Many of us feel that the interior design or beauty of a house is the most important. But there is one exception in the form of your external facade which is conceived as the shell of a building. These facades are supposed to be a presentation canvas, where different artistic and architectural styles can be displayed. But they also give your visitors clues about the interior, style, and architecture of the house.
Traditionally, facades constituted the main structure of the building, which is why there were limited openings. Since its evolution, a bigger surface or opening can be obtained so that the house is illuminated properly. With the introduction of steel and reinforced concrete in the construction line, the facades were freed of their supporting function, and are now used as a non-load bearing structure.
Façade systems comprise the structural elements that provide lateral and vertical resistance to wind and other actions and the building envelope elements that provide the weather resistance and thermal, acoustic and fire-resisting properties. The types of a façade system that are used depend on the type and scale of the building and on local planning requirements that may affect the building’s appearance concerning its neighbours. For example, brickwork is often specified as the external façade material. Still, the modern way of constructing the inner leaf consists of light steel wall elements (called infill walling) that have effectively replaced more traditional blockwork.
Other types of façade materials may be attached to light steel walling, such as insulated render, large boards, metallic panels and terracotta tiles. A wide variety of facade treatments and shapes may be created using light steel wall including large ribbon windows, curved and inclined walls, and with projections such as solar shading or balconies. Façade materials may be mixed to enhance the aesthetics of the building. It is also possible to prefabricate light steel wall panels with their cladding pre-attached.
In multi-storey buildings, unitised curtain walling systems have been developed that are attached to the floors or edge beams of the primary steel structure. Steel and glass are also widely used in façade and roofing systems, and the local attachments are in the form of stainless steel brackets.
Other interfaces that affect the design of the façade include the attachment of brickwork to steel edge beams, the design of projecting balconies, solar shading and attachments of parapets.
One could make endless designs of façades, based on its composition, style, decoration, and even colour. But today we wish to examine various options in terms of façade- and exterior wall materials crafted by some of the finest Architects.
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The building façade provides the separation between the inside and the outside environments. Still, it is also required to provide acceptable light levels and a visual connection with the outside in the form of views out of the building. The façade may also be required to provide the building user with openable windows for ventilation.
Elimination of water ingress
A fundamental requirement of a cladding system is that water does not leak through it into the building. One means of eliminating leaks is to create a face-sealed system over the whole building, equivalent to a weatherproof membrane. Once such a system is perforated, water leaking through the perforations is inside the building. In practice, it isn’t easy to achieve such a face-sealed system because of the complexity of the interfaces between the various materials and components in a building envelope and its exposure to weathering.
A more reliable way of providing resistance to water ingress is to adopt a system with primary and secondary defences. The primary defence is intended to resist most of the incident rain but if water leaks past the primary (outer) defence, the secondary defence intercepts the water and directs it to the outside. Rain screen systems and glazing and framing profiles are designed in this way.
The level of exposure of buildings to the weather is related to the design of wind pressure. The level of performance of a building envelope can be specified, and resistance to water penetration tested. The Centre for Window and Cladding Technology (CWCT) publishes a ‘Standard for systemised building envelopes, which sets out performance categories and corresponding weather tests related to the design wind pressure.
Control of air permeability
Air permeability is controlled in the design and construction of building envelopes to manage the rate of heat loss or gain due to the exchange of air with the outside, to assist in reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Standards of air permeability are identified in the Air Tightness Testing and Measurement Association (ATTMA) guide and specification for air permeability.
Pressure testing is required under the Building Regulations, which state that all buildings that are not dwellings must be subject to pressure testing (subject to some exceptions).
Compliance is demonstrated if the measured air permeability is not worse than the limiting value of 10 m3/(hr.m2) at 50 Pa and the building emission rate (BER) calculated using the measured air permeability is not worse than the target CO2 emission rate (TER). Requirements are also specified for dwellings.
Resistance to wind actions
Building cladding systems are required to sustain wind actions and transfer them to the main building structure. Systems are usually mounted on a building floor by floor so at each floor level the building frame supports the weight of one storey height of the envelope. The envelope may either be bottom-supported or suspended from the floor above. The cladding system transfers wind actions to the building floors, which act as linear support. Building cladding systems formed of large panels are usually one-way spanning. Each floor level, therefore, supports one level of wind load on a building.
Curtain walling panels are usually two-way spanning, supported on four sides by the transoms and mullions which frame them. Transoms span side to side, supported by the mullions which span from floor to floor. Brackets transfer loads, usually fixed at the edge of the floor slab. The mullions are usually provided with sleeved joints to achieve the transfer of shear forces at the joints. Mullions are usually top-hung so that they act in bending and tension.
Rain screen cladding, masonry and insulated render are fixed to supporting systems which are usually designed to span from floor to floor.
Thermal and acoustic insulation
The building façade is required to perform a thermal insulating function which is becoming increasingly demanding under pressure to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions. The insulating material is incorporated into the opaque parts of the façade, and insulating glazed units (igus) are used in the transparent areas. Minimum U-values are given in the Building Regulations, equal to 0.35 W/m2K for walls and 2.2 W/m2K for windows and curtain walling. Better insulation (lower U-values) averaged over the building envelope can be achieved by increasing the areas of opaque wall and reducing the areas of windows.
The building envelope also provides acoustic separation between the external and internal environments. In general, a building envelope constructed of more massive elements (e.g. masonry or pre-cast concrete) provides better acoustic separation.
Solar gain, light levels and views out
Large areas of glazing which extend from floor to ceiling in many office developments provide excellent views out of the space and good levels of natural light. Levels of natural light diminish with distance from the façade, and 18m is the plan depth (facade to façade or façade to atrium) above which natural light is considered to be too low.
The penetration of direct sunlight into a building causes solar gain and glare, both of which increase with a greater expanse of glazing. These effects vary with the time of day and with the seasons and both need to be allowed for in the design of the façade. South elevations receive stronger sunlight from a higher angle and can be shaded using horizontal louvres or brises soleil. Glare from low-angle sunlight can be a particular problem in the early morning and late evening for east- and west-facing elevations. Shading can be provided with vertical fins or with user-operated blinds.
Solar gain can be reduced by specifying a selective solar control coating on one of the surfaces of the glass (usually in the cavity of an igu). The coating is called selective because solar radiation of different wavelengths is selectively allowed to pass through the coating: visible wavelengths of light are allowed to pass more freely than infrared wavelengths.
For spaces for exhibitions or displays of materials susceptible to ultraviolet (UV) degradation, a UV-inhibiting film can be applied to the surface of glazing or laminated glass can be specified with sufficient interlayers between the glass laminates to absorb UV radiation.
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Materials that you can use for exterior facades
Metal coatings I
If the facades of a building determine how it communicates with its surroundings, then the material is the language through which this process takes place. However, metal facades were previously associated with industrial or prefabricated buildings but are now increasingly common to see in domestic spaces as well. Such materials for house facades are also easy and fast to install. Besides, they are fully efficient and functional. Smooth, wavy, greased, pre-laced or galvanised veneers are the different types of coatings which can be combined with materials like wood, concrete, plaster or stone. In this image, the large glass openings within white walls make the interior brighter. Whereas, its upper part protects the structure, like an inverted base made of corrugated sheets.
Metal coatings II
Corten steel is one of the materials for modern facades or used in contemporary architecture. Despite its oxidised colour, this material offers enormous resistance to the atmospheric corrosion. It is all because of the protective layer of oxide formed by the alloy of chromium and copper.
Natural stone cladding
Exterior facade cladding made with stones has been used throughout history. These coatings offer different colours and textures, which adds an elegant and distinctive touch to the walls. In addition to this, stone also provides excellent thermal insulation and acoustic against humidity. The material is known for its good quality hardness and resistance, depending on the type chosen. The finishes of the stones are also very diverse. In this house, the architect covers the top floor of the building by isolating it with slate. If there is something that characterises this natural stone, it is the dark colour and resistance. The possibilities offered by this material makes it an excellent choice for both indoors as well as outdoors.
We all know the qualities of wood in an aesthetic and perceptive sense. It is a very warm and welcoming material. However, this type of coatings has other characteristics too, which requires you to choose them carefully. Susceptibility to moisture, solar radiation and temperature changes are just a few examples. Although wood has been used since remote times in the construction of shelters, we still have to make sure that it is treated correctly against xylophages, fire, humidity, and radiation. Once the right kind of wood is chosen, we only have to find the application that suits us the most. It can either be vertical, horizontal or even larger slats.
Masonry is a traditional wall construction system which uses different materials like bricks, tiles, or stones. Usually, these walls are structural and can be created with various techniques. These can include using mortar or replacing the clay, as an element of adhesion between the walls. One can also build dry walls if they prefer. They provide a rural and rustic look to the houses. On many occasions, we can still find houses, whose walls are covered with similar exterior facade materials that simulate a traditional style of masonry.
Plasters were traditionally used in construction and can also pose as a decorative front for your house. Its low cost, various colours, and multiple finishes make it a perfect solution for homes built with brick walls. In this house, green and white stripes of different widths create a different rhythm. They also hide the cracks that usually appear in this type of coatings over time.
These days concrete facades are conquering the buildings of contemporary architecture. Made with different textures and shades of grey or white, this material does not need serious maintenance as it is very durable. In this image, we can see the concrete wall or facade, where the horizontal framework of wood is the only decoration used.
The glass is also a popular material when it comes to designing facades. Instead of creating multiple openings, these facades themselves allow enough light into the building. Only the frames and partitions create enclosures in the structure. Sun protection and maintenance are two critical factors for glass facades. In this example, we can see a forged fly over the facade line, projecting a shadow and protecting it from solar radiation. Also, they provide a terrace that can be used for cleaning the structure.
Facade materials you NEED to consider!
When it comes to choosing materials for modern facades, you can’t go wrong with treated metal! It won’t rust, can be finished in any colour you choose and can be cut and fettled to fit ANY property. It also offers a great weatherproof coating, as well as striking aesthetics.
If metal does appeal to you, but you aren’t looking for that permanently perfect look, corten steel is a fantastic option for your exterior facade cladding, as it gently rusts. It’s ideal for industrial-looking homes or those set within a colourful location. Wow!
Natural stone makes for a stoic, stunning and well-protected house facade, especially if you select a variety that is native to your region! This will also save you money on transportation and quarrying costs while creating a natural exterior finish.
Materials for house facades don’t come much more traditional or adaptable than wood cladding and what a beautiful finish it creates! Regardless of whether you want a contemporary look or a more traditional agricultural aesthetic, wood is a worthy consideration, but don’t forget that it WILL need regular protecting.
If you build a pretty home from scratch and select striking bricks, why cover them up at all? We know that facade cladding and finishes are usually protective as well as decorative, but you can seal bricks and then let them act as a naturally pretty finish in their own right.
Rendering the outside of a home is a popular choice, especially if you fancy the idea of adding some colour or patterns at a later date! The added benefit of render is that you can construct your home from cheaper, less attractive materials, as they will be totally covered and hidden away.
For a more unusual, textural home facade, tamped concrete is perfect! Naturally insulating and tough, your home will be well protected by the concrete, as well as distinctly different. You can also choose to paint your facade or, add pigment to the concrete.
Finally, how’s this for a more unusual idea? Choosing to install more windows than walls will give you the appearance of an almost entirely glass facade. Now that is a guaranteed way to tap into some contemporary architecture!
Why do I need a facade?
The building shell has always been the crucial feature when it comes to the durability of a house. Its primary role is to protect the house from the elements: snow, rain, wind and sun. Since extreme weather phenomena have increased significantly in recent decades, it is particularly important to be prepared for various weather conditions and to provide house walls with sufficient protection.
In addition to protecting the building, the façade has another important and useful function which the developer should consider: An ideal façade reduces energy consumption by acting as thermal insulation. It also provides a pleasant indoor climate, offers improved fire protection and insulates against external sound and noise. However, many of these functions can only be ensured with the right insulation.
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In addition to function, the choice of façade cladding also determines the appearance and character of the house. The façade is the visible part of the building shell which can be customised by the homeowner. A range of different materials, colours and shapes offer a great deal of creative freedom and customisation. With a rendered façade, for example, different accents can be used than would otherwise be possible with large-size aluminium façade panels or wooden façade profiles. Larger sizes give the house a modern, industrial look, whereas a façade covered with smaller products can emphasise the finer details. Custom façade designs can create visual statements on a range of buildings, whether it’s an idyllic detached house, a modern company building, a secure garage or rustic summer house.
As a part of the building shell, a façade not only protects your house from external influences but also contributes significantly to the appearance of your home. Whether you want a simple, unobtrusive façade which fits into the townscape or something that stands out, the design possibilities for a façade are as diverse and individual as the developers themselves.