Curtain wall System: An Amazing Design Element

By December 02 , 2016
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Curtain wall glazing system is an amazing design elements and integral of modern building architecture and construction. Though from the layman points 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, lot of pre-planning, workings are paramount and makes several aspects much more discipline in the workflow.

Following illustrates the key process of design and implementation.

images16Image 1: Façade types and different ways of classifications

Architectural Design

Building envelope / building façade is the key communication of the building architecture defining the design intent and desire to achieve particular visual appeal. Hence the architectural / visual plays vital role in defining both macro and micro level of details including materials, joints, etc.

Façade Engineering

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 translating the architectural design into a building design solutions which has been engineered with greater level of details.

Façade engineering defines several key visible elements which has architectural impact, hence the approach of the design is architectural driven with balanced approach on architectural and engineering requirements. This pushes the boundary of engineering limits and often challenged to achieve the highly optimized, light weight and simple design solutions.

images2Image 2: Curtain wall glazing – Building view

Product Design & System Design

Building facades are one of most advance 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.

Image 3: The key process of design and implementation

The concept of pre-fabrication and factory finished approach has not only helped in the project but has resulted 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.

images3Image 4: Unitised (pre-fabricated) Curtain wall panel-site installation
images5Image 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.

images7Image 7: The design process
images8Image 8: The design process

Case Study

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 greatest impact on the project outcome which was majorly replied upon BES expertise.

Various aspects starting from design to final completions were focused while keeping end in the mind. Following illustrates the design process.

Materials

The design of the building envelope displays mixed use of glazing and cladding materials.

Glazing System

Careful thoughts were given for the appropriate selection of 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 key aspects, BES decided that pre-fabricated façade with less site works need to be implemented.

Following elaborates the key process and finalization strategy adopted:

Details of Glazing System

Unitised curtain wall system was adopted throughout the project, 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 reason for the project success, which has been realised upon completion.

images15Image 9: Typical glazing system – Design details by BES
With significant area of the building in the cladding, they need to be fabricated in the 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.
images-9Image 10: Details as executed – Continuous Glazing system

Cladding System

Cladding Material Pros Cons Conclusions
Aluminium / ACP panels Economical and widely available Require joints and seamless approach difficult to achieve Not considered
Fibre cement boards Economical Require backing supporting frames, long term durability in question Not selected
FRP – Fibre reinforced Plastic Complex shapes possible, durable material Limited local availability, finishes and local skills not proven Not selected
GRC Highly versatile material, time tested approach, good local sourcing and supply Overall Cost, large scale project on similar application not executed. Selected

GRC cladding

Although plenty of as built references were available, however those completed works are generally ornamental, 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 practical approach and lay man level design and details has helped the local vendor to implement correctly. In addition to design and detailing, BES spent 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 BES team which has resulted ease of site constructions.

images10Image 11: Installation method study and preparation of right site construction methods

Lighting

Façade lighting has been considered as one of 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 implemented in the design stage rather than a post completion approach.

images11Image 12: Mock-ups and trial Installation for verifications

Key aspects of design integration elaborated here.

Fact File:

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

images12Image 13: Lighting integration
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