First Impressions

The latest in glass, aluminum, aluminum composite, structural steel, and wood present an extensive design palette of opportunity for building facade designers
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Sponsored by Cladiators; CRL-U.S. Aluminum; EXTECH/Exterior Technologies, Inc.; Longboard® Products a Division of Mayne Coatings Corp.; New Millennium Building Systems; Prodema; TAMLYN; TILE EZE; and W&W Glass, LLC

Learning Objectives:

  1. Identify the various roles that the facade ideally plays within a well-designed building.
  2. Describe the main benefits and applications of aluminum, aluminum composite material, and structural steel cladding.
  3. Differentiate between the various glass facade systems, including stick-built curtain wall, unitized facades, point-supported structural systems, storefront, window wall, and entry systems.
  4. Explain how kinetic facade systems work and the benefits they bring.


1 AIA LU/Elective
This test is no longer available for credit

Serving as the very first impression to both building entrants and passersby, the building facade not only plays a major architectural and aesthetic role, but it significantly factors into a facility’s energy performance and sustainability.

Essentially serving as a building’s wrapping—be it glass, aluminum, aluminum composite, structural steel, or wood—an extensive array of shapes, colors, styles, and textures combine to present the building’s entry.

Photo of RioCan Yonge Eglinton Centre Complex in Toronto.

Photo courtesy of W&W Glass, LLC

A high-span glass cube entrance and curtain wall system clads the IBI Group-designed RioCan Yonge Eglinton Centre Complex in Toronto.

“The facade is of paramount importance in terms of building performance and is an important architectural element, ranking alongside building site and form,” confirms Mikkel Kragh, Ph.D., MSc, CEng, chairman, Society of Facade Engineering, Copenhagen, in an Intelligent Glass Solutions article titled “Facade Engineering & Design Teams of the Future.”

Shielding the building from the elements—i.e., rain, snow, wind, UV rays, insects, birds, etc.—the facade also serves as the building’s main protective layer, further underlying its importance within the overall building design.

Photo of the Community Rowing’s Harry Parker Boathouse and Ruth W. Somerville Sculling Pavilion.

Photo courtesy of EXTECH/Exterior Technologies, Inc.

A wood-faced operable paneled kinetic facade delivers an old New England aesthetic, along with high-quality superior insulation and ventilation, for the Anmahian-Winton Architects-designed Community Rowing’s Harry Parker Boathouse and Ruth W. Somerville Sculling Pavilion in Brighton, Massachusetts.

“The facade of a building is its first line of defense,” states Howard Zimmerman, owner and principal, Howard Zimmerman Architects, New York, in a Cooperator New York article, “Facades 101: The Partnership of Form and Function.”

“It is a raincoat for the building,” he continues. “It keeps the elements out and insulates, while at the same time serving a decorative purpose.”

Furthermore, Kragh points out that the facade can make up between 15 and 25 percent of total construction costs, in addition to accounting for a large percentage of a project’s technical and commercial risks.

That said, it’s essential to dedicate sufficient time to the design, development, fabrication, and installation of the facade system and all of its components.

For example, close coordination between the trades must occur in order to ensure a weathertight facade and high-performance thermal systems. Furthermore, the facade must successfully integrate with numerous building systems, including the structural design, daylighting systems, HVAC design, and the building’s overall energy efficiency, particularly in light of increasingly stringent energy codes.

“The facade is the filter between the climate outside and the conditioned space inside. It determines the appearance of the building, and its performance relies on appropriate specification, design, and delivery of a multitude of components and systems,” adds Kragh.

Embarking upon a new design, architects have a multitude of cladding options to choose from to meet these performance objectives while delivering an attractive aesthetic.


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Originally published in Architectural Record
Originally published in December 2016


First Impressions
Buyer's Guide
Cladiators Calor Wall System
Patented Calor™ wall technology eliminates the traditional sealant and gasket and adds thermal performance to the building envelope. Calor wall systems are developed for high performance, uniquely innovative thermal and moisture control, and exceptional design versatility.
Entice® Thermal Entrance System
Entice® is engineered to provide all-glass aesthetics with full-frame performance. The system has the unique ability to support door handle hardware on 1-inch insulating glass panels. Boasting the thinnest thermally broken profile in the industry with a vertical stile width of 11/8 inches, this completely customizable system delivers premium aesthetics while producing U-factors as low as 0.33.
CRL-U.S. Aluminum
KINETICWALL™ Moving Dynamic Facade
KINETICWALL is a dynamic moving facade that creates an eye-catching aesthetic. Made of 6-inch flappers attached to steel rods, KINETICWALL responds to wind currents to look like rolling waves. Customizable flappers are structurally designed to withstand hurricane-force winds and rainfall. KINETICWALL permits air flow and visibility, prevents solar heat gain, and provides opportunities for Arts in Transit.
EXTECH/Exterior Technologies, Inc.
Longboard® Cladding Products
Longboard® Cladding Products are lightweight, versatile, and applicable to any project. The wood-grain finishes offer an authentic natural look, while the solid colors offer clean lines to satisfy even the most delicate designs. Sustainable manufacturing processes and superior product quality are the backbone of this contemporary product.
Longboard® Products a Division of Mayne Coatings Corp.
Architectural Steel Decking
Game-changing building exteriors: curved, smooth, ribbed, or lineal plank patterns use exposed steel decking. Structural and aesthetic, architectural decking can be acoustic, span to 35 feet, incorporate MEP, and coated to outlast other options. It is often the lowest total-project cost solution.
New Millennium Building Systems
ProdEX Natural Wood Facades
This rainscreen panel offers the warmth and elegance of natural wood and is maintenance free. Use it on facades, soffits, screen walls, louvers, and even curved surfaces. Its proven performance far exceeds the industry requirement, and it is LEED friendly.
XtremeTrim® Reveal Trim System
XtremeTrim® (extruded aluminum trim) profiles are available to match multiple panel siding systems. XtremeTrim® has thousands of design and color options, allowing architects and users to dramatically improve their building aesthetics and create modern architectural lines. Sustainable, durable, noncombustible, lightweight, easy to use, for interior or exterior use—that’s XtremeTrim®.
Keil Concealed Anchoring System
The KEIL anchor was developed for mechanical, non-adhesive, concealed anchoring for different facade cladding materials. The anchor is used worldwide in the facade industry for rainscreens, wall cladding, and exterior and interior facades.
Pilkington Planar™ Structural Glass System
As the world’s leading point-supported structural glass system, the Pilkington Planar™ system continues to evolve using larger glass panels and innovative backup structures. Backed by a 12-year comprehensive system warranty by Pilkington, architects and owners continue to specify this product time and time again for their most challenging projects.
W&W Glass, LLC