Energy-Efficient Facade Design

The materials with which a building’s facade is constructed are a key element not only to its beauty but also to its practicality. Good facade design allows the building to look beautiful from the outside and to save the owner money when it comes to heating and cooling. The following discusses the components and concerns of energy-efficient facade design.

A building’s facade system should have a high thermal performance. This means that because the facade system helps the building gain less heat, the air conditioning system is subject to a lower load. Since the air conditioning system accounts for a significant portion of a typical building’s electricity bill, having a facade system that facilitates good thermal performance has a direct impact on energy consumption.

In order to design buildings that will provide comfort with less energy use, you must understand the properties of the facade’s materials. Different building materials have different thermal conductivities and specific heat capacities. These differences influence their thermal performance. On the flip side, reliable and accurate information on the “coolness” of construction materials is often lacking.

One area of debate is the value of the opaque wall. Conventional practice dictates that high-mass building materials offer significant energy benefits in exterior walls. But these benefits are highly dependent upon where the building is located, how it is operated, and how it is designed. When it comes to energy performance, high-mass building materials are still very open for debate. In areas of thermal engineering and physics for buildings, recent innovations such as dynamic insulation–porous cooling or heating–and phase change material have defied conventional wisdom.

Facade design has more considerations than aesthetics. A successful facade system is one that combines both the beauty of the architect’s vision and the practicality of being energy efficient. It is a combination that ensures a quality building that will endure for years to come.