The last few years have seen glass facades become the fashion statement in building architecture. The glass curtain wall adds the high tech and international look, but there’s much more to glass than just that. Buildotech talks to Mathieu Meur, Managing Director, Meinhardt Façade and analyzes current trends in façade design and engineering related to India.
The growing trend of curtain wall facades in India
In the past, architecture in India has been relatively conservative. Recently, we have seen a trend towards bolder and more modern architecture, with a number of local architects and designers pushing for more complex building shapes and forward-looking architectural expressions. This in turn has prompted a substantial increase in the use of glass in façades, as well as the adoption of unusual cladding materials.
India is a very large country, with a great variety of climatic and seismic conditions, as well as varying client and cultural requirements. This is why we set up a permanent presence for our façade design team in India in 2008. Having a local presence means that we have the knowledge and experience required to address these challenges. In addition to these regional variations, India has its own specificities in terms of available construction materials, as well as in terms of the types of façade systems. We have to work with these idiosyncrasies, while also attempting to introduce new methods and techniques, as well as new ideas in the industry.
How does the function of the building affect the façade design of the building?
Glass selection is a delicate process that requires careful consideration of aesthetic, acoustic, structural, manufacturing, thermal and other parameters. For instance, while it may be acceptable to have glazing with relatively high internal reflectance and low light transmission in an office building, this wouldn’t work for a residential development where occupants prefer to avoid switching on artificial lights until later in the day, and would like to be able to look out at night. This is where the right kind of experience is required in order to provide the correct advice to the developer and architect. Similarly, you would certainly expect the façade for a hotel or residential building to incorporate operable panels for natural ventilation, while this may not be required for an air-conditioned office building.
Furthermore, façades for tropical have to be designed to address a number of specific issues. These include local weather, and in particular wind loads. For instance, some regions of India are subjected to cyclones that bring about large amounts of rain as well as strong winds. Glass façades need to be designed to resist wind and water penetration. In addition to this, the façade needs to prevent moisture penetration.
Interior spaces are often air-conditioned which leads to condensation when outside moist air is allowed to penetrate the building. With increasing public awareness of climate issues and limited natural resources, glass façades also have to rise up to the challenge of limiting heat gain for the building. Thermal performance of the glass has to be carefully selected to address this issue. Concurrently, light transmission of the vision glazing also has to be judiciously chosen to allow just the right amount of natural light without inducing glare, which could cause discomfort for the building occupants.
Some of the advanced curtain wall systems
Traditionally, semi-unitised curtain wall systems have been extensively used in India. These consist of partially pre-fabricated curtain wall panels fitted to a sub-frame system. This system can prove very useful in specific situations. However, for high-rise and highly repetitive façades, other systems such as fully unitized façades have become more common overseas, and are starting to appear in India. These types of façades are fully pre-fabricated in a factory, thus giving improved workmanship and quality. In addition, they can be installed from within the building, saving the need for scaffoldings or temporary staging.
Besides, the efficient installation of façade depends on level of technical offering of the supplier, and this applies to all markets, not just to the Indian context. We need to review the individual capabilities of the various suppliers as per the scale and type of project. Subsequently we’re able to advise the developer and architect of the ones that are suitably qualified to undertake a particular project.
How can solar & acoustic performance be optimized in glass facades?
Careful selection of façade materials and systems is essential in achieving adequate solar and acoustic performance. A number of solutions can be adopted to improve the efficiency of building façades, such as highly spectrally selective glazing. This tremendously reduces the amount of radiated heat entering a building, thus reducing cooling loads required, while allowing significant amounts of visible light to penetrate the spaces, thereby reducing the need for artificial lighting. Similarly, recently developed heat-reflective coatings for metal panels have started to appear on the local market. These new products also help reduce the amount of heat transferred to the building through solid walls. In terms of acoustic controls, it is essential to achieve a high level of air-tightness, as even a small amount of opening can substantially degrade the performance of the façade. Using the right combination of materials, such as laminated glass or rockwool insulation, also contributes to the overall performance of the façade.
How has this segment grown in past few years and what are the future trends?
The last 10 years have seen a tremendous rise in the extent of glazing used in building façades. This trend has slowly been gaining momentum in the Indian market, and is now accelerating. This increased use of glass and more complex façade systems have prompted a number of international players to step into the Indian market. In the same time, a few local suppliers have also seen the need to upgrade the level of offering, and have thus upgraded their machineries and skill level to meet this increased demand.
Meinhardt’s latest products and systems and professional services
Meinhardt’s façade capability, formerly MFT (Meinhardt Façade Technology), is the façade engineering business of the Meinhardt Group. We provide a complete range of consulting services on all types of façades, including curtain walls, frameless glass walls, GRC and GRP cladding, metal cladding, precast concrete façades, stone cladding, skylights, metal roofs and more. Services can cover the entire project duration or specific phases of work to suit the client’s requirements such as design, tendering, system design, engineering and certification as also materials and systems testing, fabrication, assembly and site installation. Firm’s suite of capabilities also includes renovation works and forensic investigation of façade defects.
We see strong growth potential in both private developments, as well as large infrastructure projects (airports, hospitals, etc.) and this trend shows no signs of abating. As developers vie for attention and projects that outshine the competition, the aesthetics of buildings will certainly improve in terms of outward appearance and complexity. Some of our India projects include New Delhi Airport Terminal 3, Bangalore Airport Extension, Mother and Child Hospital Kolkata, AMRI Hospital Kolkata, Hilton Hotel in Chennai, Four Season’s Hotel Bangalore, Sofitel Hotel Mumbai, Holiday Inn Chennai, The Capital Mumbai, Marathon Futurex Mumbai, Marvel Edge Pune, TCS Hyderabad, TCS Chennai, TCS Pune and Altimo Tower Mumbai.