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Efficient Building Glass Facades That Work

The moment the first all-glass building was proposed by Mies van der Rohe, architects have sought the perfect façade. A well-designed façade system is often to the mediocre and a spectacular design impression. Budget aesthetic and performance constraints require careful balancing. While every project is different developing a decision-making framework greatly simplifies the process.

To explore this process we will examine three case studies about strikingly different facade strategies selected based on project constraints. For ease of differentiation the three strategies are classed as “Duplication,” also known as double façade, “Extrusion,” for overhangs and fins and “Integrated Glass” referring to integrated film, coatings, and patterns.

Classroom Building – SMHEC

The Southern Maryland Higher Education Center is a 75,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art building designed for industry and government partners to collaborate with academic faculty and students on transnational engineering research to grow new jobs in the region. Designed by architect Cooper Carry, the high-performance building showcases high daylight low glare while hitting conservative budget targets, as described in the complete detailed case study.

The most notable design feature is a façade that breaks traditional expectations for cost-conscious academic facilities. The architects explored iterative massing design options to select one that responds well to the master plan but has significant exposure on the west façade. Design urban context and master planning considerations are critical factors when selecting a building massing and orientation. No amount of high-performance simulation can overcome a poorly designed building.

Knowing the constraints in real-time during the design process is critical to successfully achieving the design intent. By utilizing early-stage modeling the team realized in the schematic design phase that if they were to going to move forward with the selected massing they would need to reserve additional budget for glare reduction strategies on the west exposure. By using simulation they were able to effectively optimize those design moves to keep the project under budget and on time for delivery.

As seen in the holistic glare map above the Annual Solar Exposure (ASE) or glare is high on the western exposure to the extent that parts of the floor plate become intolerable. The ASE is measured as the amount of the floor plate that experiences over 1000 lux for more than 250 hours in a year. This is an effective way of measuring glare as it is caused by high-intensity light your eye. Large amounts of glass also lead to gain challenges in this muggy coastal climate. To overcome these constraints, the team tested a range of shading strategies including vertical fins horizontal overhangs and double facades.

Here are some of the studies conducted in the façade feature within cove. Tool to rapidly test different options. Since the project team could receive instant feedback they were able to move ahead decisively avoiding time-consuming rework and ultimately making the project more profitable for the firm. To reduce glare and add dimensionality to the facade aesthetic the design team wanted to utilize overhangs and was able to determine the precise depth of the overhang based on the facade location by running quick studies.

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