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How facades adapt to the environment and enhance energy efficiency

Text: Ar. Robin Sisodiya, Founder and Principal Architect, ASRO Arcade, Gurugram

As the world becomes more conscious of the impact of human activity on the environment, architects and designers constantly seek ways to reduce the buildings’ carbon footprint. Thus, they design facades that adapt to the environment, enhance energy efficiency and regulate the amount of sunlight, heat, and air that enter a building. With the right design, facades reduce energy consumption by minimizing the need for heating, cooling, and artificial lighting.

Passive solar design involves harnessing natural light and heat from the sun to maintain the building’s thermal comfort. The design principles include determining the building’s orientation, size and shape to harness natural light and heat from the sun. It also incorporates large windows, skylights, and shading devices to control the amount of sunlight entering the building.

Proper insulation reduces heat loss through the facade and noise pollution, improving the overall thermal performance of the building. Insulation materials such as fiberglass, cellulose, or foam are used depending on factors such as climate, location, and budget.

Materials with high thermal mass, such as concrete or brick regulate the temperature inside the building by absorbing heat during the day and releasing it at night. This keeps the interiors cool during the day and warm at night. Conversely, materials with low thermal mass, such as wood or glass, do not retain heat as well, resulting in higher energy consumption.

Incorporating shading devices such as louvers, fins or screens reduces solar heat gain, glare, and unwanted views while allowing natural light and ventilation. By controlling the amount of sunlight that enters a building, shading devices also reduce the need for artificial lighting and air conditioning. Green facades easily supplement the role of these shading devices, while also offering visual appeal.

Advanced technologies such as sensors, actuators, and automation optimize the performance of adaptive facades. Sensors can measure the environmental conditions and provide feedback to the building management system, which adjusts the facade components accordingly. For example, if the temperature rises, the facade automatically deploys shading devices to block the sun’s rays. If the air quality deteriorates, the facade opens windows or activates air purifiers to improve ventilation.