When it comes to facades, there isn’t a glass ceiling. The industry continually pushes to better itself in many ways. Be it in design, engineering, manufacturing, installation, and testing. Last year has been a challenging year for the world over. However, times like these provide great opportunities to take stock of how processes can be improved and pave the road ahead for creating better ways to move forward as an industry.
The design process has been constantly evolving, from bound volumes of hand drawn details to digital drawings to intelligent 3D model-based process. That gives Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) professionals the insight and tools to plan, design, construct, collaborate and manage buildings in a more efficiently. A clear example of this is the use of virtual reality to bring users or developers into their future building for an actual ‘walk around’. The possibilities are endless.
As industry leaders within sustainable development and as a signatory to the World Green Building Council’s Net Zero Carbon Building’s Commitment, AESG acknowledges its responsibility to work towards a more sustainable future. By supporting Architects, Master planners and Developers from early stages, competition, and pre-concept stage, AESG has provided multidisciplinary specialist consultancy services for some of the most leading sustainable developments in the region.
Here in the region, some of the key studies that AESG has developed are based on the energy gain reduction through the façade design. For example, by taking the general orientation and massing of the building, along with the sun path into consideration and effects from adjacent buildings, reduction in heat gains and hence reduction cooling load of a building, can be achieved.
In the following case study, AESG shows how early evaluation of design can have a big impact on the final energy performance of the building. The location of this case study is in Abu Dhabi, and the target of the study is to provide optimal protection of the façade from solar radiation, considering as variables, the orientation, the massing and the shading elements on the façade.
Further reduction to heat gain can be achieved with the implementation of solar shading elements. Exploration on size, shape, or angularity of the shading feature on the envelope can be undertaken using generative design programming allowing the process to be more efficient. By setting some boundary conditions with a set of variable parameters, optimal solution can be attained.
Whilst this methodology may be known to many, it has not been implemented on many projects as part of the design process. We are keen to work with more industry leaders to further develop design processes which can provide more flexibility in the region.
With regards to manufacturing, the glass processing industry is in rapid acceleration towards automation, while a few processors are already in the fully automated realm, it is inspiring to see more processors making a conscious effort to provide a higher quality product. Recent visit to a glass facility in Dubai and India, saw the facility doing just that. For surface defect detection, the facility has moved on from traditional zebra board visual checks to adopt lite sentry equipment which allows the facility to more concisely identify surface defects that are beyond agreed limits which makes higher level of control possible. This process also provides record for later quality verification.
On the issue of anisotropy, this phenomenon is synonymous with heat treated glass. The industry has spent years trying to solve this visual imperfection that is deemed to be inherent to the heat treatment process for glass. This facility has made a conscious effort to concoct a balanced formula between cooling, nozzle placement and methods to reduced localized thermal stresses.
3D printing has been gaining popularity through the past few years in the construction industry. Its uses include creating scaled architectural models to building low-cost housing in Africa to forming artistic looking steel trusses to manufacturing cladding panels. Though the technology is still in its infancy within the construction realm, construction suppliers are looking to expand and push the boundaries of what this technology has to offer. We are slowly peeling away from the concept that increased efficiency and reduction in cost can only be achieved through mass production using similar mould and form concept. The use of digital manufacturing processes such as 3D printing allow unique forms to be much more 3D printing has been gaining popularity through the past few years in the construction industry. Its uses include creating scaled architectural models to building low-cost housing in Africa to forming artistic looking steel trusses to manufacturing cladding panels. Though the technology is still in its infancy within the construction realm, construction suppliers are looking to expand and push the boundaries of what this technology has to offer. We are slowly peeling away from the concept that increased efficiency and reduction in cost can only be achieved through mass production using similar mould and form concept. The use of digital manufacturing processes such as 3D printing allow unique forms to be much more.
Facade installation has been another aspect that brings in much room for improvement. What is shown on paper or computer models is of little value if not executed well. Anchorage has been an important component of façade installation. The engagement of unskilled workers generated a greater need for simpler methods of installation and review. Recently, an anchor supplier has also made some advancement in anchor installation and quality checking by providing an adaptive torque handheld device that can be set to the right torque to prevent human error. The device works simply by lighting up in green and stops when the right torque is reached.
Anyone working on a construction site or on building management team will appreciate the complexity in arranging external access for an inspection. Permitting aside, drones has helped in alleviating some of the access challenges for external façade inspections. Use of drones has been expanded from simple inspections/imagery extraction to thermal imaging, mapping, and surveying. The level of control, stability, range has experience marked improvements as the devices find its place in more industries.
After Construction…Digital Twinning
It is the digital age. Digitising building data creates an opportunity for digital twinning where live data of the asset can be compared to as-built information for building operational team to manage, monitor, analyse, commission, and optimize the assets’ performance in its lifetime. Gaining such feedback affirms the performance of the building skin and its influence on the cooling and heating load of the facades.
However, to successfully implement a digital handover of works, it is important to provide a framework to the employer to develop a digital handover methodology and ontology from the very onset of a project. By keeping the end in mind, the strategy should include a Smart Building Infrastructure (smart devices) in place that can integrate and manage the digital information handed over at the end of construction to be utilized during the operational phase.
With AESG’s cloud-based commissioning, handover and asset management platform, Data+, project and building owners can gain great value from having ease of access to accurate, real time data concerning the live asset. With the ability to incorporate digital data management systems with IoT networks, Building Management systems as well as data analytic and AI platforms they can gain further value from creating digital twins of the building. This allows for the building owners to gain contextual insights and derive big data and analytics from the live asset. These digital twins thus serve as a proving ground for the development of highly efficient and optimized developments.
This article was originally published in IGS Magazines Spring 2021 Issue: Read the full Magazine here for more thought-leadership from those spearheading the industry
Author: April Soh, Technical Director of Facades at AESG
With a Degree in Civil and Structural Engineering and a Diploma in Environmental Engineering. April brings a unique approach to façade engineering based on care for architectural detail and co-ordination, innovation and providing integrated solutions to complex multidisciplinary issues. She has over 20 years of Façade experience across the UAE, Singapore and Hong Kong and has a proven track record of delivering some of the world’s most prestigious landmark developments. With a focus for excellence and steadfast commitment to achieving objectives, she adopts a consultative approach to clients assisting them with technical expertise, managerial focus and thought leadership.