Façade Tectonics Forum Tackles Healthy Buildings and Next-level Performance

About 100 attendees from all segments of the building industry gathered in Vancouver on July 30 for the Façade Tectonics Institute forum, The Good and the Bad: Evolving Considerations and Practices of Building Façade Glazing. The forum was hosted by the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance and was approved for continuing education credits from the Architectural Institute of British Columbia and the American Institute of Architects.  

The mission of the Façade Tectonics Institute is to promote high performance building envelopes and facades through education, dialogue and research, said Technoform’s Helen Sanders, who is the current president of the Institute. The industry “currently operates in silos, with architects, glazing contractors, fabricators and GCs separate. We don’t even speak each others’ language. We have to break down those boundaries. … These forum events are a key part of our mission,” Sanders said during her opening remarks.   

Building health, energy and sustainability performance issues dominated the presentations during the one-day educational event, beginning with the morning panel, Healthy and Sustainable Glazing: Designing for people and the planet.

“The biggest factor in health and wellbeing is the physical and social environment,” said Joel Good, senior consultant/associate, RWDI. This is primarily due to the amount of time most people spend inside. “We spend about 90 percent of our time indoors in conditioned spaces,” he said.

Creating healthy spaces that support the occupant’s wellbeing is critical. But, it presents challenges in façade design. “We have contradictory requirements,” said Vladimir Mikler, principal, innovation director, Integral Group. “We want all the views, all the daylighting, but we don’t want the glare, the heat gain, and we want to maintain thermal comfort. It’s a challenging task we need to resolve.”

Gail Brager, professor of architecture and director, UC Berkeley Center for Environmental Design Research, said to achieve health and wellness goals, the industry must provide occupants with access to natural ventilation and daylighting, but also must allow occupants to control their own spaces. This will require the industry to “move away from thermostat-based systems to people-based systems, where occupants have individual controls,” she said.

Making these changes requires buy-in from the building owner. Brager recommends that the façade industry sell the benefits of health and wellness by addressing the costs of people. “Improving the quality of the indoor environment can have a profound effect on wellbeing,” she said. “On a square foot basis, the cost of people is an order of magnitude higher than the cost of building, and two times an order of magnitude higher than operating a building.”   

Future building requirements also topped discussions. New building performance code requirements will continue to force the industry to advance and innovate in the next decade, said Monte Paulsen, Passive House specialist, RDH Building Science Inc., during the session Passive Aggressive: Pushing facade system performance with Passive House. Driving this is the rapid pace of climate change, said Paulsen. “The rate at which we are seeing climate change is accelerating rapidly. … The energy models to which we’re designing new buildings are already out of date,” he said.  

British Columbia, Canada, for example, instituted requirements that will go into effect in about 15 years to cap building energy use at 15 kWh/m2/year, Paulsen said. The rest of Canada is following suit with similar requirements, he said. “It doesn’t really matter how green you think you’re building is. If it doesn’t meet the cap, your building will be illegal in a couple of years,” Paulsen said.

The façade industry must innovate and develop solutions to achieve the new performance targets. “Most of what you install today will be obsolete in 15 years,” Paulsen said. Companies that don’t innovate will be left behind. “It wouldn’t surprise me if half of the window makers in Canada are out of business in 15 years,” he said.

In the session Enough Glazing: Balancing benefits with liabilities of façade glazing, panelists looked to answer the question: How much glass is enough glass? The key is balance. “The question isn’t how much is enough, but what we do with what we have,” said Tom Paladino, principal, Paladino & Co.

Achieving those performance goals requires building teams to use collaborative design processes and invest in high-performance systems. “If you want to use a lot of glass, you have to think about performance. And that comes with cost,” said Technoform’s Sanders.

The forum concluded with the session Beyond Glazing: Trends, drivers and what lies beyond the horizon. Panelists discussed emerging product trends, such as timber curtain wall and vacuum glazing; future performance goals, including net zero building outlined in the Architecture 2030 program; and extended service life for façade products.   

Katy Devlin is editor in chief of Glass Magazine. Contact her at kdevlin@glass.org. Follow Glass Magazine on Twitter.

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