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Facades for the Post-Pandemic Worlds

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the course of action in almost every facet of our lives. From education to work-life to social life, we were forced to adapt to the new normal. The pandemic and rapidly accentuating influence of climate change have now coincided, prompting to rethink the faade and fenestration designs which need to be made more green, resilient and adaptive.

This is the time when living in harmony with nature, creating green buildings and reducing the carbon footprint has become a necessity. When we speak of facades, it is now well-established that they are not just an aesthetic addition, but an integral part of any structure. A good faade is necessary for not just the protection of a building, but for the health and wellness of the occupants

Going forward, here are a few important things the architects and builders might have to incorporate for the buildings.

Facades with anti-microbial properties

The world is constantly exposed to new viruses. The COVID-19 pandemic especially has exposed us to a whole new threat - social distancing, face masks, frequent washing of hands, limiting exposure to high-touch surfaces and switching to anti-microbial surfaces and so on. The use of partition systems that are made up of materials with anti-microbial properties and easy-to-clean surfaces are more important than before. Facades with rear ventilation are preferred due to their ability to avoid the spread of infection. Also, faades with air-infiltration technology to help filter the air and circulate clean air inside the buildings are necessary. There is a need for sustainable facade design that allows for natural ventilation as it is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of airborne microbes.

Operable facade system

The indoor air quality can have a significant effect on the occupants health sooner or later. Inadequate ventilation can increase indoor pollutant levels by not bringing in enough outdoor air and by not carrying indoor air pollutants out of the home. High temperature and humidity levels can also increase concentrations of some pollutants. Also, natural ventilation is one of the most efficient ways to reduce energy usage in buildings. Adequate natural ventilation can enhance the thermal comfort of the occupants to a great extent. Natural ventilation can provide a sufficient supply of breathing air, thermal conditioning, and carries out a chunk of humid waste through a well-designed system. The operable faade systems improve the indoor air quality, occupant comfort level and productivity. Vertical glass louvers, operable windows are some of the ways to enhance natural ventilation. High-performance operable faade systems involve using the right materials, advanced technologies and optimizing the faade functions.

Natural lighting is yet another essential aspect of modern-day architecture. It can greatly impact the occupants well-being, help conserve energy and enrich the spaces. Natural lighting which took a backseat with the advent of electrical lighting is again coming back to importance due to the current situation. Natural daylight can prevent the growth of fungi, improve psychological and physiological health and well-being, regulate circadian rhythms and cognitive functions. Ways to enhance daylight include - Light shelves, external shading systems, solar tubes, solar shading louver systems, light wall colours, high-level windows, horizontal ribbon windows, designing the building orientation to reduce the solar heat gain etc. By choosing operable faade systems, sun blinds or louvers can be adjusted to maximize the natural daylight into the building.

The double skin faade that typically comprises two glass layers on the building exterior is designed to open and close based on the surrounding conditions and fresh air requirements. It can reduce heating and cooling loads, provide acoustic insulation, increase natural light and ventilation, to name a few.

Biophilic designs

During and perhaps a few more years post-pandemic, our homes will serve as additional spaces for work, gym, learning space for children and recreation space at times. This multifunctional space needs to be designed for better space utilization, better thermal & visual comfort, acoustic and sound management, ergonomics etc.

An approach to connect the building occupants more closely with nature is a requisite. The demand for biophilic homes will increase in the post-pandemic era. More natural light and ventilation, rooftop gardens and green areas, green balconies and terraces, minimal and wholesome indoor environments, filtered and transitional entrances are more essential now. More exposure to nature is seen to enhance the immune system, improve the overall health and productivity of every individual. Faade designs that can address the uniform distribution of diffused daylight across the building section, glare and visual comfort analysis, natural ventilation analysis, solar faade integration, are imperative.

Carbon-neutral buildings

A shift to carbon-neutral buildings will begin with the conscious choices we make in the design stage itself. Locally available materials and products can reduce the carbon footprint. Responsive and adaptive facade designs which can monitor solar heat gain, daylighting and microclimate of the building concerning the external climatic conditions have become a requisite globally. Performance-centric facades can reduce peak cooling loads and help implement an HVAC system/ low-energy alternative for commercial projects. For residential projects, they can filter and redirect daylight, provide natural ventilation, manage heat transfer and reduce the operating costs of the building. The high-performance building envelope is a must to achieve carbon-neutral buildings. Smart facades with operable skin that are energy enhancing and light-responsive can be used to achieve this objective.

Modular, lightweight and adaptive architecture

The faade buzzwords in the current era are flexibility, scalability, faster construction, dynamic adaptability through a modular and agile approach. Lightweight faade materials that aid easy transportation and installation are in demand. Future-focused designs developed with cutting-edge technologies that can cater to the changing meaning of work, office, home office, learning space etc., should become an integral part of every faade design.

Now is the time when architects, designers and builders have to come together to choose products, designs and build structures that have the least harmful impact on the environment. It is crucial to choose sustainable materials and design smart buildings that can protect the environment as well as enhance the occupants health and well-being.