Façade safety in India is a highly ignored subject and requires serious thought. Facade safety starts at the concept design stage right from the drawing board where the technical specification of materials such as glass, stone etc. should be finalized. Few things to bear in mind are:
- Glass specification should consider barrier loads and maintenance loads while providing the glass thickness which is generally ignored.
- Stone properties are not thoroughly checked and the client relies on the architect’s approval for the shade and sample. Ideally the stone physical properties and the petrological data need to thoroughly reviewed and must be tested as per ASTM Standards (ASTM – American Society for Testing and Materials – an international standards organization).
- Most of the facades are not based on design calculations and rely on the façade contractor’s experience. We feel there should be a thorough scrutiny.
All these points if not taken into account could lead to a safety hazard.
Testing Procedures for Glass/Aluminium/Other Façades and Fenestration
There are various methods to test the different glass and fenestration for the building. All these materials are never tested independently for a project. The performance testing is limited to the maximum module and the design parameters which govern the particular location. The testing should also include the aluminium system and the glass with other accessories like brackets, tie back buttons, aluminium sunshade, operable window, etc.
All the facade materials need to be tested and we should not rely on the technical document only. It would be advisable for clients to qualify the material based on the technical document and then test the material based on the specific technical parameters which govern the project.
Latest Technologies for Testing
The technology for testing the materials have always been the same fundamentally but changed in terms of digitalisation. There are digital equipment’s available to find out the glass properties and the thickness including the distortion levels today and there is a higher level of accuracy in the findings, but calibration of the testing equipment plays a major role in the accuracy of the test results.
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Major Hazards and Faults
The major concerns which we have observed basis our experience could be bifurcated based on the life safety in buildings. The issues boil down to the material specification and the cost optimisation activities which are undertaken in every project during the Value engineering process. We would suggest that this needs to be vetted by a façade consultant who is qualified to understand the material specifications and give the right recommendations.
Secondly we have heard of multiple structural failures due to inadequate design by inexperienced façade contractors. Leakages and noise pollution is an easier problem to solve, but could be avoided by qualifying the right façade contractor and ensuring the project receives the right attention by the core team.
Water test on site is conducted using the AAMA 501.2 Standards and requires understanding of the principle behind the testing. Most times the pressure gauge is not calibrated and the pressure is not consistent, leading to inaccurate and misleading results.
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Precautions and Solutions
Most of the failures are neglected or ignored whereas in other countries they are considered as a learning opportunity and the instances are thoroughly researched. This should be done everywhere since there is no recourse in case the façade contractor fails.
We would like to list down the following solutions to avoid façade failures
- Façade contractors need to educate their skilled staff and the labour with quality control procedures
- Training programmes to be conducted periodically to focus on the different systems and materials. This should be a mandatory training and must include the façade contractor’s project managers and skilled labourers.
- Clients need to qualify façade vendors based on a proper qualification process and grade the façade contractor considering the credentials.
Finally we need to understand that a building stays for minimum 50 years and thus needs to be considered like a new born baby and nurtured with the best quality to prevent life safety issues and maintenance.
Suggested Read: FACADE TESTING PROCEDURE – IMPORTANCE AND TYPES