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Predicting the Future Façades


The façade of a building is one of the most crucial and challenging parts to design because it sets the standard for iconic structures. The modern façade design is continually changing as technology advances at a rapid rate. Future façades will perform more than just basic needs like weather and environmental protection. A longterm, sustainable perspective and an adaptation to the attainment of climate goals are necessary for the façade of the future. The façade will continue to shield the structure from the effects of the environment and influence the home’s aesthetic appeal in the future. Future façades won’t be used for simply technical purposes.

A façade of the future should instead actively improve society. The façade will continue to shield the structure from the effects of the environment and influence the home’s aesthetic appeal in the future. We interviewed a few industry experts and here are the responses presented in this cover story on the future façade materials, their design, technology development, key features, and much more. Here are the excerpts:

Façades of the Future

Matteo Lazzarotto Senior Engineer, Arup
Matteo Lazzarotto Senior Engineer, Arup

The façades of the future will likely respond to three main areas: sustainability, adaptability, and resilience. The climate crisis is undisputed. Society acknowledges the risks that the world is facing, and global governments have met to accelerate actions toward the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. A large part of carbon emissions is attributable to buildings which are expected to substantially grow in the next 40 years. Clients, designers, and constructors have to commit to delivering sustainable solutions to avoid the world’s temperature rising above 1.5 degrees. Alongside the race to zero carbon emissions, building resilience is another aspect that the industry will need to focus on in the next future: buildings have to be designed to last longer, constructed with safer materials, and responsive to the environment, says Matteo Lazzarotto, Senior Engineer, Arup.

Mohamad AbdAllah Design Architect, John R Harris & Partners
Mohamad AbdAllah Design Architect, John R Harris & Partners

According to Mohamad AbdAlla, Design Architect, John R Harris & Partners, the ideas of biomimicry and biophilic design would be used to create a future façade that combines technology, nature, and the interaction between people and their built environment. Biomimicry is the method of using natural systems and processes to address problems in society. An approach to architecture and design known as “biophilic design” places a strong emphasis on the relationship between people and the natural world. To produce a unified and cohesive exterior that blends with the surroundings, these ideas would be incorporated into the building’s façade design.

Last but not least, the usage of interactive and kinetic façades would provide visitors with a fully immersive experience of the structure and its surroundings. The building’s façade could be designed to be interactive and engaging for people passing by, allowing them to explore and experience the building in new and exciting ways.

Celeste Gariando Principal, Meinhardt Façade Technology
Celeste Gariando Principal, Meinhardt Façade Technology

“While we shouldn’t be focusing alone on architecture, a façade often defines a building and its ambitions. As well as an opportunity for expression, Façade Engineers like myself are thinking more about how façades can function – from contributing to energy efficiency and protecting the façade space already constructed to reducing the need for materials whilst also reducing waste”, says Celeste Gariando, Principal, Meinhardt Façade Technology.

Abdelrahman Badr Quality Control Engineer, AluNile
Abdelrahman Badr Quality Control Engineer, AluNile

The façades of the future should make our environment look surreal which not only reflects the vision of the architect but is also Engineered from relatively simple climate-defensive mechanisms to more adaptive and integrative ones. The future of the façades should not be only aesthetics but are responsive to variables (geography, building physics, climatology, sustainability, social aspects, etc.) which are quite challenging to predict and generate, I would say. The façade of the future should somehow reflect yourself and how we envisioned this to be for future generations. The façade of the future will be 1 module that can be assembled or detached in 2 to 3 steps consuming less operational energy, believes Abdelrahman Badr, Quality Control Engineer, AluNile.

Requirements for the Façade of the Future Meet

Matteo notes that thermal, acoustic, and structural performance but also sustainability, resilience, robustness, durability, and safety are a few of the parameters that façades have to meet. In addition, another requirement that will become increasingly important and will likely transform the façade industry is a greater focus on the circular economy approach. The industry is now placing a greater emphasis on the reuse and recycling of materials. Retaining, enhancing, and extending the life of the existing building is a critical step in the race to net zero carbon. Reusing as much as possible of the existing systems, components, and materials will likely be the new frontier of façades. Designers, stakeholders, constructors, and society will need to think about how it can reuse, retain and refurbish as opposed to demolish and re-build. An exemplary project is “One Triton Square” in London, where more than 3300 m2 of cladding has been reused.

“The façades of the future should outright consider the impact of climate change. Being a façade engineer for 15 years, I would always aim that the façades that I designed not only contribute to the quality of construction in the region that we are working on but should also largely reduce the effect of its building mass on the environment, notes Celeste. From an Engineering point of view, the goals of the façade of the future should encourage an in-depth study on how the building envelope will be considered as an added value towards resource conservation and climate change adaptation. Our future in façade engineering should be a long-term sustainable view for the Climate Goals we envisioned in the next 10 years. Abdelrahman believes that it will be assembled and detached easily meeting circularity and decreasing carbon dioxide emissions.

Façade of the Future to Meet Key requirements to be Sustainable & Effective

    • Energy efficiency: By reducing heat gain or loss, enhancing natural light, and incorporating renewable energy sources, façades will be built to lower the building’s energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions.
    • Sustainability: By employing long-lasting, low-maintenance, and low-carbon materials and implementing features like living walls, rainwater harvesting, or greywater recycling, façades will be intended to reduce the environmental effect of the structure.
    • Comfort and well-being: By regulating the natural light, ventilation, and temperature, offering access to green spaces, and by lowering noise pollution, façades will be built to improve the inside environment and the occupants’ comfort.
    • Safety and security: Façades will be created to guard against both natural disasters like fires, floods, and earthquakes as well as criminal activities like theft, vandalism, and terrorist attacks.
    • Aesthetics: Façades will be created in a way that complements the building’s urban surroundings while also reflecting the architectural style, cultural background, and client preferences.

– Mohamad AbdAlla, Design Architect, John R Harris & Partners

Green and Sustainable Façade

Best Office building design
Office building Image courtesy: Mohamad Abd Allah

“I am passionate about sustainable and green façades. As façade designers, we must promote sustainable solutions throughout all design phases, during construction, and beyond project completion. As the cost of different cladding systems is scrutinised during the design phase, the same effort should be allocated to evaluate the lowest embodied carbon solution”, says Matteo. Designers should specify the correct façade system that meets the right balance between embodied carbon and building operational carbon. Moreover, as society grows, the built environment requires new houses and infrastructures: bringing back green façades and biodiversity into our cities is mandatory to provide healthy living, reduce heat waves and maintain species.

Green façades are those that can provide a range of environmental and aesthetic advantages. By collecting pollutants and releasing oxygen, it can enhance air quality, which is one of its main benefits. The capacity of green façade to improve energy efficiency is another important advantage. Natural insulation provided by the plants and other vegetation may reduce the demand for heating and cooling systems, resulting in energy savings, opines Mohamad.

It is important to consider the aesthetic value of a green façade because it can enhance a building’s overall appearance and make it appear more appealing and welcoming. Green façades can benefit the environment as well as the neighbourhood by creating green spaces and fostering more social contact. Additionally, they can raise a building’s worth and draw in tenants and buyers. In general, green, and sustainable façades can offer a wealth of environmental, social, and economic advantages while also enhancing a building’s overall design.

Celeste says as a practicing LEED professional, carbon neutrality is a goal that we should strive for with every development to minimise the country’s carbon footprint. Optimising the building envelope will support a more sustainable urbanisation approach. Façade designs need to be adapted to the geography to optimise its opportunity to contribute and take advantage of natural resources to ensure sustainable urbanisation now and in the future.

For various reasons, sustainability today is taking over between architecture and façade engineering. Within the challenges of the energy crisis and climatic changes, Façade Engineers and Architect’s started to develop new approaches to address the quest of energy demands in buildings. Sustainable façades should be designed to anticipate the adverse effect of Climate Change and should be able to take appropriate measures to minimise the damage they may cause. Unlike in the past 15 years when I started façade engineering, industry stakeholders are now recognising how important sustainability is in life – I would like to believe that finally, we are on the right track. In my experience on several projects in the United Arab Emirates and the Middle East, this is taking place in forms and with different degrees of intensity.

Best Office building design
Office building Image courtesy: Mohamad Abd Allah

Speaking about Sustainability in our façades, currently, it tends towards achieving the Sustainable Developed Goals, especially SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and communities) SDG 13 (Climate Action), and SDG 12 (Consumption and Production). One of the leading solutions now is energy generation through photovoltaics in the façades offering an efficient solution for sustainability also green façades market is Growing globally offering a lot of new approaches, notes Abdelrahman.

Characteristics of a High-Performance Façade

Green facade design
Green Image courtesy: Mohamad Abd Allah

High-performance façades are a very broad concept and typically refer to enhanced thermal performance, exceptional airtightness, and acoustic absorption. However, façades have to respond to numerous different performance requirements which are sometimes in contrast between them. It is impossible to maximise all performance parameters at the same time: a high-performance façade is a system that holistically maximises and reaches the best set of performance responding to the client brief, believes Matteo. According to Mohamad, a high-performance façade is a crucial aspect of modern building design, offering a range of benefits that far outweigh the costs of implementation due to its characteristics which include:

  • Energy efficiency: It is made to use less energy to heat and cool the building. Controlling the amount of solar radiation that enters the structure allows for less artificial lighting and cooling to be used.
  • Thermal insulation: It aids in maintaining a pleasant temperature inside the building.
  • Weather resistance: It can tolerate harsh weather conditions like strong winds, torrential rain, and scorching heat.
  • Flexibility: It can be modified to fit various climatic conditions and architectural styles.
ETFE façade exhibition
ETFE façade exhibition Image courtesy: Mohamad Abd Allah

Whilst façade engineers aim to deliver an aesthetic contribution to the building industry, a highperformance façade should serve greater functions. Façades that we engineer and strive for nowadays aim to achieve critical sustainability targets for buildings such as carbon neutrality, utilisation of renewable energy, and minimising energy consumption.

When we say high-performance façades, we expect an envelope that utilises the least conceivable amount of energy to retain a comfortable indoor climate, enhancing efficiency to certain materials, which have a less negative impact on the environment, observes Celeste. Good building façades should not merely accentuate the aesthetics but also serve as a shield from extremes of weather especially in my experience as seen in the Middle East climatic conditions. High-performing façades, while being functional, should also permit the building to breathe while defining its significance and character. This also means that the cladding material and system have to perform in all types of climatic conditions giving rise to more robust, energy-efficient, and adaptable façade systems. It is also worth noting the importance of installation is also done right the specification-compliant façade materials and trained manpower.

A high-performance façade means high-performance thermal and water insulation, especially for highrise buildings, insulation is a key factor in having a good façade putting regarding the building physics factors, opines Abdelrahman.

Future Façade Features

Kinetic façade
Kinetic façade Image courtesy: Mohamad Abd Allah

According to Matteo, Purpose and Adaptability are the two main features. Every feature in the façade will need to have a purpose; a reason to be on the building. A responsible façade design will have just enough elements to meet all the requirements but not too many to minimise embodied carbon, avoid waste, and irresponsible consumption of materials. The aesthetic would need to be justified by performance, safety, robustness, resilience, sustainability, etc. Façades will need to be responsive to the environment and adaptable to users’ needs.

In Mohamad’s opinion, the future façade should have several elements if it is to be truly sustainable and effective over time, including:

  • Integration of smart technology: Smart technology integration on façades enables • automatic lighting, shading, and ventilation management.
  • Integration of renewable energy sources: To lower the building’s overall energy consumption, façades may be constructed to include renewable energy sources like solar panels, wind turbines, and green roofs.
  • Biophilic design: Façades can contain natural elements like plants and green roofs to enhance occupant well-being and foster a sense of connection to the outdoors.
  • Self-cleaning and self-healing: To cut down on maintenance costs, façades can be built using materials and coatings that can fix the damage and clean themselves.
  • Recyclable materials: To encourage sustainability, façades might be built using recyclable and recycled materials.

One of the important aspects of the façades of the future should be preserving and protecting the space they provide within the current built environment to support sustainability objectives. There also needs to be a much greater focus on maintaining current façade assets through a more proactive approach along with understanding where and how their space can be used towards assisting with improving building sustainability, believes Celeste. As our façade industry innovation continues to improve, material production should over time also assist in supporting commercial return targets.

Innovation of façade materials, design, and performance play a very important role in supporting future green building targets. Particular attention in the future will be paid to the embodied carbon of the building and façade. This is because as the carbon dioxide emissions of buildings decrease with improving the energy efficiency of equipment, the relative proportion of lifetime CO2 emissions due to the construction of the building increases.

Not only the green building approach taking the lead but I also believe that the façades of the future must also have a more commercial appeal and be more scalable, cost-effective, and perceived as an investment. Especially in mega projects, new lightweight materials must be introduced more such as HoneyComb cladding that will produce less time meaning less money, opines Abdelrahman.

Preferred Façade Material

Aluminium slim profile R&D in Switzerland for a project in KSA
Aluminium slim profile R&D in Switzerland for a project in KSA

Fabric façades are Mohamad’s favourite as they are flexible and dynamic construction material that has the potential to produce distinctive and intriguing architectural designs. They can be used to enclose significant areas of a building’s exterior completely or partially. The fabric’s flexibility enables the construction of curved or undulating surfaces, which can enhance the aesthetic appeal and motion of a building’s design. The fabric can be stretched over the frame to create a smooth, taut surface, or it can be draped or pleated to create a more organic, sculptural effect. Fabric façades are often used in conjunction with other cladding materials, such as glass or metal panels, to create a multi-layered façade that offers a range of visual and functional benefits.

Fabric façades also have the benefit of being simple to change or take down. They are an excellent option for temporary structures like exposition halls, sports facilities, or even in emergency shelters because they are simple to dismantle and replace. Coming from a hard-core civil engineering background in the United States, mainly exposed to steel and concrete design- aluminium has been a shift of my interest in Façade Engineering. These two different materials are clearly emphasised by the obvious. Steel looks strong and heavy whilst aluminium is rigid in composition but flexible enough to use for design executions. The structural capacity of different aluminium grades is proven on several R&D’s we were involved with in different projects.

For example, in R&D we have currently partnered with the slim profiles for a sliding door fenestration supplier in Switzerland for a project in KSA. The head and base track aluminium profiles are currently an existing and tested Aluminium slim profile R&D in Switzerland for a project in KSA product in the market, adds Celeste. The approach was to develop the system to sustain inclination in two directions. It was evident that the aluminium tracks are imposed in a severe bearing force that caused the aluminium profiles to deform and are therefore further developed to a more robust profile to sustain the multidirectional bearing forces. As a practicing façade engineer, this is one of the most intriguing parts of aluminium, light in weight, yet strong.

And as a green building professional, aluminium recycling will without a doubt benefit the present and future generations by conserving energy and other natural resources. It requires up to 95% less energy to recycle aluminium than to produce primary metal and thereby avoids corresponding emissions, including greenhouse gases. “Fibre Cement Boards for cladding have shown great potential nevertheless it is lightweight and I hope they can be shaped in more freeway-serving parametric forms”, Abdelrahman.

Glass as a Façade Material

Glazing of the Opera Grand Tower- Downtown Dubai
Glazing of the Opera Grand Tower- Downtown Dubai

Although the building design is inclined towards reducing energy consumption and increasing the thermal performance of the envelope, the demand for glass in buildings will maintain its importance. Glass allows the visual relationship between inside and outside, modulates the solar gains, it enhances the daylighting levels and it improves the acoustic performance. Moreover, the industry has developed several solutions that integrate automated shading systems within the glazing, switchable smart glass, and enhanced coatings to increase building performance. However, although glass is a highly recyclable material, building glass is rarely recycled into new glass products. A huge amount of glass is currently sent to landfill and the façade industry should align its strength to avoid glass waste and pioneer techniques to recycle glass, opines Matteo.

Glass is frequently used in building façades because it has a variety of advantages for both the aesthetics and practicality of a building. The capacity to let natural light into a building’s interior is one of the key benefits of employing glass for the façade. Natural light can enter a building through clear or translucent glass, which can lessen the demand for artificial lighting during the day and also make the interior feel cozier and more inviting, notes Mohamad. Glass façades have many visual advantages but also have excellent thermal performance. These days, it is possible to find Low-E glass, insulated glass, and even self-tinting glass.

Glass façades do have some drawbacks, though. The possibility for glare and heat gain, which may make a building uncomfortable hot, and light during the day, is one of the key issues. The potential for breaking, which could be a safety danger, is another issue. And finally, compared to other types of façades, glass façades may be more expensive to install and maintain. Celeste says natural daylight is a substantial factor in the building. Daylight affects in a positive way where it strengthens the health and psyche of human wellbeing.

For example, glazing in a residential building that provides high visible light transmission is generally desired to bring as much natural daylight as possible to the interior spaces. Because glare is inherent with visible light transmission, therefore glare can become an issue if the sunlight is intense, like in the Middle East Region and the light transmission values are not carefully considered within the context of building finishes and spaces. In the Middle East Region, mitigating direct solar heat transmission is a major concern since the region is subject to intensive solar radiation. The two main considerations which affect the internal light and ambiance of the building spaces are:

  • Visible Light Transmission
  • Glare

Glazing Visible Light Transmission relationship to Solar Heat Gain (SHGC): From my experience, we understand that a lower-performing glass has implications on energy performance. The energy saving through a high-performing façade needs to be balanced with the architectural and guest expectations. The energy implications of different glazing performances and external shading should be thoroughly considered in union so that the stakeholders will have an informed decision that would benefit the project. I would just need to express this concern from a sustainability point of view. We believe that it’s fantastic to have glass with high natural daylight on paper, yet we keep noticing that with high light transmittance, several residences have a high tendency to use curtains or blinds most of the time. Especially in the Middle East Region with natural daylight that passes 10,000 lux most of the year hence such high glass transparency is leading to reverse impact. Using glazing that allows higher light transmission will allow more solar radiation transmission thus adding to the overall building heat gain.

Organic façade office building
Organic façade office building Image courtesy: Mohamad Abd Allah

Using high-performance glass will not just reduce overall thermal transfer but also the cooling loads. This can in turn contributes significantly a great deal into long-term operating cost savings. The selection of glass and the selection of internal finishes should therefore be considered in the union. This, in my opinion, is the most subjective topic and the primary reason that case studies have been undertaken to convey the facts found. I always believe that it is key to focus on the positive effect of the glazing performance & understanding that should the value not be matched, the energy consumption of the building will increase, and thus the energy charges & building valuations follow suit.

More variety of materials especially the glazing part currently there is a lot of research towards new types of glass but hopefully, there will be more in the future you cannot replace the glazing part but for sure you can develop it much more, states Abdelrahman. Role of Automation in Creating Façades of the Future Automation will help to standardise a process, a product, or a service. It could save cost, time, and materials and potentially reduce safety risks. However, the design remains strictly embedded within the human ability to imagine new geometries, shapes, and patterns. Automation will help with façade fabrication, construction, and installation however it will unlikely replace human creativity, says Matteo.

Mohamad states that automation contributes significantly to the development of façades of the future by offering new tools and methods that can enhance façade design, construction, and performance. Automation can be utilised in a variety of ways to enhance the performance of façades. Building management systems (BMS), for instance, can enable building operators to track and manage a facility’s façade’s performance in real time, helping to maximise the building’s energy efficiency and raise occupant comfort.

Façade construction also makes use of automation. For instance, using robotic manufacturing and 3D printing can increase construction precision and speed, which can result in more effective and economical construction procedures. Additionally, the use of sensors and other automated systems can help to enhance quality control and raise safety levels while the building is being done. “As I mentioned, the façades of the future should be Engineered from relatively simple climate-defensive mechanisms to more interactive, responsive, adaptive, and integrative. In the Middle East region, we see smart façades systems represent a promising technology for new buildings and the energy-efficient renovation of buildings. The intelligent interaction of automation that potentially detects external environmental influences which contributes greatly to energy efficiency”, says Celeste.

My professional take in bringing automation as the future of the façades must need to undertake a comprehensive research direction to achieve a holistic understanding of occupant responses to automated façades. In several projects that I have been involved with, introducing automation to the projects needs to have in-depth research and client convincing, its impact on personal factors on occupant satisfaction with automated controls is deemed paramount, she adds. Larger façades need more flexibility in automation the way a façade is assembled could go forward in the next years with the help of automation developing new cranes and spider cranes specialised in façades will be soon available, notes Abdelrahman.

Interactive Façade – Advantages and Limitations

Green façade residential building
Green façade residential building Image courtesy: Mohamad Abd Allah

According to Mohamad, an interactive façade uses interactive technology to enable real-time communication and interaction between the façade structure and its surroundings. This can incorporate elements like touchscreens, sensors, and displays that can react to input from the user or changes in the surrounding environment. The ability of interactive façades to foster a sense of engagement and connection between a structure and its users is one of their key benefits. People can access information about a building, such as its history or current events, or engage with it in other ways, such as regulating the lighting or temperature, by way of an interactive façade in a public area. This could make using the building more dynamic and interesting for the users.

Interactive façades can also be utilised to increase a building’s energy efficiency. For instance, a building’s lighting or temperature might be adjusted using sensors on an interactive façade to determine the amount of sunshine or the outside temperature. This may aid in lowering the building’s energy use and expenses. Interactive façades do have some restrictions, though. Cost is one of the key obstacles because installing and maintaining the necessary technology and equipment can be expensive. Additionally, interactive façades need frequent upkeep and updates to keep the technology current and working properly.

Interactive façades may be susceptible to harm or malfunction, which is another drawback. For instance, if an interactive façade’s equipment is not adequately shielded from the weather, heat or rain can harm it. “Interactive façades are nothing new in the industry. My definition of an interactive building façade uses modern technology and natural attributes which aim to meet the demands of ventilation, shading, and energy conservation. All passive as well as active aspects affect the building façades and their interaction with users and environmental demands. In its simple terms, Interactive façades essentially are elevation designs that promote the use of sustainable materials and help in the conservation of energy, says Celeste.

“I believe that it is essential to perform building simulations to create an interactive façade to identify key factors for a successful integration in the building to which some of its limitations take place during the design stage”, she adds. One of its dictating limitations is these environmental conditions in which a poor understanding of occupant multi-domain comfort preferences in terms of façade operation. Another influence in its limitations is a personal factor that results in a lack of established methods or procedures for assessing occupant response to automated façade controls, etc. Abdelrahman notes, an interactive façade can shape the future. AI can shape our future façades because the interaction with the user and adaptation is much easier but it is still in the developing phase because of cost and maintenance limitations.

Façade Need to do in the Future

White fabric façade flag store
White fabric façade flag store Image courtesy: Mohamad Abd Allah

In the future, building façades will need to meet several different challenges and requirements, observes Mohamad. Some of the key things that façades will need to do in the future include:

  • Resilience, building façades will need to be built to endure climate change, heat waves, and other environmental threats like storms
  • Improve the quality of the indoor environment for residents: Building façades must be built to improve the indoor environment for the building’s occupants.
  • Prioritise the human experience: Façades of buildings should be planned to improve the human experience by fostering a sense of engagement and connection between the structure and its surroundings.
  • Promote sustainability by designing and constructing building façades in a way that lessens the overall environmental effect of the building.
  • Flexibility and adaptability: Building façades must be planned and built in a way that makes it simple and affordable to modify, adapt, or even replace them to meet evolving needs of the structure and its occupants.

“I would like to think and engineer the possibility of façades revealing the feelings of the occupants and about the city. By integrating innovations with proactive strategies, I believe we can work towards a more sustainable future, ensuring that the façades play their part in supporting global sustainability targets”, says Celeste.

Furthermore, façades play a leading role in enhancing the life and integrity of buildings to which sustainability (is deemed paramount) which I fully believe is a work in progress that evolves with the changes that will benefit today and the future. The market needs new materials that can be recycled and removed from each other. Now, once you assemble the window, it becomes very hard to recycle it. Just imagine, recycling a façade and assembling it elsewhere, future renovation could make this true, and also that is what we have to work on for a better future, opines Abdelrahman.


Future façades will be optimised for user comfort and overall health through self-learning and self-controlling systems. Active, self-regulating, power-generating – and most of all adapting to their environments: This is how façades of the future should be. The façade market of the future includes intelligent self-learning buildings or façade control systems. On the one hand, these will enable optimal user comfort in the context of all building physics requirements, and on the other hand, they will help reduce energy consumption (e.g. through optimised solar and thermal protection; reduction of air-conditioning and lighting costs) and thus contribute to a more sustainable use of resources in addition to reducing ongoing operating costs.

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