Materials shape our built environment, with architectural glass playing a dominant role in defining our current cityscapes. But while the attributes of transparency are indispensable in many applications, the formability of architectural glass is limited. As designers continue to search for greater freedom of architectural form, recent advances in molded, composite concrete technologies suggest an opportunity. The question is: to what extent will molded materials shape the built environment of tomorrow?
At the center of the composite discussion today is fiber-reinforced polymers (FRP) and their potential for application in the building facade. The advantages are many: an extremely favorable strength-to-weight ratio, highly customizable engineered properties, a resistance to surface cracking (such cracking is a frequent problem with its close material cousin, glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC)), and a higher durability when compared to many traditional building materials (such as environmentally exposed finished metals, which are prone to deterioration from rust and corrosion).
Leading industry professionals are already developing these molded technologies into built realities; prime among them the San Francisco Bay area firm of Kreysler & Associates. Kreysler is currently fabricating the oversized sculpted FRP facade panels for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) expansion designed by the Norwegian architectural firm Snohetta. Equally strong is interest in the material from academics, including California Polytechnic State University–San Luis Obispo, whose bachelor of architecture program was just ranked first in the nation by DesignIntelligence. Relevant in this regard is the program’s top spot in the “Construction Methods and Material” category, where faculty such as associate professor Mark Cabrinha and assistant professor Jeff Ponitz lead students in materials-based seminars supplementing their studio work.
For the seminar’s final project, five student teams presented projects with a single requirement: develop a process and concept for an FRP facade system. Results varied from panelized systems, grid based designs, cylindrical forms and tessellated patterns. Concepts included both barrier wall and rain screen systems.
“The issues with FRP are compelling,” Cabrinha says. “We use curvature for strength, but how much is enough? How much is coming from the material, and how much is coming from form?”
The review panel included three integrally involved industry professionals to weigh in on the design, constructability and material properties of the student projects: Shawn Gehle, principal and design director at architect Gensler’s Los Angeles office, Dan Green, vice president at national facade contractor Enclos, and Joshua Zabel, director of digital fabrication at Kreysler & Associates. Gehle noted “the range of ideas presented is a great indicator of the material’s potential.” Green offered design and constructability considerations, ranging from the thermal expansion properties of FRP (it’s similar to aluminum), its interaction with adjacent wall systems, and his surprise with the student’s “interest in developing cost effective designs for the future.”
The application of FRP as a building facade material is not without its challenges. There are few examples of the large-scale application of the material in commercial building projects, and a resulting reluctance by many risk-averse building owners to its inclusion in their construction programs. The primary limiting factor has been fire code restrictions, specifically National Fire Protection Association NFPA 285: Standard Fire Test Method for Evaluation of Fire Propagation Characteristics of Exterior Non-Load-Bearing Wall Assemblies Containing Combustible Components. Recent advancements, however, backed by successful testing — the approval of Kreysler’s SFMOMA project being the most recent example — have opened the door for the widespread adoption of this exiting material in commercial building facade applications.
Glass and reflected light dominate the visual environs of our great cities. As a material, glass remains unique with unusual properties — transparency prominent among them. The challenge lies in the number of choices available to designers, and predicting how the material will look in context under varying light conditions. Reflections on Glass: The Aesthetics of Reflected Light asks the question and offers solutions for: how do designers control the appearance and aesthetic of architectural glass?
Enclos’ Reflections on Glass: The Aesthetics of Reflected Light is an AIA:CES registered course (LU|HSW credit) that meets today’s emerging design complexities by identifying and comparing:
- Performance attributes and considerations of architectural glass (thermal, acoustical, structural, etc.) and how these affect visual quality through reflection, daylighting, glare, optical distortions and surface patterns.
- Strengths and weaknesses of prominent architectural glass applications, including monolithic, laminated and insulated glass units.
- Common causes of optical distortion (roller wave, bowing, edge curl, etc.) and methods to troubleshoot.
- Sustainability issues involved with architectural glass as a building material and construction practices.
About the presenter:
Mic Patterson, LEED AP [BD+C], has made a career study of building facades, participating in the design, fabrication and installation of a remarkably diverse body of novel applications. He founded ASI Advanced Structures Inc in 1991, the firm that pioneered the introduction of advanced facade technology in the US marketplace. Enclos, a leading global curtain wall firm, acquired ASI in 2007. Patterson subsequently participated in the establishment of the Advanced Technology Studio of Enclos, a facade think-tank located in downtown Los Angeles, where he works as the Vice President of Strategic Development. Patterson earned a Masters of Building Science degree from the School of Architecture at the University of Southern California, where he is currently a PhD candidate. He has taught, written extensively and lectured widely on diverse aspects of advanced facade technology. He is the author of "Structural Glass Facades and Enclosures," published by Wiley in 2011.
Additional AIA/CES registered courses by Enclos include:
Curtainwall 101: Introduction to Curtainwall (LU | HSW)
High-Performance Facades: Emerging Trends & Forces Shaping the Building Skin (LU | HSW)
Face Change: Innovation & Rapid Evolution in Building Skin Technology (LU | HSW)
Los Angeles Skyline © 2009 Al Bee
Information on USC's Master of Building Science program is available here.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
― Nelson Mandela
The world is indeed in need of change, perhaps now more than ever before. Industrialized civilization has managed to unsettle the planetary climate balance. Population growth and fossil fuel consumption have combined to produce dangerous levels of atmospheric greenhouse gasses. The global concentration of carbon dioxide has exceeded 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in millions of years, and the rate of increase shows no signs of slowing, representing a threat to the ongoing evolutionary advancement of world culture and survival of life on earth.* The building sector — buildings and the built environment — are responsible for a significant percentage of this problem, and present a unique challenge to the emerging framework of sustainable development vital to the future of humankind.
There is an urgent need to address these issues, and little in the way of consensus on how to do so. It is clear that solutions are not at hand; there is no alternative but to innovate our way to a sustainable future. Optimistically, we are in the beginning stages of a transformation towards a sustainable global civilization that will necessarily shift the focus on buildings from a design aesthetic of arbitrary form, to one of exacting performance-driven forms yielded from deep applications of building science and technology.
So what are the academic possibilities for preparing a career trajectory that fully engages this opportunity?
The Chase L. Leavitt Graduate Building Science program at the University of Southern California School of Architecture is a global leader in architectural technology education. The program offers an outstanding faculty, dedicated students, an exceptional foundational curriculum, excellent facilities, and a long history of scholarly achievement. The curricular structure is designed to provide the breadth and depth required of the increasingly holistic pursuits of building science. The program’s courses offer broad coverage of the critical aspects of building science: structures, environmental controls, sustainability, materials and methods, and computing. If you are an architecture or engineering student, post-career professional in a related field interested in the experience of graduate educational pursuits, consider this multi-faceted area of building science.
Find out more about USC’s Master of Building Science program here.
* Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii
Jeffrey Vaglio, associate director of the Advanced Technology Studio of Enclos in Los Angeles, will present “Concept to Reality: Leveraging a Parametric Model for Constructability” at Autodesk University’s 2013 Design Computation Forum. The forum will take place on Wednesday, December 4th in Las Vegas.
The assembly's theme is “Computational BIM.” Through case studies of built projects, Vaglio will discuss how parametric design comes full circle: the transition from design to the role of specialty subcontractors and fabricators responsible for bringing projects to realization.
We hope you’ll join us at AU 2013.
The program for AU’s 2013 Design Computation Symposium is available here.
The iconic Jacob K. Javits Convention Center operated 10% below energy codes prior to its 2013 curtainwall and skylight re-cladding. It is expected to exceed codes by 25% post-retrofit.
Researchers from the University of Southern California School of Architecture have released the results of a preliminary survey on building facade retrofit. The Existing Buildings Retrofit Survey Report is part of a long-term commitment to study the challenging problem of existing buildings: their impact on the built environment, and strategies for retrofitting to improve efficiency and meet future sustainability goals for the built environment. Andrea Martinez and Mic Patterson are Ph.D. candidates at USC’s School of Architecture, and are spearheading the research effort.
"At this point, we are primarily trying to identify past facade retrofit projects as candidates for case study research,” Martinez says. “There have been very few building energy retrofit projects to date that have involved the facade because of cost, but there is an immense looming need. Many of these facade systems are 40 to 50 years old and more, and were not particularly good performers to begin with."
The first round survey identified over 300 retrofit buildings from over 30 countries as potential candidates. "One of the things we intend to do is develop an online database of these retrofit projects, capturing key project data that may reveal patterns and trends in facade retrofit applications," Patterson says. "One of the things we have already discovered is that buildings being constructed today — and well into the future — will require retrofit in order to meet currently established energy performance goals for the commercial building sector. Yet, no consideration is given to facilitating the retrofit in the design of the facade system. Retrofitting old curtainwall buildings can often only be accomplished by completely removing the original curtainwall and replacing it with a new, higher performance system, a practice that challenges sustainable construction practices.
The retrofit buildings identified in the survey were primarily office buildings (72%). The majority facade type was highly-glazed curtainwall. New curtainwall systems used to over-clad existing masonry facades was another retrofit strategy common amongst the survey results.
Martinez and Patterson intend to publish the results of this ongoing investigation and open a public database as a resource to the AEC industry to help facilitate the facade retrofit process. The researchers are also soliciting the participation of retrofit practitioners to share their experience by participating in ongoing surveys and case study research. "We can only accomplish our goals with the support of the building community," Martinez says.
To facilitate this outreach, the researchers have launched a Facade Retrofit LinkedIn group to establish a forum that can share in this investigation effort, and where future findings and case studies can be posted. The Facade Retrofit LinkedIn group can be found here.