It is a common saying that the first impression is the last impression. This is true in the case of architecture as well. And to create that perfect first impression, an architect needs to design a unique and striking façade. In architectural design, the façade of any building is a primary aspect from an aesthetic perspective as it defines the architectural language and character for the rest of the building.
Moreover, from a pure engineering perspective, the façade is also of great importance due to its influence on energy efficiency and indoor comfort.
The saying “Form follows function” is very common with architects, but in the contemporary style of designing, form of a building has become as important as its function. The competition amongst designers to create a landmark building has pushed humans to continuously try and develop new materials. With the ever-so-developing technology, a lot of ‘modern day materials’ are now available at the designer’s disposal to choose from and give their ordinary cement concrete building an extraordinary look.
We believe that architecture should not be just about designing something visually extraordinary. It should be about gauging the local conditions and designing for optimized solutions. And in this contemporary style of designing, an efficiently designed façade is a very important aspect. Keeping the correct orientation of the building, designing proper sunshades, minimising the heat gain of a building by reducing the opening/glazing sizes on western and southern faces are just some of the basic techniques which have been used for centuries and can still be used to achieve an efficient façade. For example, the use of thermal mass in shelters, dates back to the dawn of humanity, and until recently has been the prevailing strategy for building climate control in hot regions.
But with the ever growing advancements in technology, we now have modern techniques to achieve an even more efficient façade. Building simulation, vertical landscaping, dynamic facades, photovoltaic integrated glazing are just the tip of the iceberg to a very vast array of modern options available to us.
Egyptian mud-brick storage rooms (3200 years old)
Sun path analysis in Ecotect software
Energy Conscious Façades
Façade designing may be categorized into various heads like intelligent facades, Climate responsive facades, Interactive Facades etc. However, we would like to elaborate on the Climatic responsiveness and Efficiency aspects of a façade design, which is based on (but not limited to) the following fundamental parameters:
- Building Orientation: Good orientation, combined with energy efficiency features, can reduce the need for supplementary heating and cooling, resulting in lower energy bills, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and improved comfort. It considers the variations in the sun’s path in summers and winter, as well as the direction and type of winds.
- Altitude angle & Azimuth angle of the site: These angles govern the shading systems applicable for the given context. The two most important parameters are Horizontal Shadow Angle and Vertical Shadow Angle. The horizontal shadow angle is the difference in azimuth between the sun’s position and the orientation of the building face and a smaller HSA angle means a larger shading fin. The vertical shadow angle or “profile angle” is measured in a plane perpendicular to the building face. It is the altitude of the sun projected to this surface and a lower VSA angle which means a larger overhang.
- Thermal performance of a building envelope: Thermal efficiency of an envelope can be assessed at the following levels:
- Element level – gives primary idea about thermal resistance to heat flow. E.g. Thermal conductivity.
- Component level – gives a more precise idea about the thermal performance. E.g. Thermal transmittance
- Assembly level – gives a clear picture of the thermal behaviour – Resistive, reflective and capacitive. E.g. Whole wall thermal transmittance, time lag, decrement factor etc.
- Glazing systems: The type of glazing you choose can help you to keep the heat in during winter while also keeping the heat out in summer. U-values measure the overall performance of the window by accounting for the amount of heat passing through a glazed unit in watts. We intend to use windows with low U-values since they will be more effective at keeping out any undesirable heat and cold. The thermal efficiency of glazing system is primarily driven by the following factors:
- Thermal transmittance of glass
- Solar heat gain through glass
- Thermal transmittance of frame
- Air-tightness of the glass-frame assembly
VIMHANS Hospital, Nehru Nagar, New Delhi
The VIMHANS Hospital, located in Nehru Nagar, New Delhi is a multi-speciality hospital. The 13,500 Sq m site has two blocks, an existing block and the newly designed cancer speciality block.
The cancer block was designed with the concept of keeping the recovering patients close to nature. Double height terrace gardens were introduced at different levels throughout the front façade. These gardens not only acted as healing gardens for the recovering patients, but also gave rhythmic breaks in the front façade of the building. The stone cladding is intricately designed in such a way that it breaks the façade into various interlocking blocks.
Mr. Singhal’s Outhouse
Designed for India’s upcoming singing sensation – Shrey Singhal, this 8000 Sq ft bachelor pad has a spiralling sculptural form emerging from a single articulated plane that warps to produce three separate roofed volumes. For this lifestyle project, the client wanted open and dynamic spaces and that was achieved by using glass partitions instead of regular brick walls. To minimise the heat capture inside these glass-walled spaces, huge cantilevers were planned for the ground floor. These cantilevers not only give the structure an interesting form, but also act as shading devices for the ground floor.
Twin Towers, Gurugram
The Twin Towers in Gurugram is yet another fine example of efficiently designed façade. The concept behind designing this building and its façade was to break the monotony of the buildings existing in its surroundings.
The building has a pentagonal shape which has three sides perpendicular to each other. The fourth and the fifth side are at 45 degrees to what would have been the fourth side of a rectangular building. The concept of the 45 degree angle is also carried on the elevation of the building. Strips of ACP run horizontally and swiftly take a 45 degree turn to complement the plan of the building. The inclined faces of the building are designed in the form of interlocking blocks at alternate levels. The voids created by these interlocking blocks act as terraces. Each floor has its own terrace in alternate directions which gives the façade a very interesting form.
Mr. Singhal’s Car Lounge
The car lounge, another lifestyle project being developed to redefine luxury. A building, being developed with the vision to showcase the client’s cars and his love for luxury vehicles, is still in its preconstruction phase. The form of the building in itself speaks about the taste of the client. The faceted front face of the building has multi-folding glazing – which is inspired by the design of client’s newly bought Lamborghini Aventador!
As mentioned in the very beginning of this article, façade of any building is of utmost importance from an aesthetic and energy efficiency point of view. Therefore, it is obligatory for a designer to prioritize his/her intents (of aesthetics and efficiency) in the very beginning of the design process. At times, aesthetics take the front seat, the other times we prioritize energy efficiency and sometimes we are able to strike a balance in both the aspects.
We hope that this article raises some important questions for the façade designing in India, like how we can be more energy efficient while maintaining good aesthetics in façade. Maybe the solution lies in a collaborative working environment of all project stakeholders – which can yield more optimized results!