins, fixed mesh membrane panels, glass and insulated metal panels for service area. The translucent membrane roof filters in diffused day light and yet serves as a roof cover.
The State Legislative Assembly building, Guwahati is built with new technology, consisting large volumes with column free spaces, which can be spanned across by sleek structural members and clad with light weight insulating composite materials. For this space to be lit up well, a central skylight with reflecting mirrors lets in pleasant diffused day light. Now with IOT, one can operate this remotely to adjust the angle of reflective mirrors on the roof top.
One cannot think of the facade as a standalone element of a building, it has to be a holistic thought for the proposed design. As architects and designers, we will have to embrace new technology and innovative applications with an open mind. This will definitely add value to the new ism in architecture and a pleasing experience for the dwellers in these new carapaces.
“Sometimes in the winds of change we find new directions”
Anita Dake, Founder, Vector Designs, graduated in architecture from the Academy of Architecture, Mumbai. Anita Dake has developed expertise of an architectural engineering firm through her practice over last 30 years. She pursued a degree in Permaculture Design Course, Eco-literacy and Eco-design from Brisbane, Australia and has in-depth knowledge in the field of sustainable management of natural resources and conservation. Her firm Vector Designs specializes in architectural design, landscape design for environmental restorations and architectural realization for spatial structures in steel, membrane and glass. A few of her projects that won the best steel building awards in the past include IBM Food Court at Bengaluru, Raja Bhoj Air Terminal at Bhopal and Biswa Bangla Gate at Kolkata.