Salon Summary: Can You Expect Much More from Your Façade? Maybe So!

The researchers at the Center for Architecture Science and Ecology (CASE) expect a whole lot from their facades. And you should too, they say. At our recent sold-out Salon, they showed building envelopes that do more than keep the heat in or out. These facades generate power, make the building more comfortable, and look great.

At CASE, they start with a simple principle: look to nature to change the way cities use energy, water, and resources. “We want to reshape enclosures to better use the environment,” says Matt Gindlesparger (RPI/CASE). Matt says building envelopes today act as a barrier to the outside. He argues that façades that can “capture, transform, and store” outside resources are more valuable than those that block them.

Jason Vollen (CASE) has rethought the role of the common brick. His “brick” (see photo) shades the building, slows heat gain, and regulates internal temperatures. A water loop hidden in each unit moves heat from outside to inside, or vice versa, depending on the need.

Demetrios Comodromos (Method Design Architecture + Urbanism, CASE) presented another façade unit imbedded with a gray-water treatment system. It also shades the building, provides daylight, and reduces the building’s peak energy use! Another CASE project features special glass that tracks the sun to admit more or less daylight to the interior, without increasing solar heat gain.

Still, there are construction roadblocks to overcome. Finding the right client and working with the unions to install systems that require multiple trades are two challenges in New York. In some emerging markets, the concerns are different.

CASE does extensive prototype development and laboratory testing to bring proven innovative systems to market.  The walls they describe are dynamic and adapt to daily or seasonal changes. If you ask more of a wall — as speaker after speaker urged us to do — you have to show it meets those expectations.

CASE’s work inspires. Changing the expectations of developers and designers is the first step to improved facades that incorporate these new technologies. So be sure to expect more because you can push that envelope much further!