Trendpark Neckarsulm automatic sliding door by Geze
Trendpark Neckarsulm automatic sliding door by Geze

Facades now actively contribute to reducing the energy footprint of a building

While façade performance in the Middle East has largely been directed at limiting the ingress of heat by controlling solar radiation, thermal conduction and air infiltration, we can now go well beyond this thanks to recent innovations.

According to Belarmino Cordero, division manager of facades at AESG, developers and building owners across the region have begun evaluating the feasibility of designing as per the net-zero standard, and have been exploring its implications from both a technical as well as a commercial perspective.

In a report released by AESG, titled ‘Facades: The backdrop for zero-energy’, Cordero outlined various factors that are contributing to façade designs that help buildings achieve net or near-zero energy. These factors include building envelope commission and BIM, glazing, vertical gardens and 3D printing.

“Prior to project completion, it isn’t just about getting the design right, but also about applying straight quality controls throughout construction,” Cordero wrote. “Developers realise the benefits of this and there has been an increase in the demand for full building envelope commissioning services from the early stages of design. This serves as an efficient process to safeguard the quality of the final product and, hence, ensure satisfaction of the end-user.”

Cordero added that BIM is a key technology, and allows for project-specific façade energy modelling during the early stages of a project, which yields valuable information on the critical components in the design of energy efficient buildings.

“For example, in low-rise buildings,” he wrote, “the proportion of roof surface area and its associated solar incidence is larger than in high-rises. Therefore, it may be more efficient and cost effective to increase the thickness of the roof insulation rather than to design an expensive high-performance façade.”

3D printing is another key technology, as Cordero notes it’s a viable option of low-rise developments. Such buildings reduce material use and labour in their construction, which contributes to reducing their embodied energy.

Cordero added that in terms of glazing, glass is seeing the most advancements.

“Improvements in selective solar coatings make it possible to filter out increasingly larger portions of the infrared wave length without reducing the amount of visible light through…advancements in glass surface treatments have resulted in increased durability with limited maintenance while frit technologies have developed and digital printing has become mainstream.”

And further to providing shading and mitigating the Heat Island Effect, building vertical gardens on building facades or balconies has numerous potential benefits, like improving the air quality – although, Cordero advised studying ways to limit the inevitable increase in water consumption.

“Many of the technologies needed to achieve the net-zero goal exist today,” he wrote, “making it more attainable than you may imagine. The Middle East must now shift its focus on net-zero energy efficient buildings from merely highlighting innovation to improving efficiencies, reducing operational costs, ensuring the long-term success of building projects and, of course, reducing the environmental impact of our urbanisation.”