Façade 2.0: redefining our urban skylines


Over the past decade, the manufacturing industry has experienced unprecedented change. Advancements in technology, heightened awareness of the environmental impact of new builds, as well as the focus on sustainable construction has forced firms to rethink how they design. Here, Gabe McArdle, head of commercial at Spanwall, discusses the future of facades and how recent developments have created a new set of design expectations throughout the building industry.

Without a question, façade design is one of the most important elements in any building. They create the important first impression acting as a visual signature that defines the building. Yet, beyond that, a building’s façade has a monumental impact on how a building will operate, from both a structural and environmental point of view. A façade acts as weatherproof shield whilst simultaneously enabling fresh air and light to enter the structure. It optimises energy efficiency and plays a pivotal role in enhancing user comfort.

The façade manufacturing industry is experiencing a change in design expectations. We are already seeing façade design transcend conventional boundaries and as we look towards the future, advancements in technology, changing user needs and the need for more sustainable practices is only going to push this further.

As more cutting-edge innovations come to market – including new materials – architects can transform the way buildings look and function. Facades are no longer a passive component in a building’s design but instead have become a responsive, dynamic envelope that plays a vital part in the building’s performance.

Sustainability will remain a key focus in the industry, spanning from initial design ideation to the final stages of development. Firms are facing increasing pressure to integrate sustainable materials into their buildings – without compromising on the aesthetics or functionality of the design. Considerations such as the durability of facades will also be critical in fostering a more sustainable construction process.

To a large extent the exterior façade controls the energy use of any building and new legislation which has been fuelled by the increasing need to reduce the carbon footprint of new developments, will see energy efficiency continuing to be an important factor in project design.

The next step in pioneering design is to find ground-breaking ways for facades to generate energy themselves. Solar panels have already been used to great success and it seems inevitable that research will develop new technologies for energy generation in the future.

The constant advancement of technology is a main driving force in façade design, creating intelligent solutions to previous project-stalling challenges. Sophisticated software continues to transform the design landscape, providing architects and manufactures alike with new ways to create – streamlining the whole design process by encouraging a more collaborative and efficient approach.

Previous whispers of technology-driven builds have blown into booming conversations with things like generative design and robotic construction now being put on the table for consideration as manufacturers look for better ways of doing things. For façade designers, who regularly work with complex design requirements, the idea of an algorithm that predetermines design requirements and produces a range of possible options based on these, certainly merits serious consideration.

Smart building will continue to grow, with designers incorporating smart elements into façade designs creating products that are adaptable, durable, and intelligent – adding more value and functionality to buildings.

Performance testing is essential in façade systems and recent events have seen fire safety become a subject of nationwide concern, with the Building Safety Act coming into play last year. More accountability and new regulations will mean fire safety will be a key element when considering any facade design alongside the need for a better understanding of how buildings will operate under certain stresses, such as extremes of weather. Firms will need to adopt a holistic approach to any project, considering the wider building components to ensure a safe and comfortable build.

Ventilation continues to be a much talked about topic when designing any building, forcing designers and manufacturers to look for better ways to create a healthy environment that safeguard a user’s health and wellbeing and we can expect future designs to incorporate elements that encourage improved air flow within the building.

The façade is the main external expression of architectural intent and although we are already seeing architects and developers become more ambitious in their design ideas, new design capabilities will drive even more complex creations, with an increase in curvilinear, free-forming architecture.

To conclude, the façade of the future will be responsive, innovative, and high performing and will play a crucial role in creating a more sustainable industry.