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Facades Of A Commercial Nature

Commercial building exteriors made of glass are quite a rage today. Apart from looking good, and giving the building an ultramodern vibe about it, the double skin glass facades popular today help in more ways than you can imagine. From regulating temperatures inside the building, to covering up major security loopholes, glass buildings spell the way forward for commercial architecture.

The double-skin facade is a relatively modern adaptation of using different types of glass in architecture. The structure consists of two glass skins placed in such a way that air flows in the intermediate cavity. In this article, we will explore how it is much better than a single skin facade in several ways. The glass skins can be single or double glazing units separated by a distance of 20 cm up to 2 metres. In many such constructions, for protection and temperature regulation purposes, solar shading devices are placed inside the cavity.

The earliest known concept of the Double Skin Façade was first explored and tested by the Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier in the early 20th century. His idea, which he called mur neutralisant (neutralizing wall), involved the insertion of heating/cooling pipes between large layers of glass. He also experimented with different types of glass. The idea, however, did not take form until much later, when Cannon Design constructed the Occidental Chemical Building (New York) in 1980. This building, essentially a glass cube, had a 4-feet-deep cavity between glass layers to pre-heat air in winter.

The recent resurgence of efficient building design has renewed interest in this concept. The double skin facade holds great potential when it comes to optimizing the energy performance of buildings. Listed below are some advantages of using a double skin facade:

Reduced Energy Consumption: By minimising solar gain through the façade, and in turn reducing the cooling load of the building. We are compelled to say, glass house indeed!

Natural Ventilation: Natural ventilation through the cavity is possible without affecting occupant comfort during harsh weather conditions.

Acoustic Insulation: An external skin allows for the same degree of acoustic insulation with the windows open as with the windows closed in conventional single-skin façade construction.

Occupant Comfort and Productivity: Overall, building comfort levels go up. Thanks to increased environmental control and comfort levels, productivity also gets a boost.

Enhanced Security: Double-Skin Façades mostly eliminate the need for projecting bars and vents, which is good news for personnel with security concerns.

The physics behind climate control in such a glass house is the Stack Effect, which occurs when the density of the air between the exterior and interior layers of a double skin façade increases due to the heat generated from the greenhouse effect. Two main operations take place in Double-Skin Façades - summer and winter operations. Each system is utilised to reduce energy consumption. The Gherkin in London is a prime example of a double skin facade structure. One Angel Square in Manchester is yet another example. Both of these buildings achieve great environmental credentials for their size, with the benefits of a double skin key to this. The Gherkin features triangular windows on the outer skin, which cover up the skyscraper all the way to the top. These windows open automatically according to weather and building data, allowing more or less air to cross flow through the building for ventilation.