The Smart Envelope

Facades are changing inside out as material and design innovations support the environment. Varsha Trehan & Seema Gupta explore the latest trends
The Smart Envelope

With India's extreme temperature, the choice of façade material is as important as the architectural design. Besides enhancing the urban image, facades play a big role in maintaining the environment both inside and outside of the structure. While traditional materials still maintain their classic beauty, new age materials have gained significant market share as their inherent properties and characteristics make them a popular choice with architects and builders.

For architects planning a building's façade, the design concept takes into account the building's height, its orientation, indoor climatology, external weather conditions, local cultural influences, structural properties of the façade material selected, and purpose of the building (commercial, residential, institute, historic, etc). Proper fenestration will achieve optimum acoustic and thermal insulation as well as the desired aesthetics. However, what is important here is not just the choice of materials but their correct installation. As Ar. Harish Gupta points out, "Ultimately, it is the correlation between the aesthetic, technical and construction knowledge and expertise of the architect, the façade consultant, civil engineer, contractor, fabricator, and the customer, and integration of aesthetics, functionality and performance factors that will determine the most efficient solution, execution and implementation of the façade."

As the concept of creating unique facades gains popularity in India, building material manufacturers are offering a variety of high performing products with tangible and long-term benefits, it is important to understand the façade material and the value proposition it brings to the performance requirements, lifespan and maintenance needs of the building. Cutting edge materials are enabling architects to be more experimental and creative.

Dr Prashanth Reddy FunderMax
Façade fabrication today has become bigger and bigger in size and increasingly complex in shape which has increased the difficulties in field installation. To mitigate any risk, there should be the right façade consultancy on design and product compatibility, usage of only recommended and specified installation accessories, tools and trained manpower. All this must be aligned with the structural, aesthetic and functional requirements. "We estimate the façade and Glazing market to be over 100 million square meters with glazing occupying a majority market share. HPL, along with other next generation materials such as Metal cladding, Fiber Cement boards, GFRC, Clay and Ceramic Tiles, have all been growing in recent years to occupy approximate 5% of the total share of this market" predicts Dr. Prashanth Reddy, MD & CEO FunderMax India.

Traditional meets modern

Ar Ricky Doshi ARD Studio
While accepting the value of traditional materials and building styles, Ar. Ricky Doshi - Founder, ARD Studio, celebrates their adaptation with modern conveniences and new materials saying, "Traditional designs are timeless. One never gets bored looking at them. Structures like the Taj Mahal, Qutub Minar, Char Minar, Gateway of India, India Gate, etc. have stood the test of time. The materials used to build these structures are traditional natural materials that were available locally. Getting inspired from these timeless designs, many designers have tried to imitate certain elements from them. Suddenly, the past seems to have become our present in some cases. We have seen the entire Hiranandani Complex at Powai and Thane designed as old Gothic Architecture, but instead of using natural stone as the base material, which can be expensive and really heavy (in weight), they have used GRC (glass reinforced concrete), the best available substitute for stone, which is very light in weight. Materials like granite, bricks, limestone are making a comeback of sorts in the construction industry, but are being used more wisely for designing rather than just applying on the facades to cover up the mistakes during construction. But traditional materials have certain drawbacks like fading color, heavy weight, lack of customization in sizes, high pricing, so they are facing a tough time in the present market scenario. Also, the availability of substitute materials with better properties and considerably competitive pricing are giving heavy competition to these natural materials."

Facade Material

Rajan Aggarwal Ozone Overseas
Pointing to the wisdom and experience of our forefathers, Rajan Aggarwal, V.P., Design & Development at Ozone Overseas juxtaposes past solutions with present day deviations. "In the peak summers if you ever get a chance to visit Red Fort in Delhi built more than 350 years ago, or Amer Fort in Jaipur constructed more than 400 years ago, compare the comfort you experience there with that in your office or home without an HVAC system. We can easily conclude that old buildings, commercial or residential, are many times more advanced than today's modern buildings. This is due to the materials used, techniques and practices such as directional coordination of buildings, high ceilings, thick walls, awnings and porches, cantilever on windows, etc. We have suffered by forgetting or leaving behind these design practices in terms of environmental imbalance. Now, adaption of these traditional building materials and design practices in modern construction are gaining renewed attention, due to the green building movement and focus on sustainable structures," he says.

Ashok Kumar Bhaiya Aludecor
New materials that retain the look and feel of traditional materials are emerging as alternate solutions. Ashok Kumar Bhaiya, CMD, Aludecor, introduces the company's Sand Series as "one-of-its-kind product which is presently a rage in the industry. It has the touch and feel of sand, and a delightful matt finish that transforms the look of the building."

Lifecell Gurgaon
Aluminum Composite Panels (ACP) are among the most preferred façade materials in the market as they are light, easy handling and maintenance. There is the additional benefit of aesthetic design integration and combination with other materials too. As Aggarwal points out, "Glass façade is also getting combined with solar façade to create energy. You will see a similar trend in aluminum extrusion used for making facades. Various grades of material and design are coming into the picture and are providing more flexibility in design and assembly at site."

The Crescent by Sanjay Puri Architects with its burnt orange angled fins clad in weathering steel or pre-rusted metal, is a classic representation of the naturally aged look, with a modern construction material. Here, the façade gets its look from the new age Corten material.

Emphasis on quality

With the industry becoming more organized and players increasing, brands are paying additional attention to quality. Customer education is becoming as important as customer retention. This holds true for cladding materials where there are reservations about safety and suitability to climatic vagaries. Detailing quality processes at Ozone, Aggarwal says, "The Ozone brand provides stainless steel spider fittings and accessories for facades; so the first step for us is to ensure the grade of the stainless steel used. We have an in-house spectrometer for checking the grade of each and every lot coming in. Second, we check all critical dimensions that are important for installation, safety and integrity of the building façade. Then a visual test is carried out to check surface finish, direction of finish, pin holes on the surface, etc. UV cleaning is the last step to make certain that the final product is a clean product."

Bhaiya too is proud of the vigilance kept at his firm. "We take stringent measures to ensure quality, right from raw materials to the finished products. Tests are conducted as per the guidelines of ASTM, AAMA and ECCA. To ensure high durability, we have our own QUV machine, which is rarely available in India. Aludecor Fire Retardant ACP, Firewall, has been tested as per the European standards EN13501-1 and ASTM E119-12, which as compared to fire resistance performance test standards in the US and the UK, are much more relevant to the Indian construction scenario. Each lot of our Fire Retardant ACP undergoes ignitibility test, non-combustibility test, smoke density test and oxygen index test, without which no FR ACP should be introduced in the market," he emphasizes.

Innovating to meet demand

There is a wide variety of man-made products that have taken the market by storm, and are a perfect substitute for natural materials and also preferred over them, as they do not have constraints such as heavy weight and high pricing; rather, they enable ease of fixing and design flexibility and are durable too. For example, the strength of modern materials like aluminum and steel, with the adaptability of materials like glass, is giving a face lift to construction projects. They are lighter, offer uniform quality and all the benefits of standardized products. As demand for energy optimization increases, existing commercial buildings are looking for retrofit solutions. Modernization façade from Shueco, and Kingspan list single component insulated metal panel products to meet several specifications. Recycled doors and windows, and glass with advanced solutions like Dynamic Light and heat control, and self illuminating facades from market leaders like Saint-Gobain are also emerging.

"New materials are nothing but a replica of natural materials, but with properties that can be altered to withstand natural forces," says Doshi. "Companies like Mathios (Greece), Pedra stones (Italy), and many other companies from around the world, have come up with a near perfect replica of natural stones, which are considerably lightweight and economical. Brass, steel and aluminum are used widely for contemporary rustic designs. For more exclusivity, there is copper. GRC is being used mainly where classical elements are a part of the structure. Cement sheets designed to resemble stone and wood are being used for exterior false ceilings where designers want to give a stone or wood finish. Solid Acrylic Surfaces (also known as Corian) and thin ceramic tiles of only 3mm thickness imported from Spain and Italy are other new materials that have hit the façade market."

Spider Glazing
"Glass façades in Spider Glazing has come out from the shell of just an aesthetic element of the building. Architects now expect a facade to contribute towards energy conservation in the whole building. Green Building movements like LEED/GRIHA and ECBC codes have pushed hardware manufactures to think on eco-friendly lines. To face this new age challenge, hardware manufacturers have to consider aspects like "structural calculations of a Spider Glazing façade" that needs to be done strictly as per IS 875 Part 3, AS 1288 & ASTM E 1300-04 so that safety is not compromised," informs Aggarwal.

He further extrapolates the support offered by hardware innovations. "The hardware manufacture needs to be dynamic in developing products for every situation. To give an example, for the Income Tax Building in Nagpur, architects M/s Chapman Taylor were looking for Insulated Glass in Spider Glazing that would save energy and reduce HVAC load. The aesthetic of the building did not allow use of spider glazing as dark green glass was being used. But the architect wanted Spider Glazing from inside for complete clarity. So Ozone developed special spiders which would hold only the internally applied insulated double glazed units of glass such that the Spider Glazing was not visible at all from the outside. Another challenge was to design spiders which would hold single and insulated glass without drilling any holes or cut-outs in the glass. We have designed such spider fittings by the name of Rhombus Spiders which enable architects to think more freely. This is also called Class Clamp Patch. With this, installation becomes much easier and faster than the conventional spiders."

New in the market

There is a variety available to suit different needs as Bhaiya explains, "A façade is a combination of different materials, and no building material can claim to be the only preferred material. In India, we have solid surface, HPL, ACP, Zinc, Copper, etc. The ACP industry has witnessed several innovations in the recent past, and Aludecor has been one of the major trendsetters. The most recent innovation has been our 3D panel, Cortina, which has been developed using digital technology. The product has a 3D striped surface and presents a wide variety of unique applications."

Strength of fabric

The tensile architecture word is not new in India anymore. What started as an aesthetical element in most structures has taken shape of functional element in most of the structures. Urban structures are different from industrial structures and it is important for them to look good and create a nice ambience. This is the very nature of Tensile Structures that has helped this concept to grow in India very fast. Airports, Stadiums, Shopping Malls, Food Courts, Bus Stations, Trains stations, today are using Tensile Structures in all urban areas.

Priyanka Latwal Mehler Texnologies
"Tensile Architecture and façade will play an important part in the upcoming urban infrastructure developments across the country," says Priyanka Latwal, Assistant Manager- Coated Technical Textile, Mehler Texnologies. "Mehler façade fabrics are made for long lasting cladding applications. It is stronger, lighter and more flexible than any other products of its kind. Resistance, durability and permeability are the main target characteristics throughout the development. Our façade product range is adaptable and always an efficient and attractive way to protect any kind of building with a sustainable façade. India as a developing economy has to create suitable urban spaces and in general Tensile Architecture and façade will play an important part in the upcoming urban infrastructure developments across the country," she adds.

Tensile Fabric Facade
Tensile Fabric Facade

Mehler Texnologies has recently transformed the brand name to MEHGIES. In India, they are credited with supplying membranes to the architectural industry for many remarkable projects like Dr. DY Patil Stadium, Navi Mumbai, Guwahati International Cricket Stadium, Dehradun Cricket Stadium and many more.

External laminates

For interior applications, the concept of High Pressure Compact Laminates (HPL) has had a strong presence in the Indian market since quite some time. But its exterior application has also been gaining acceptance in India's construction industry. "High Pressure Compact Laminates offer architects high flexibility and multiple options in terms of finishes and decors, and the panels can be customized for each building," says Reddy.

External Facade Screen Cladding
External Façade Screen Cladding in Stainless steel PVD Multi Color Finish

Steel facading

Tomy Sebastian JSL Lifestyle
"Stainless steel is one of the most versatile and widely used materials today. Stainless steel façades in India are gaining popularity, though facades in aluminum continue to be used mostly. However, there is a major shift expected from ACP (Aluminum Composite panels) to Stainless Steel due to fire safety reasons. It is accepted worldwide that all major buildings are clad using stainless steel sheets. So while the material is gaining momentum in architectural usage, the industry is still more comfortable using other materials simply due to cost factors, lack of awareness and availability issues. We have just completed India's first stainless steel curtain glazing project of approx.30,000 sqft area at our upcoming JSL corporate tower in Gurgaon. Some of our other major projects are Sahara at Mumbai Airport, Dev Arum in Ahmadabad, and the Galleria Hotel in Kolkata," says Tomy Sebastian, CEO, JSL Lifestyle Ltd.

Currently, a lot of colored, patterned and rigid finishes in stainless steel are being used in facade systems. These are combined with the substrate finishes of mirror or satin polishes, using technologies for PU and PVD coating. These colored sheets are used in panels for architectural external cladding (facades, walls, columns, roofing, interiors and exteriors of elevators, etc) and in internal cladding in low traffic areas, signage, shop front display panels, sculptures, furniture, decorative SS railings, etc. Customized solutions with sheets in any color and finish are also available from manufacturers like JSL.

Moving Compact Laminate outside

"We took upon the responsibility of educating the Indian market about the latest materials and technologies in façades cladding such as HPL Compact Panels, and the rear ventilated façades cladding system which we have intensively promoted amongst the architect and builder fraternity in India, and its unique installation system" reveals Dr. Prashanth Reddy, MD & CEO FunderMax India

Compact Laminate

When FunderMax started commercial operations in India in 2009, it was one of the few international firms to offer Compact Laminates for exterior use. At that time, people were not aware about the versatility and durability of HPL compact panels for exterior applications.

FunderMax panels are homogenous in nature, and are enriched with all weather attributes like Optimal light fastness, Double hardening, scratch and solvent resistivity, resistance to impact, and are easy to maintain, which overcomes one of the industry’s biggest challenges.

In the last 7 years we have done over 6000 projects across Corporates, Hospitality, Hospitals, Residential, Industrial, Retail, Government. This versatile material can be used virtually across all exterior applications.

Every building should have a façades character, and, as our tag line goes, "for people who create". However, to create a visually innovative and long lasting façades with HPL panels, the panels should primarily be of exterior grade with either NT technology or EBC and as per the EN norms of EN438-6. To ensure longevity with minimum maintenance, the façades system should be stress free. New façades installation systems such as rear ventilation allow architects substantial design freedom and at the same time ensure that the building is protected from the extremes of weather.

façades Cladding industry, today, is undergoing many changes in terms of functionality and performance. Adherence to strictest energy and quality parameters and technological innovations has enabled architects and designers to express their ideologies far more easily than ever before. Compact Laminates offer high flexibility and multiple options in terms of finishes and decors. Moreover, the panels can be customized via CNC cutting into any motifs that the architect wants, and they can be customized for each building for different wind load, dead load, thermal load, etc. FunderMax is currently well placed in the Premium façades industry of India not only for its cladding materials but as a complete solutions provider.


Engineered stone

Vikas Kesarkar Classic Marble Company
Kalinga Stone Marble Exterior Wall
Kalinga Stone Marble exterior wall
Engineered stone is another product replicating nature. These are a man-made composite material that are made of crushed natural stone aggregates and bound together by an adhesive. In India, there are two popular engineered stone products viz. marble and quartz. As compared to natural stones, engineered stones are less porous, more flexible, and harder, which makes them more resistant to mildew and growth of algae, even when applied in exteriors. "With advanced technology, demand for engineered stone has further compounded as the stone can be customized in desired colors, sizes, patterns, and texture," says Vikas Kesarkar, VP- Marketing, Classic Marble Company (CMC).

Engineered marble cladding is not only used for facades in contemporary buildings but also in the distinct Roman architectural style of structures. The iconic Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation Headquarters in Navi Mumbai, is an apt example of a dome-shaped facade. The building, with its neo-classic architectural form, has used CMC's Dado Italian Marble under its Kalinga Stone range of engineered marble. The structure is covered with six-sided sealed stone for exterior dry cladding, along with aluminum-based technology as support system.

Understanding Glass facades

Vikram Khanna, COO – Consumer Glass, AIS, on selecting the right glass:
The perception that glass causes glare and reflection is a misconception. A person inside a space may experience glare in daytime during high outdoor illuminance level (sun shine between 9 am to 5 pm); glass facade orientation or design; façades glass with high VLT; or due to highly reflective flooring (light colored tiles, furniture or partitions). Of these, outdoor illuminance level is cannot be controlled.

AIS has glass ranges which allow light from minimum of 13% to 90% exterior light. Selection of a lower Light Transmission (VLT) glass would be an easier option. The light levels in the space during the day can be analyzed through various softwares available. In generic terms, as per ECBC, for a building with glazing for 60% of total wall, a glass with VLT of 13% is enough for meeting its standards. Choosing optimum VLT can help harvest daylight without glare.

The reflection percentage of a glass indicates the mirror effect due to coating or its glossy nature. External Reflection (%) plays a major role in reflection on roads due to the glossy nature of glass facades. Internal reflection is another parameter in blocking external views from inside due to interior lights or mirror effects. AIS glazing products have various reflection ranges for choosing the best based on functionality. Glasses with higher external reflection are mostly used when people want privacy, in which the occupant has the visibility to see outside, but the pedestrian outside cannot view the inside space. However, higher external reflection has to be avoided for buildings near roads for glare effect. Low Internal reflection glazing can be used where visibility to the outside at night is required, for example in pavilions.

To explain the heat trap condition, imagine a closed office space with a fixed window with glass of low U-value. Short wave infrared radiation that enters the space through glass gets absorbed by materials inside and re-radiates as long wave IR. This re-radiated long wave IR radiation tries to get out of the space through the window glass. But a low U-value glass acts opaque to these short wave radiations and makes it circulate within the space. Due to this circulation of waves, the heat is trapped inside the space.

Heat trapping is helpful in winters to keep the space warm and reduce load on heaters. However, heat trapping in Indian summers leads to either discomfort to occupants in a space with constant air flow conditioning systems, or increases the cooling load with variable air flow conditioning system. High performance glass can be made available for a U- value closer to 1 W/sqmK, but it has to be used for a specific outdoor and indoor condition. Like the trade-off between optimum VLT and the solar factor for cooling and lighting load, U-value and SF consideration is based on trade-off between the summer and winter performance for better comfort solutions.

Ecosense Enhance Spring Snow Aura
Ecosense Enhance Spring Snow Aura

Smart glass

Vikram Khanna Asahi Glass
Glass is now being used for facades on an unprecedented scale to create remarkable designs and yield eco-savings. Glass Panel façade systems offer versatile, high-performance coverage, with a wide range of stylish design possibilities. Glass has helped architects to see beyond conventional design to visually and functionally appealing structures. "In glass, there are no disadvantages; it's the wrong selection that causes the disadvantages," says Vikram Khanna, COO – Consumer Glass, Asahi India Glass Ltd. (AIS).

Ecosense Enhance Cove
Ecosense Enhance Cove
Due to its fragile nature, the use of glass to bring natural light into buildings was earlier restricted only to windows and other small installations. With the development of new construction techniques, value additions and processing being done on glass, this material is now strong and durable and hence considered a viable choice for more complex structural requirements.

AIS has developed its high performance glazing range Ecosense to suit the Indian tropical climate, and recommends that selection of glazing should be based on solar factor (SF or SHGC) and not on the U-value of the glass. Using façade glazing in India became a common practice and was inspired by cold countries where the people know the importance and role of U- value in conditioning their buildings. But in India, excluding the hill stations, the total climate scenario is different, and the Solar Factor is the most important thing to be considered. Though there are no such green certifications available for glass products, however, our Ecosense range can exceed the standards set by green rating systems such as GRIHA, IGBC and LEED India, and LEED USGBC.

Overall, the mood is optimistic as customers create a demand for innovation and manufacturers rise to meet their requirement. There is a conscious inclusion of safety and quality all around and not just superficial modification. Minoru Yamaski, Architect of World Trade Center etc. once said: "I want to do very useful buildings and I would like to find a method of producing these buildings through our technology because I think that this is the only way that we will gain wonderful environment easily in the future". The building façade market trends in India are definitely developing positively to support that thought for the growth pathway.

Classic beauty of Stone

Vikas Kesarkar, VP- Marketing, CMC, on engineered stone façades.
Being manufactured in a controlled environment and process, engineered stones are uniform in their composition, so the possibility of any internal, hidden cracks or flaws (like in natural stone), gets eliminated. Since they are bound by resins these slabs can endure flexural pressure and prevent cracking, making them ideal for façades applications too. Marble, in different shades and patterns, is a visually interesting material and lends a dynamic appeal when used in cladding of facades in residential and commercial spaces.

Typically, for marble façades installations, there are two kinds of finishes: the semi rough silken finish is more preferred than the rougher Distress finish. Despite being a soft stone, engineered marble is less porous and so does not easily weather due to external conditions and time. Regular cleaning should be done with a soft dry brush or cloth using only mild detergents.

NMMC Engineered Stone Facade
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