Building the Next Generation of Façades— What Glaziers Need to Know

What does the next generation of façades look like? That was a question addressed during the Building Envelope Contractors (BEC) Conference in Nashville. The event brought together contract glaziers, fabricators, suppliers, and more—in person—for the first time since 2020.

Brandon Andow, senior building performance analyst and associate principal with EYP, an integrated design firm, discussed product and technology changes and developments shaping the design and construction of building façades.

He began with a look at dynamic glazing systems. While electrochromic glass has been the frontrunner, there are other technologies, such as liquid crystal. Electrochromic glass was specifically developed to address daylighting potential. He noted the promise of dynamic daylighting is turning off electric lights and controlling visual comfort. However, glare is still an issue, he said, so electrochromic glazing isn’t necessarily going to put the blind industry out of business.

Closed Cavity Façades

Andow also discussed closed cavity façades (CCF). The CCF is an enclosed double-skin façade that is duel- or triple-glazed internally and single-glazed externally. Double-skin façades have been around for a long time, but as Andow said, many people are still cautious about these systems. With a CCF, blinds are installed within the cavity to protect them and still block the sun. CCFs also help improve thermal performance, increase the window-to-wall ratio, and can improve acoustics.

Panel wall systems are another product area that the industry may see more of in the future. Andow thinks an increased focus will be on opaque assemblies, including more panelized wall systems and more design options with terracotta, brick, etc.

Envelope Systems

Looking to the future, Andow discussed industry designs. Envelope systems, he said, must satisfy dynamically changing and often conflicting requirements. This includes, for example, mitigating or promoting the transmission of light for the day and controlling the transmission or absorption of heat for thermal comfort and thermal load reduction. In
addition, envelope systems need to manage the direction and intensity of light for visual comfort and productivity and promote the proper visible spectrum distribution at the appropriate time of day for human physiology and circadian entertainment. All of this, he said, must be done while co-managing privacy with views outside and achieving the primary design element.

With this in mind, Andow next addressed various considerations that could impact glazing and the façade, including several areas related to structural performance criteria. Andow expects changes and evolution as the climate becomes less predictable, including designing for stress and deflection due to more variation in wind events. Impact, hurricane, and windborne debris concerns are also bringing increased requirements.

Considerations

Other necessary considerations include designing for increased glare requirements; human non-visual systems (i.e., our circadian rhythms); and increased acoustical requirements. He also mentioned more building proposals include plants inside the building, so it will be essential to ensure they continue to receive sufficient lighting.

“We’re spending money to put plants in the building, [so we need to] pay attention to how the light comes through to ensure proper lighting.”

Speaking of the next generation of façades, he said it’s also important to continue addressing carbon emissions. As buildings become more energy-efficient, embodied carbon becomes increasingly important. The concerns aren’t just with aluminum and glass production. Shipping and supply chain matters are also issues for embodied carbon.

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