Friday, February 17, 2012

Recap | Collaboration: the Facades and Digital Fabrication Conference

Image courtesy of The Architect's Newspaper/Erik Verboon.

Collaboration, the Facades and Digital Fabrication Conference, concluded yesterday with an impressive lineup of speakers and more than 250 professionals and students attending the event at the McGraw-Hill Auditorium in New York. The Architect’s Newspaper and Ornamental Metal Institute of New York sponsored event explored diverse aspects of advanced facade technology.

Mic Patterson, director of strategic development at the Advanced Technology Studio of Enclos, took to the podium at 11AM and delivered a presentation on facade retrofit for tall curtainwall buildings. The presentation focused on the looming need for retrofit in this building type, and its relevance in achieving energy efficiency and carbon reduction goals in the building sector. Current retrofit practices were explored within the context of sustainability, including a critical assessment of facade performance, durability, reuse and recycling. Amongst Patterson’s concerns is the fact that architectural glass, with its applications of films and coatings, is not recyclable — a fact unrecognized by many in the industry. Patterson also pointed out the mismatch in life cycle between the building structure and facade. Insulated glass units, for example, have a life expectancy of twenty to twenty-five years, far less than the average 75-year lifespan of commercial buildings. In spite of this fact, buildings have not been designed to accommodate future retrofit requirements, and this is equally true of new buildings as it is of the old buildings currently in need of retrofit.

Demonstrating these points were photographs of the current facade retrofit underway by Enclos for the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, as part of a half billion-dollar renovation of the facility. The building was completed in the mid 1980s, but the original has experienced significant deterioration in the glass and facade system. Side-by-side photographs of the new facade and old systems dramatically evidence the difference. The latest photo documentation of the Javits retrofit can be seen here.

In recent news, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently proposed tearing down the remodeled Javits facility and building a new convention center in neighboring Queens (you can read his proposal here). Coincidentally, Patterson remarked upon the sustainability challenge presented by today’s throwaway culture, where facade systems — and even entire buildings — are routinely subject to demolition with little consideration given to repurposing and reuse.

The conference concluded with keynote speaker Patrick Schumacher of Zaha Hadid Architects. Schumacher presented an overview of his firm’s visually stunning portfolio. Other presentations addressed aspects of digital design practice and new fabrication processes as dominant themes.

A full conference recap is available on AN’s website here. The event concludes today with workshops focused on conceptual design and the application of cutting edge digital technologies.


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