Ebook: The Future Envelope 1
Façades convey the image of new architecture. Today the planning of this very complex building component requires a collaboration of many specialists. A multitude of possibilities are being projected into the building envelope. Design, visionary construction, new materials, the desire to achieve optimum energy performance or even energy generation all meet with predominantly conventional crafts. What is the future of the façade and how can we get there? What are current trends and future developments? Experts from the fields of architecture, structural and climate design, material science, construction and product development, industry, planning and building innovations will reflect on current projects and their vision for the future. The aim of this publication is to make the reader feel challenged to join the creativity or to evaluate own ideas about the future in order to keep the discussion alive. Every contribution is of relevance as long as it sincerely supports future development. Universities have, of course, a special mission to take the lead in developing long term visions and future scenarios in order to create a fecund soil for breakthroughs for the benefit of the entire building industry. This book is an inspiring example of just that.
It is a privilege to work within the innovative field of the construction industry. Especially since we probably are in the middle of what at the end will appear to have been a revolution. The contemporaries of James Watt were not aware that they were part of what we now call the industrial revolution. Only on looking back we were able to determine that the changes were quite drastic and that it merited the label of revolution. I am convinced that something like that is happening in our era. Developments in the field of a.o. industrialization, energy and climate, environment, automation and digitalisation, lack of labour, new materials, are quite significant and are forcing us to re-evaluate the field of construction as a whole. For that reason it is to be expected that during the coming decades building technology and its process will change drastically. There is thus a strong need for innovative visions about future construction.
I was invited to act as a peer reviewer for this book about the future envelope and in line with that to write this preface. Through this I am pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to the discussion on building innovation.
The starting point for the Façade Research Group are also the driving forces for development: Energy, Ecology and Efficiency. From a societal point of view I agree on the 3E mindset. One of the major tasks however is not to jump to solutions immediately but to define the targets within these areas more specifically and in a measurable way. That is not an easy job. There are a lot of stakeholders in the building industry and they probably all have their own agenda and as a result their own drives for development. It is important to define these drives carefully (with repeatable research results) as the total programme will be based on such a point of departure. Measurability is crucial in order to be able to monitor future results.
It is proven that a systematic approach increases the rate of success substantially. This implies the need for firm strategic analyses before addressing the research content. In his contribution, Wim Poelman reaffirms the necessity of a systematic approach. Here the routine of the industrial designer is contrasted with the architectural approach that is mostly based on rational and irrational considerations on a project level. The façade industry may be one of the most advanced disciplines in the building industry. Still the percentage of buildings with progressive, innovative facades is in the minority. According to Rogers' diffusion theory, modern facades are still only for the innovators and early adaptors. It is often stated that the building industry is conservative. There are many explanations for this phenomenon. The complexity of the supply chain with fragmented interests is one of them. Broadly accepted change therefore will not come rapidly. We can expect our revolution to range over the next few decades. Still, from year to year we will increasingly come across visible milestones.
It is understandable that in a technical university the focus is on technology, but one should keep in mind that technology cannot be separated from a broader vision. We need a cohesive picture and some research effort, perhaps in cooperation with some non technical universities, is of relevance. The majority of innovation achieved will consist of new products. However, design tools and new approaches to process will explicitly have to be part of the progress to be made. Tools can for example help to benefit of new technology visibly. This is about creating values. For example soundly based productivity figures for building users could stimulate the application of advanced façade technology drastically. It would be a fantastic driver to have reliable tools and models to convince commissioners on this point. Perhaps this may even turn out to be an even greater act of innovation in terms of change than façade development itself. It is however interesting to bring the facade in relation to the building concept and the utility question as a whole. In such a context volume reduction (lean walls and partitions) could be an interesting example of creating value as the user has substantially more space at his disposal within the same gross measures of the building.
An important process issue and part of my own research programme (Slimbouwen) is the organisation of the industrial process which is much more than just about producing parts with industrial technology. The research on an industrial building process focuses on creating a situation in which contractors on building sites are able to work without interweaving with other disciplines. In relation to facades the question for example is how to deal with services. Integrated with connecting leads for connection with the infrastructure (the façade as a machine) or disintegrated with accessible hollow spaces in the elements. The industrial approach will most certainly lead to other forms of project organisation including the design and preparation phase as well as, for example, new technologies for joints facilitating the industrial process.
A resetting of the building process as a whole is unavoidable. We just cannot go on with solving problems on an ad hoc basis. As a result of the fragmented supply chain we have been innovating incrementally on step by step basis on a component level. It is as Michiel Cohen in his contribution says that we are solving problems and at the same time introducing new ones. The result of this is that the regular building process has meanwhile developed into quite a chaotic, inadequate and highly inefficient process in which disciplines are very much interwoven with each other.
A major part of the content of the book is directed towards solutions and original ideas. It could be considered as technology driven input. That is a very good thing to do in order to inspire and challenge the market and also to be able to have discussions on the basis of concrete material. A.o the frozen textile and sandwich structures in the aviation industry are interesting topics and relevant to the building industry. Weight and volume reduction are very relevant drivers for innovation in relation to cost control and sustainability. Ultra light (and rigid) structures are however very bad preconditions for achieving a sufficient sound insulation. A deeper understanding of acoustical behaviour might create openings for this technology.
Technology can be very inspiring. It is however good that the book also focuses on non technological topics. I would like to take the opportunity to call attention to items such as issues of strategy and the analysis of customer desires and demands. The customer should become more visible in the building market. Anyway, new business approaches will no doubt form another basis for future developments. It would be interesting to make an extensive inventory of possible future business models in order to feed the strategies for developing new facades. The drivers for innovation are also not all of a rational nature. In the contribution of Luke Lowings it becomes clear that also emotional, symbolic and perceptual values become important, and are perhaps underestimated drivers for development.
I hope that you the reader will feel challenged to join the creativity or to evaluate your own ideas about the future in order to keep the discussion alive. Every contribution is of relevance as long as it sincerely supports future development. Universities have, of course, a special mission to take the lead in developing long term visions and future scenarios in order to create a fecund soil for breakthroughs for the benefit of the entire building industry. This book is an inspiring example of just that.
Prof. Dr. Jos Lichtenberg, Eindhoven University of Technology, Faculty of Architecture Building and Planning, Chair Product Development
Research in the field of façade technology has to be orientated on the current topics energy, ecology and efficiency as key items for demands on the design. Existing façade technology, after 60 years of curtain walls and 30 years of element façades, lacks new impulses and strategies for ground breaking developments. As a result, the “Façade Research Group” at the Faculty of Architecture / TU Delft has been developed and established with a focus on problem-orientated research solutions, experimental projects, planning tools, possibilities of technology transfer and future and innovative developments.
The façade industry is an important stakeholder in the development of the future facade. Every facade design will finally pass by the industry for final execution. The façade industry is the origin for many new developments, always eager to bring it to a certain level of standardization in order to make it accessible for a broader market.
Ing. Bert Lieverse, Director of VMRG – Verenigung Metalen Ramen en Grevelbranche, underlines the potential for innovation and concentrates on strategies for the future development of the industry through growth and integration.
Prof. ir. Adriaan Beukers is a specialist for lightweight construction and composite technology in the field of aerospace engineering. The construction of airplane fuselages can be compared to that of building envelopes, although there a significant differences. Security issues are of major importance, since the failure of any part can result in a total loss. Also, airplanes are usually manufactured in larger quantities, and the financial capacities of the parties involved are bigger than in the building industry. These are some of the reasons for the aerospace industry's drive toward technology advancements.
The article was previously published in the Aeronautical Journal, Volume 107, Number 1072 in June 2003 and was specifically chosen for this book, because it explains how the philosophy of function integration can be a driving factor in the design of technical products.
M.A. Luke Lowings introduced his paper as an approach “that tries to argue for other than ‘quantifiable’ criteria in judging and developing designs”. He is principal of Carpenter/Lowings Architecture & Design and in this series of papers he was invited to claim the role of the artistic architect. Every building, its structure, space and material are located in a specific architectural and urban setting. Besides functional necessities, the building envelope within its particular location calls for a careful approach to strengthen the connection between the building and the human environment.
The Future Envelope is not conceivable without a direct and strong contribution to the climate concept of the entire building. Climate design is one of the younger disciplines that relate to façade construction, implementing environmental aspects.
Dipl.-Ing. Thomas Auer as principle of his company Transsolar, has been involved in this subject matter for over 20 years. His projects are astonishing examples of how the performance of facades can be tailored to the requirements for energy consumption and comfort.
The multidisciplinary approach serves numerous goals. It is not only mandatory to fulfill the requirements of such a complex topic as facade construction with its many participants from various disciplines, but is also the basis for a multifaceted search for new strategies and approachs.
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Holger Techen's work is a good example of why structural design not only serves as the means to realize projects, but, as part of many, is an essential step for the entire process. The structural engineers's knowledge and capability is highly important for the final product.
The metal-glass façade has almost reached its final development stage.
A trend for integrated design solutions for new façade concepts can be observed. This paper illustrates examples and describes the characteristics of function integration. It focuses on the strategic possibilities of function integration for the development of the future metal-glass façade and describes the results on the physical façade construction and on the design and building process.
Dr. ir. Wim Poelman, as material specialist and product designer, focuses on strategies, methods and tools for the design process. In the field of industrial design, methodology plays a significantly role, whereas in architecture methodology, unfortunately, seems to be underestimated topic. This chapter gives a stimulating overview of the potential of this approach for the future facade. It offers the possibility to see the façade as what it actually is – an industrial product.
The process of building facades encompasses many different parties, beginning with the user and ending with the supplier of buildings systems. The process therefore requires certain ways of decision making.
Prof. Dr. ir. Joop Hallman focuses on the building process from planning to final construction, and the possibilities of innovation within. How can a façade product ultimately meet the needs of the consumer?
How can we think about façade design and development without thinking about architecture? The goal of Ir. Michiel Cohen, as principal of Cepezed, is to create efficient and lightweight buildings. According to his philosophy, it is essential to know and control the entire building process in order to create customized facades with the necessary respect for industry and standardization.
The work of Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Axel Thallemer consistently crosses the borders between traditional disciplines – one reason why he was invited to contribute to this “Multidisplinary Approach”. In 1994 he was founder and head of Festo Corporate Design and created, amongst other beautiful products, “Airtecture” – pneumatic lightweight constructions that made him well known amongst architects. His works are inspired by nature and are, in many cases, strongly related to architecture. Since 2004, Prof. Axel Thallemer is Dean of Industrial Design at Kunstuniversität Linz, Austria.
As a specialist in façade design and the execution of special constructions, Prof. Dr. ir. Mick Eekhout took on the role of head of research of the department Building Technology within the Faculty of Architecture / TU Delft. Research as one of the driving forces in façade innovation is placed in an overall larger picture. He describes his efforts to combine forces within and between the department, faculty, university and national institutions: a necessity when trying to establish a strong and fruitful research environment.
Naturally, we also used this conference to evaluate and readjust our own research – the multidisciplinary approach delivers a broad range of influences and opportunities that need to be organised and directed meaningfully: the roadmap drawn from the conclusion of the conference.