Building Facade

How do you design a building facade?

The building facade is one of the most important exterior elements for building functionality. While the facade is an elegant component that helps to define the unique architectural aesthetics of the building, it also has a critical role related to energy performance and interior function of a building. Designing a building facade is crucial to not only the inhabitants but also to the surroundings. With footprint area restraints and keeping budgets in check, we as Architects tend to stick to the more comfortable design options for facade designing, without exploring much into the unexplored territories.

In the past few years additionally, globalisation has led to a rise in glazed facades, with cloned buildings standing at every nook and corner in the cities. However, despite the design restraints, thinking out of the box can lead to innovative solutions for facade designs.

The facade of any home or building is an important feature, and finishes should be chosen carefully. A facade needs to be practical, durable, and aesthetically pleasing. At Weber, when we think of facades, we tend to think of external wall insulation solutions, renders, and decorative finishes, but a facade is more than just a finish – it’s the whole package of how a home or building looks. Modern technology and building materials, together with a bit of imagination, can result in a beautiful and original construction project.

Here you’ll find some ideas and inspiration for your next project.

When you’re designing a façade, it is fundamental to determine how all the elements will work. Not only the materials are crucial, but where they are located, and how they will be used or how would they look like.

The part of the façade is considered quite important since it is the main part of the building, which adds charm and a final touch of style and glamour to the whole structure. For this you should consider:

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Innovative ways of facade designing

Building Facade

Solar panels

In the era of glass facades, utilising solar panels for the building facade may seem like an obvious but not many have thought of it; and very few have been able to pull-it-off stylishly.

A solar facade system converts sun rays into energy, and most facades can be used for solar cladding. Ventilated solar facade technology offers many advantages such as electricity production, facade insulation, extra thermal properties, noise reduction, modernisation of old facades.

This project is designed to present innovative developments in the energy sector. The facade is built up of oppositely inclined, blue-tinged glass and photovoltaic elements. It is built around the orientation and incidence of solar radiation.

The project, which is a cooperation between the energy and water utility company NEW and Hochschule Niederrhein, is designed to present innovative developments in the energy sector.

Graffiti

Graffiti has been used as a medium for voices of social change, protest, or expressions of community desire. Street-writers or graffiti artists seem to want to abolish the idea of property (symbolised by buildings) by using buildings as tools of expression. The struggle against the principle of property is directly associated with the expression of freedom, especially for those graffiti works or phrases that denounce abuses of power and discrimination.

The mysterious artist is in the news for hiding a shredder in the frame for his 2006 painting Girl With Red Balloon. After being sold for a whopping $1.4 million, the painting largely destroyed itself.

In general, Banksy’s satirical street art combines dark humour with graffiti executed in a distinctive stencilling technique. 

Located in a car park on Broadway, Downtown LA, Swing Girl is another example of Banksy making use of what was already there. The ‘ing’ portion of the parking sign has been whitewashed out to form the park, and a girl on a swing added to the letter A. It seems clear that it is a comment on how there is a lack of places for kids to play safely in what is a fairly rough area of Los Angeles. 

Facade lighting

The facade lighting does not only help to localise buildings and provide the security it also plays a key role in the architectural expression. 

The GreenPix media wall is a groundbreaking concept, integrating sustainable and digital technologies within the curtain wall of Xicui Entertainment Centre in west Beijing.

Featuring the world’s largest colour light-emitting diode (LED), it becomes a major new focus for the digital artist community.

The unique glass curtain wall comprises an approximately 2,000m² ‘interactive skin’ and integrates a photovoltaic system for the first time in China. It performs as a self-sufficient organic system, storing solar energy by day and using it to illuminate the screen after dark.

With customised software, the skin interacts with the building interiors and outside public space, transforming the façade into a responsive environment for entertainment and public engagement.

Biomimicry

Nature has evolved systems that can be mimicked to solve design problems and create a more sustainable future. When nature has a problem, evolution weeds out what doesn’t work and selects the most effective adaptations, humans could also address environmental problems by using biomimicry — examining nature’s solutions and applying them to human designs.

This mass housing design borrows heavily from the beehive. It doesn’t just mimic the shape but also takes into account the self-cleaning and self-sufficient nature of the beehive. 

The private spaces in all towers are composed of individually unique beehive-like cells. The exterior skin of the towers consists of hexagonal lattice structures that derive from the unique spatial structure and create the unique appearance of the towers. The hexagonal openings are filled with various types of glass. The water distribution system also carries up to 30% of the cooling load during the summer and cleans the glass windows of the building in the heavily polluted city of Seoul.

Atop the glass is a geotextile that allows for the growth of vines and other flora that provide additional cooling and environmental advantages to the building and surrounding site.

Green facade

A green facade is created by growing climbing plants up and across the facade of a building, either from plants grown in garden beds at its base or by container planting installed at different levels across the building.

Green facades can create a cooler microclimate immediately adjacent to a building, primarily through direct shading of the building facade, but also from cooling from plant foliage (transpiration of water through the leaves), and evaporative loss of water from the growing medium.

The Babylon Hotel is located at the coastal Naman Retreat Resort among villas and bungalows. Created for relaxation of the body and mind, the hotel accommodates guests within a natural, lush environment. It is wrapped in greenery that hangs and creeps up through a system of precast concrete louvres with a wooden texture.

Its luscious skin not only adds beauty but reduces direct sunlight, creates oxygen, allows the breeze to flow and keeps the interiors private. Arranged in an L-shape that embraces the swimming pool, the three-story building provides a discreet atmosphere immersed in wonderful nature.

Dynamic facade

Dynamic Façades are also known as responsive façades. They exhibit an ability to comprehend and learn from their surroundings, adjusting their behaviour accordingly. The building skin is not inert but transforms dynamically to regulate the internal environment, reducing its power demands. Ideally, they include methods for generating energy. 

The installation on the facade of the hospital is made of a total of 7,000 angled metal panels with colours that change depending on the orientation. As one walks or drives along with the hospital, the colours change and the facade shifts in colour. The panels change colour from yellow to charcoal or vice versa, modifying the design of the facade at the same time.

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Daylight control

Daylight can be used to counterbalance the use of electrical lighting and ensure a positive effect on not only the productivity of the occupants but also their mood. According to studies, in the absence of proper solar control, occupants tend to draw blinds when visual or thermal comfort thresholds are exceeded. These blinds are likely to remain closed for some time, negating the potential benefits of having the window in the first place.

Things to consider when designing a facade

Simplicity and symmetry

Symmetry and simplicity are the fundamentals that architects and designers continue to use because it makes for buildings which are pleasing to the eye. If asymmetry is more your style, consider using simple, clean lines to avoid complicating the design.

Click on the image to the right to get a closer look at how the simplicity of design can pay off. 

Uniformity

Clashing styles is risky and can end up being distracting. Complementary themes and uniform styling is a safer bet which will still allow you to explore your creativity.

Use the surroundings

Take note of the setting and the surrounding architecture. What style will look best against the backdrop? Don’t be afraid to go bold and deviate from the norm.

Environment

Consider what type of environment you’re working with. A building surrounded by trees will have a completely different feel to the same building with no greenery. Consider incorporating plants and trees into your design.

Materials

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when there are so many different types of materials on offer to finish a home or building. Should you go for stone, brick or render? The material should be durable enough for the weather, whilst achieving the style you’re aiming for. Will you blend in with the surrounding architecture or go for a contrast?   

Color & paint

Something as simple as paint colour can have a huge effect on how a home looks. It’s important to take into account the architecture; some homes may look great finished in a bold colour and others not so much.

Garden and landscaping

Think of a garden as a partner to the home. A dark green garden full of dense trees may go well with darker colours, while a bright green garden will pop against a white facade. For a real impact, ditch trees altogether and keep the focus on the house itself.

Roofing

Weather and safety have a big impact on roofing choices, but there’s still room to play around with the design. With materials such as clay, slate, and aluminium, there are endless style possibilities. You could even consider a green roof!

Building facades have a significant impact on the environmental and economic performance of buildings and projects. The specification of their elements at the early design phase depends on numerous technical, environmental and economic factors and involves several stakeholders. The procurement and delivery of the facade work package from the early design phase, through detailed design and manufacture, to installation is a process with several inherent risk factors due to the involved cost, technical and engineering complexities and its position on the critical path in all projects. This research investigates the process of selection and specification of building facade elements at the early design phases with the overarching aim of identifying the issues affecting specification decisions, their root causes and impact on projects. The research utilises a mixed research approach which combines a retrospective case study and an industry survey as two research methods that build on each other. The findings suggest that the complexity of specification at the early design phases is exacerbated by factors such as the inadequate technical knowledge of stakeholders involved in the decision-making process, the non-involvement of building facade consultants, the late involvement of specialist facade subcontractors, and in a few cases by some commercial exclusivity agreements that restricts specification decisions.

A Holistic Approach to Façade Design

Inventive thinking for façade design is paramount for the development of a sensitive piece of architecture. The process of developing a façade is not simply to create the “hot photo.” Still, it is the design team’s opportunity to manifest their beliefs and intuitions about how a building should communicate and interact with both the community within and the campus as a whole. A well-designed façade has the capacity to challenge one’s preconceptions about architecture and place and can offer new, exciting and surprising ways of engaging with buildings and landscape. A strong design process for exploring façade strategies includes asking large questions; how can a façade speak to both the sky and ground, how can something feel massive or light, how can a building invite or deny, how can a façade be an arrow elsewhere or a destination, etc.  

There are many different strategies for exploring façade designs, and of course, each has its own merits and shortcomings. A productive approach to designing a façade is to stitch multiple modes of exploration together and using them to write a more holistic narrative about the experience and goals of the building.

Hand-sketching is an insightful method for exploring façade strategies which help to clarify design logics and orders quickly. Since sketching allows the author to “pick-and-choose” which details to draw or not draw, it brings attention to the most important aspects of the investigation. This often involves exploring major design drivers and understanding what the major moves of the architecture are. Hand-sketching can get to results quickly, which allows for many different iterations of disparate ideas to be tested and evaluated.

Massing models are developed in conjunction with sketching to explore the scale of architectural moves in the façade. Massing models can be quickly made, and expose how local decisions and larger gestures relate to both the building as a whole and the site at large. Like sketching, massing models offer the opportunity to exclude unnecessary detail to highlight the most important aspects of the façade design.

Detail physical models are invaluable tools for understanding how light, shadow and material interact with and are created by a façade design. These models will often include the “parts” which compose a building’s façade and assist in exploring how the building operates at the human-scale. Detail physical models have an amazing way of connecting us to the character and technics of a façade strategy.

Digitally rendering façade options are a powerful tool for exploring ideas due to its ability to place the viewer in the space. Renderings work to combine the effects of material, light, shadow, perspective, assemblies and geometry to present a fuller understanding of how one would experience the built architecture. An interesting asset of using digital renderings for design exploration is the ability to communicate with a wider audience of viewers, including those who are not trained in architectural representations, and who otherwise may not be able to understand what is being drawn fully.

Tips to follow if you’re trying to Design a Creative Facade on Your Project

Get Creative and Upbeat

The most important thing is to select the façade’s design and to be very creative. The more creative you get, the better the design will be.

Their quality must be more important than the quantity itself. The quantity does not necessarily enhance the quality of the design.

Check the Lights

When using the façade design, it is important to understand the light pattern. We can focus on the lighting effect that it brings to the interiors of the house or building. This technique can elevate both the inside and the outside.

Besides, it is important to consider the sun, and study its pattern, where are the pros and cons of the sunlight or its shadows, to make a nice design.

Pick a Nice Style

When looking for a basic façade style, adequate research is required. You must select the façade style that inspires you the most, and very meticulously follow its style to understand more about it.

The transparent and translucent designs are one of the most common styles dominating the current designs of the façades.

However, having an excess of transparency is not recommended because it could damage the interiors and exteriors of the building due to the sunlight’s reflection. Besides, if this trend is applied in hot weather, it will create a greenhouse effect on the inside.

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Study around Some Options

When looking for the design that best suits your construction, it’s important to study the place and consider certain criteria such as its physical conditions, its location, the history of that specific place, among others.

Many institutions have implemented the idea of respecting the environment and have used alternative technologies in the façade of their constructions.

Some buildings use technology to collect rainwater as well as to store solar energy.

It is very important to select the appropriate glass. There is a great diversity of glasses available in the market that will allow the style of the façade to be respectful to the environment and elegant at the same time, which is why the ideal glass for the building must be selected.

You should always select the best but do not go over the budget. Indeed, expensive designs usually look good. However, you can achieve simple and elegant designs within the agreed budget while adding the same charm.

Designing façades is a process in constant evolution, and many things that affect its performance must be considered. Having good and detailed planning will assure good results. We hope that the tips mentioned here are helpful to you.

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