It is the facade of a building that brings an architect’s vision to life, however a building’s skin not only contributes to architectural expression, it also plays a large role in the performance of the building as a whole.
Globally, clients are becoming more demanding concerning the solutions they want from their buildings and facades. They want better-performing, more aesthetically pleasing façades and these requirements have to be delivered quickly and cost-effectively.
Steve Daniels, Aurecon’s Facade Service Leader, has an extensive track record in facade management and consulting.
He has come across many challenging projects over the course of 25 years and has worked on some of the worlds’ great facades including the Petronas Towers in Malaysia, Swiss Re and City Hall in London, and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Daniels discusses some of the things that need to be considered to get the best out of your facades engineer.
A facade is one of the key influencers that determine the value, commercial success and project risk of a building, but it’s also one of the most common sources of building failure. Few people realise how complex a facade system can be. In a typical 30 storey building, for example, there will be approximately 18 000 m2 of facade. This will consist of approximately 3 000 panels, with each panel having approximately 300 parts that are constructed from various materials.
“This example adds up to nearly a million parts for the facade alone, so it’s no wonder that things can go wrong if proper control isn’t in place,” comments Daniels.
“Some of the diverse conditions that a facade needs to accommodate include wind speeds that can go above 100 k/ph, temperature differences, and associated thermal expansion of up to 80°C, plus they must resist rain, humidity, mould and even seismic activity and lightning.”
“Besides being designed for all of the above external conditions, a facade on a tall building also needs to be able to accommodate a structure that moves and deflects all of this while continuing to look good. In short, it is a complex machine and should not be trusted to inexperience,” cautions Daniels.
“Within the boundaries of the fees available, facade engineers need to be smart with the solutions they offer. It’s our job to find the technologies and systems to make the client requirements possible. As a very minimum, we must offer safe, buildable, durable solutions that fit into the client’s budget,” he says.
Sometimes delivering optimum service means delivering difficult messages to our clients. As with any type of highly technical engineering solution, you get what you pay for when it comes to facade design and installation.
“Facade engineers need to be brought in at the early stages of a project in order to understand what the client’s aspirations are and what they can afford, so that the engineers can assess different solutions and determine what performance requirements are needed for the facade. In this way, the project proceeds smoothly with all parties fully informed,” says Daniels.
Daniels believes that a facade engineer’s obligations extend much further than delivering a technical service.
“An engineer must understand the entire development process and the fact that delaying a building project will have financial implications for our client. We therefore have an obligation to provide good technical advice and keep a project moving forward.”
“Make sure that the façade engineer you partner with has appropriate experience, understands your project’s aspirations and understands how a project is developed. No client will ever be thankful for achieving a small, non-critical technical win if the result is that the project is delivered late,” adds Daniels.
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