By: Enrico Chiarotto, RSP Architects Planners & Engineers
What will the façades of the future look like?
The façade of the future must be a dynamic one, which combines a lot of aspects together first of all, the one that was the only function for decades, create an envelope for the building. Then a mix of different aspects insulation (thermal and acoustic), energy efficiency, design-friendly, reflecting the building functions, customisation. And last one, in some particular cases, must be integrated with the environment, to create a low impact on the surrounding area. I cannot imagine a drastic change in the façades of the future, but I believe that the industry will improve day by day through the mix of all the aspects.
According to you, what requirements do the façade of the future meet?
Surely rich a high level in terms of efficiency. Then, I hope, a good percentage of recycled and eco-friendly materials.
What is your take on the green and sustainable façade?
Honestly, I am not totally convinced yet about the green façade. From Milan to Singapore, I admired some examples and I really appreciated the overall looking of the façade, but I do not agree with some extreme theories that label the green façade as the façade of the future; in my personal opinion, it could be one kind of façade to use in some specific cases. I think it is still a niche type, which requires a very detailed background and knowledge.
What are the characteristics of a high-performance façade?
It is a comprehensive system that includes daylight’s impact control, energy control (solar heat-gain control), ventilation, comfort (acoustic insulation to reduce significantly the noise from outside), usage of environment-friendly material, and automation. Based on the building location, all these characteristics can be adjusted.
Features you would like to see in the future façade.
I lived in China for a long time and I really admire the “façades’ world”, and the research to create a unique façade that can be recognised even by “non-experts”. I saw some incredible 3D-interactive façades and unique shapes that were impossible to imagine/ create until a few years ago. But on the other side, I saw so many standard façades used by a lot of designers. The features I’d like to see are not about the façades themself but about the designers that design the façades: I’d like to see less “copy-paste” and more unique pieces.
In Italy, every project is different from another, every façade is designed only for that specific building. In China, there is a desire to create unique façades for commercial buildings and for some office towers, but for residential buildings, the market is too fast and the façade design is basically inexistent. Vietnam, where I am living right now, it is a good mix between Europe and China regarding the design process for the façades.
What façade materials do you prefer the most?
Personally, I like to play with different materials, a maximum of 4, without exaggerating. I do not have a favorite one, but the combination I use the most in my latest projects is a glass-aluminium frame and louvers. In some low-rise buildings, I used red solid bricks with glass, aluminium, and metal mesh on top with High-Pressure Laminate (HPL) elements and the feedback from the clients was very positive. I also used wood elements and corten (weathering steel). I like to consider every project with its own story, I spend time researching some particular materials to combine with the purpose to design the unique façades for it.
The role of automation in creating façades of the future?
I think automation will play a primary role in the façades of the future to control ventilation and shading. An automation system can be used to optimise the shading performance through the different daytime and seasons and/or allow it to filter the solar gain. To create an automated façade, a lot of elements need to be combined together: windows, frames, vents, shading devices, blinds, and different sensors. Automation leads the relationship between façade and humans into an interactive phase.
What is an interactive façade? What are the advantages and limitations?
An interactive façade provides advanced daylighting control, which has the capacity for hierarchically filtering daylight and real-time control, preventing daylight discomfort, decreasing the intensity of the direct sun radiation, and letting adequate useful daylight entering to the interior space.
The advantages are: better comfort for the interior space users, control of the solar energy (light and heat), and control of the energy used (artificial lights, air conditioning, and heating system).
The main limitation of the use of this system is the cost: the additional materials, the experts that provide the software, and the periodic maintenance.