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How to Build a Sustainable Building Envelope?

There is no denying the fact that the construction industry has a significant direct as well as indirect impact on the environment in terms of use of raw materials, water use, atmospheric emissions, energy use, waste generation, and many other factors. With changing times, this industry is extremely likely to face new challenges to minimise its impact on the environment.

Building envelopes comprise of the building’s outer elements including its foundations, roof, walls, doors, windows, and floors. The primary functions of building envelopes is to provide security, shelter, solar and thermal control, indoor air quality control, moisture control, fire resistance, access to daylight, acoustics, aesthetics, and cost effectiveness. Creating a sustainable building envelope demands an integrated approach that takes the entire life-cycle of the facility into account.

The primary goal of a sustainable design is to avoid resource depletion, prevent environmental degradation, and create built environments that are healthy, secure, productive, and accessible.

Mentioned below are the fundamental principles of sustainable building design and construction.

  • Building a sustainable facility starts with proper selection of the site and optimisation of its potential. Renovation of an existing building is always more sustainable compared to constructing a new building.
  • Instead of using fossil fuels, sustainable buildings must rely on passive design measures and efficiency. All the applicable energy performance standards should be met or exceeded by the building.
  • A sustainable building should explore all possible alternatives to protect and conserve water.
  • Whenever possible, a sustainable building should utilise greener materials that minimise resource depletion, global warming, and human toxicity.
  • Sustainable buildings should also focus on improving the indoor environment quality by providing adequate moisture control and ventilation, maximising daylighting, and avoiding the use of VOC emitting materials,
  • Optimisation of maintenance and operational practises.

Based on the above principles, the following recommendations are suitable for constructing sustainable building envelopes.

Site Potential Optimisation:

  • Consider all the local climatic conditions that may have an impact on the construction materials of the envelope and the building’s overall energy performance.
  • While designing the horizontal elements of the envelope, the impact on the urban heat island of the site must be considered. In warmer climates, consider using vegetated components or light colored finish materials to reduce energy load.

Optimisation of Energy Use:

  • Optimise the envelope’s insulation performance for both cold and hot seasons.
  • Use of high-performance glazing and analysis of its thermal, daylighting, and solar performance on each of the building’s elevations is recommended.
  • Utilisation of exterior shading devices including light shelves, vertical fins, and overhangs to ensure high energy efficiency.
  • Consider reducing the power and HVAC loads during the peak demand periods by using lighting sensors in the presence of adequate daylight.
  • It is also possible to generate renewable energy on-site by using photovoltaic panels.
  • Optimise the performance of all building envelope components by using life-cycle analysis and energy simulation tools.

Protection and Conservation of Water:

  • Vegetated roofs can be an excellent alternative for on-site capture, filter, and reuse of rainwater.
  • Rainwater captured on the facade or roof can also be reused on-site after collection and treatment for purposes such as toilet flushing or landscape irrigation.

Consider the Environmental Preferability of the Products:

  • Environmental performance of all the building envelope products and components should be evaluated using life-cycle assessment tools.
  • Avoid using all materials that are toxic or pollute the environment. Wherever possible, make use of assemblies that you can deconstruct at the end of their life cycle.
  • Maximise the use of recycled materials for the construction of the building envelope.
  • While selecting wooden components for your building envelope, try to source them from forests following sustainable management practices.

Indoor Environment Quality Enhancement:

  • Provide windows that don’t have any negative impact on the acoustic and visual comfort within the indoor environment.
  • All the issues related to thermal comfort within the building perimeter should be addressed by the components of the building envelope.
  • The building envelope should be designed and constructed in a way that considers the moisture dynamics so that the indoor air quality is never compromised. Where appropriate, you may consider using operable windows for occupant control as well as natural ventilation.
  • Limit the use of adhesives, sealants, paints, and coatings containing volatile organic compounds.
  • Ensure that the glazing system design of the envelope maximises the use of daylight. The electric lighting must be controlled so that a consistent light level is maintained throughout the space. Create a healthy visual environment by proper glare control with the help of internal shades or blinds.

Optimisation of Maintenance and Operational Practices:

  • All the operators and occupants should be adequately trained in preventative maintenance of the envelope.
  • All the cleaning products and supplies used for the envelope must be non-toxic and resource efficient.

Regardless of what you expect to achieve out of your building envelope, CGS Façade Group can provide you the latest and the most cost-effective solutions. We provide end-to-end facade engineering service including consultation, designing, engineering, documentation, certification, and much more. Contact us today to discuss your requirements and let our experts handle the rest for you.