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Facades and interfaces


Faade systems comprise the structural elements that provide lateral and vertical resistance to wind and other actions
, and the building envelope elements that provide the weather resistance and thermal, acoustic and fire resisting
properties. The types of faade system that are used depends on the type and scale of the building and on local
planning requirements that may affect the buildings appearance in relation to its neighbours. For example, brickwork
is often specified as the external faade material, but the modern way of constructing the inner leaf consists of light
steel wall elements (called infill walling) that have effectively replaced more traditional block-work.
Other types of faade materials may be attached to light steel walling, such as insulated render, large boards, metallic
panels and terracotta tiles. A wide variety of facade treatments and shapes may be created using light steel wall
including large ribbon windows, curved and inclined walls, and with projections such as solar shading or balconies.
Faade materials may be mixed to enhance the aesthetics of the building. It is also possible to pre-fabricate light steel
wall panels with their cladding pre-attached.
In multi-storey buildings, unitised curtain walling systems have been developed that are attached to the floors or edge
beams of the primary steel structure. Steel and glass are also widely used in faade and roofing systems, and the local
attachments are in the form of stainless steel brackets.
Other interfaces that affect the design of the faade include the attachment of brickwork to steel edge beams, the
design of projecting balconies, solar shading and attachments of parapets.

Installation of a unitised curtain walling system


(Image courtesy of Arup Facades)

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Installation of a unitised curtain


walling system
(Image courtesy of Arup Facades)

Installation of lightweight facade


system attached to a modular
building through a mast climbing
system.
(Image courtesy of Futureform)

Faade functions
The building faade provides the separation between the
inside and the outside environments but is also required
to provide acceptable light levels and a visual connection
with the outside in the form of views out of the building.
The faade may also be required to provide the building
user with openable windows for ventilation.
The separating functions include:
Weather tightness including elimination of water
ingress and control of air permeability and
resistance to wind actions;
Insulation (both thermal and acoustic);
Control of solar gain and ultraviolet radiation and
the management of views into the building.
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The building faade also provides the owner and the


architect with a canvas on which to create an image
representing the owners business, ideals or outlook.

Elimination of water ingress


A fundamental requirement of a cladding system is that
water does not leak through it into the building. One
means of eliminating leaks is to create a face-sealed
system over the whole building, equivalent to a
weatherproof membrane. Once such a system is
perforated, water leaking through the perforations is
inside the building. In practice, it is difficult to achieve
such a face-sealed system because of the complexity of
the interfaces between the various materials and
components in a building envelope and its exposure to
weathering.
A more reliable way of providing resistance to water
ingress is to adopt a system with primary and secondary
defences. The primary defence is intended to resist most
of the incident rain but if water leaks past the primary
(outer) defence, the secondary defence intercepts the
water and directs it to the outside. Rain screen systems
and glazing and framing profiles are designed in this
way.
The level of exposure of buildings to the weather is
related to the design wind pressure. The level of
performance of a building envelope can be specified and
resistance to water penetration tested. The Centre for
Window and Cladding Technology (CWCT) publishes a
Standard for systemised building envelopes[1], which
sets out performance categories and corresponding
weather tests related to the design wind pressure.

Control of air permeability

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Air pressure testing of an industrial building


(Image courtesy of BSRIA)

Air permeability is controlled in the design and


construction of building envelopes to manage the rate of
heat loss or gain due to the exchange of air with the
outside, to assist in reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
Standards of air permeability are identified in the Air
Tightness Testing and Measurement Association
(ATTMA) guide and specification for air permeability[2].
Standards of air permeability
Building type

air permeability
m3/(hr.m2) at 50 Pa
Best practice

Normal

*Naturally ventilated

3.0

7.0

*Mixed mode

2.5

5.0

*Air conditioned/low energy

2.0

5.0

Factories/warehouses

2.0

6.0

Superstores

1.0

5.0

Schools

3.0

9.0

Hospitals

5.0

9.0

Offices:

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Pressure testing is required under the Building


Regulations which state that all buildings that are not
dwellings must be subject to pressure testing (subject to
some exceptions).
Compliance is demonstrated if the measured air
permeability is not worse than the limiting value of 10
m3/(hr.m2) at 50 Pa and the building emission rate (BER)
calculated using the measured air permeability is not
worse than the target CO2 emission rate (TER).
Requirements are also specified for dwellings.

Resistance to wind actions


Curtain wall framing

Mullions and transoms

Building cladding systems are required to sustain wind


actions and transfer them to the main building structure.
Systems are usually mounted on a building floor by floor
so at each floor level the building frame supports the
weight of one storey height of the envelope. The
envelope may either be bottom-supported or suspended
from the floor above. Wind actions are transferred by the
cladding system to the building floors which act as a
linear support. Building cladding systems formed of large
panels are usually one-way spanning. Each floor level
therefore supports one level of wind load on a building.

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Curtain walling panels are usually two-way spanning,


supported on four sides by the transoms and mullions
which frame them. Transoms span side to side,
supported by the mullions which span from floor to floor.
Loads are transferred by brackets, usually fixed at the
edge of the floor slab. The mullions are usually provided
with sleeved joints to achieve transfer of shear forces at
the joints. Mullions are usually top-hung so that they act
in bending and tension.
Rain screen cladding, masonry and insulated render are
fixed to supporting systems which are usually designed
to span from floor to floor.

Thermal and acoustic insulation


The building faade is required to perform a thermal
insulating function which is becoming increasingly
onerous under the pressure to reduce energy
consumption and CO2 emissions. Insulating material is
incorporated into the opaque parts of the faade and
insulating glazed units (igus) are used in the transparent
areas. Minimum U-values are given in the Building
Regulations, equal to 0.35 W/m2K for walls and 2.2
W/m2K for windows and curtain walling. Better insulation
(lower U-values) averaged over the building envelope
can be achieved by increasing the areas of opaque wall
and reducing the areas of windows.
The building envelope also provides acoustic separation
between the external and internal environments. In
general, a building envelope constructed of more
massive elements (e.g. masonry or pre-cast concrete)
provides better acoustic separation.

Solar gain, light levels and views out

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Double-glazed unit with laminated glass

Large areas of glazing which extend from floor to ceiling


in many office developments provide excellent views out
of the space and good levels of natural light. Levels of
natural light diminish with distance from the faade and
18m is the plan depth (facade to faade or faade to
atrium) above which natural light is considered to be too
low.
The penetration of direct sunlight into a building causes
solar gain and glare, both of which increase with a
greater expanse of glazing. These effects vary with the
time of day and with the seasons and both need to be
allowed for in the design of the faade. South elevations
receive stronger sunlight from a higher angle and can be
shaded using horizontal louvres or brises soleil. Glare
from low-angle sunlight can be a particular problem in the
early morning and late evening for east- and west-facing
elevations. Shading can be provided with vertical fins or
with user-operated blinds.
Solar gain can be reduced by specifying a selective solar
control coating on one of the surfaces of the glass
(usually in the cavity of an igu). The coating is called
selective because solar radiation of different wavelengths
is selectively allowed to pass through the coating: visible
wavelengths of light are allowed to pass more freely than
infrared wavelengths.
For spaces for exhibitions or displays of materials
susceptible to ultraviolet (uv) degradation, a uv-inhibiting
film can be applied to the surface of glazing or laminated
glass can be specified with sufficient interlayers between
the glass laminates to absorb uv radiation.
Solar shading

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Vertical aluminium fins

Horizontal glass louvres

Solar gain must be allowed for in the design of the


building services. The benefits of full-height glazing have
been questioned as a result of pressure to reduce energy
costs because there is little advantage to natural light
levels in having glazing below desk level but full-height
glazing increases the heating and cooling demand and
increases energy costs. The Target Zero Programme
considers these issues in the context of different building
types.
Schools, hospitals and residential buildings frequently
have larger areas of solid wall and smaller windows as a
proportion of the faade area and so these issues are
less significant.

Image

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Expressed structure(Y frames)

One of the most significant functions of a building facade


is to project an image. This may be of a place, of the
building owner or user, of the buildings function or of the
architect.
The choice of materials, incorporation of features,
expression of structure, scale, views into the building
may all be used.
Architectural features

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Strong referential image

Expressed structure in large


partially enclosed volume

Types of faade systems


A wide variety of faade systems may be used in modern
multi-storey buildings, which are:
Brickwork and stonework (masonry)
Curtain walling
Precast concrete panels with various types of
finishes
Insulated render
Metallic cladding
Tiles and stone veneer panels
Large boards consisting of an aesthetic and
weather tight veneer
Glass and steel faade systems

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Large colour coated steel cassette panels supported on


vertical rails

The choice of facade system is dependent on the scale


and use of the multi-storey building, and on its local
environment and neighbours. A variety of steel
components may be used in modern facade systems,
such as:
Steel profiled sheets and composite (sandwich)
panels
Flat and rigidised cassette panels with folded edges
Light steel infill walls using C sections
Hollow steel sections (often circular) for facades
and roofs, particularly used for visual effect in atria
and in entrance areas
Stainless steel glazing support systems
Metallic elements in unitised curtain walling
Light steel infill walls have largely replaced the blockwork inner leaf in both steel and concrete framed
buildings. A variety of facade systems may be attached
to the infill walls. Some examples are illustrated below.

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Large colour coated steel cassette panels supported on


vertical rails

Benefits of steel faade systems


The benefits of steel faade systems may be presented
in terms of their functional and aesthetic requirements, as
follows:
A variety of colours and surface textures is possible
Lightweight facades minimise the loads on the
supporting structure
Light steel infill walls using C sections can be used
to support a wide range of cladding systems
Facades can be highly pre-fabricated for speed of
installation
Steel glazing systems can be used for visual effect
in tall entrance areas and atria
Steel is non-combustible and robust to damage in
faade panels
A high level of thermal and acoustic insulation can
be provided.

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Use of composite
(sandwich)panels to support tiles.
(Image courtesy of Kingspan
Panels and Profiles)

Use of large metallic panles in overcladding of an existing office


building.
(Image courtesy of Tata Steel
Panels and Profiles)

Solutions using light steel infill walls

Typical light steel infill walls in a steel framed building

Light steel walls may be of two types:

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Light steel infill walls that span between the floors


or between the floor and edge beam
Panelised systems that are placed outside the slab
edge and are attached at discrete locations.
Light steel infill walls are more widely used because of
the simplicity of the installation process and the ability to
deliver cut-to-length C sections for the particular as-built
dimensions of the project. The development of light steel
infill walls has been one of the major innovations in the
last 10 years. Light steel infill walls consists of C sections
that span 2.4 to 5m between floors, and are designed to
resist the wind pressures applied to the building faade
and also to support the weight of the particular type of
cladding system that is attached to them.

Benefits of light steel infill walls


The benefits of light steel infill walls are:
Rapid construction system with an installation rate
of over 50m2; per day
Less materials handling on site than for brick and
block-work
Tall walls up to 5m and high wind pressures up to
2kN/m2;
Ability to create large windows without wind posts
Minimum material use (less than 5kg/m2; of steel in
the faade)
No onsite waste when C sections are delivered cut
to length
Light weight, which reduces the loads on the
supporting structure
Can be used for a wide range of cladding systems
Can be dismantled in building extensions etc. and
re-used

Design of infill walls

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Metsecs SFS system used on the external infill walls to a


4-storey composite frame at Colchester Hospital.
(Image courtesy of Metsec)

The design of light steel infill walls is dependent on the


wall height and wind pressures acting on the faade.
Normally the C sections are 100 to 150mm deep with
steel thicknesses of 1.2 to 1.6mm. The C sections are
placed at 400 or 600mm centres, which is compatible
with the attachments to the internal plasterboard and
external cladding.
Large openings can be created by placing pairs of C
sections vertically next to the openings, and sometimes
pairs of C sections above and below the openings. The
steel thickness can also be varied across the faade
without changing the section size. For example, wind
pressures are higher at the corners of the buildings and
also increase with height. The deflection limits that are
specified in design depend on the types of cladding that
is attached.

Thermal performance

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Thermal insulation is attached externally to the wall and


mineral wool is often placed between the C sections to
achieve the required thermal insulation (U-value). For
insulated render or rain screen cladding systems, an
external sheathing board is often used to provide local
support to the external cladding.
A U-value of 0.15 W/m2;K can be achieved by
approximately 100mm of closed cell insulation board
fixed to the C sections or sheathing board supplemented
by 100mm of mineral wool between the Cs. The same
wall build-up may be used for all types of cladding
systems.
Air-tightness is also important in modern building design,
and it can be improved by use of a sheathing board fixed
to the C sections.

Construction process
Light steel infill walls are generally installed as individual
C sections that are cut to length and are placed between
the floors or edge beams. The C sections are attached to
a U shaped bottom track which is attached to the floor
slab. At the top of the wall, the C sections slide in a U
shaped top track that is fixed to the underside of the
edge beam or floor slab permits relative movement
without compressing the wall. The general guidance is to
provide a minimum of 20mm relative movement in a
concrete framed building and 10mm in a steel framed
building.
Pairs of C sections are often placed either side of window
or door openings to resist the loads transferred across
the window. The U tracks are connected to the concrete
floor slab using powder actuated pins.
The construction process is very rapid and does not
require external scaffolding until the faade is attached
externally. Alternatively, the walls may be prefabricated
and installed as large panels, often with the cladding preattached - see photograph below. In this case, the
cladding panel is placed outside the edge of the primary
structure, and supports the cladding fascia. The cladding
around the edges of the panel is then attached on-site.

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Installing light steel infill walls.


(Image courtesy of Metsec)

Lightweight prefabricated panel


attached to a steel framed building
(Image courtesy of Kingspan
Panels and profiles)

Curtain walling

Curtain walling system attached to a steel framed


building in Spinningfields, Manchester

Curtain walling is the generic name given to metallic


lightweight cladding or glazed cladding systems that are
directly supported by a structural frame. In some cases,
a stone veneer or large tiled fascia may be attached to
give the appearance of a more monolithic cladding
system.

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Curtain wall systems are an assembly of factory-made


components which are either made up into panels in the
factory and the interlocking units brought to site and
installed (unitized curtain walling) or brought to site as
components and assembled on the building (stick curtain
walling). Stick curtain walling is more often used on lowrise buildings and in relatively small areas because
external access is required to the building elevations, e.g.
from scaffolding or wall-climbing work platforms. Unitised
curtain walling can be designed to be installed without
using the main crane and this method is favoured on highrise buildings. Methods used are a mini-crane mounted
on the office floor or a hoist mounted on a temporary rail
round the perimeter of the building.

Rail-mounted hoist
(Image Tractel (UK) Ltd )

The size of the unitised panels is dictated by the floor to


floor height and a sensible width for transportation and
installation and should be compatible with the planning
dimensions of the faade (normally a multiple of 300mm).
Panels up to 1.5m wide and 4.2m high are typical. There
are relatively few suppliers of unitised curtain walling
systems in Europe and most have dedicated design
teams who can provide detailed design and detailing for
particular projects.

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Fully glazed curtain walling system used in a multi-storey


steel structure

The curtain walling system is designed to provide the


necessary functions of weather-tightness, natural lighting
and shading, and thermal insulation. The joints between
the elements of the curtain walling are therefore very
important to these functions. In unitised systems, the
panels are manufactured so that they are highly sealed
and insulated, and the joints between the large panels
are made by rubber gaskets and silicone sealants (see
below).
Alternatively, the fascia may be designed to act as a rain
screen by creating a cavity behind the fascia material
and providing wider joints around the perimeter of the
cladding panels. Therefore, under the wind action,
pressure equalisation occurs between the cavity and
external air so that wind driven rain is not forced into the
cavity, thereby reducing the risk of water ingress through
the joints.
Generally windows are sealed in modern offices and
therefore control of ventilation by other means is
important. A high level of acoustic attenuation can be
achieved which is important in city centre buildings.

Panel framing
Split mullions

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Panel defined by split mullions and


transoms

Panels are framed by mullions on the vertical edges and


transoms on the horizontal edges. Mullions and transoms
are thermally broken to prevent cold bridging through the
element so that condensation does not occur. Unitized
curtain walling is identifiable by the presence of split
mullions and transoms on the panel perimeters. The
glazing units are supported on a setting block from the
transom below and may either be bonded in factorycontrolled conditions to the framing transoms and
mullions using structural silicone or secured with a
compression gasket.
By contrast, in stick curtain walling, the mullions and
transoms are all individual elements. Intermediate
transoms may divide the panel vertically. Insulated
glazed units and solid insulated panels fill the openings
framed by the mullions and transoms. The igus are
supported on plastic setting blocks from the transom
below and secured on all four edges with pressure plates
screwed to the mullions and transoms and concealed by
a capping plate.

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Aluminium is easy to extrude so the framing elements


which include stiffening nibs, screw races and pockets to
receive gaskets are usually made from this material.
These structural shapes are cheap to manufacture in
large quantities once a die has been made.

Weather tightness

Drainage from glazing rebate

Weather tightness of curtain walling is achieved by


mounting impermeable insulating glazing units and infill
panels in gasketted rebates. Any water which passes the
gasket into the glazing rebate is either drained to the
outside through openings in the transom or directed to
the mullions which form vertical drainage paths and
direct water to the outside at the mullion joints.
Split mullions and transoms in unitized curtain walling
include cavities with linear gaskets such as blade or
bubble gaskets forming the first barrier. Any water
passing the first line of defence is able to drain freely to
the outside. Weather tightness is demonstrated following
design by appropriate testing.
Gaskets

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Bubble gaskets

Blade gaskets

The Centre for Window and Cladding Technology


(CWCT) provides technical guidance on achieving
weather tightness which includes a specification for
weather testing windows and curtain walling[1]. The most
comprehensive form of testing involves mounting a
prototype panel in a pressure box to allow the
development of positive and negative pressure across
the panel. Wind actions can be simulated to test panel
strength and stiffness. Weather testing includes spraying
water in controlled quantities and distribution under
conditions of static pressure difference. Weather
tightness under dynamic pressure can also be developed
using an aero engine-driven propeller mounted on a
frame, if required. No water ingress results in a pass of
the weather test. Hose testing can also be used on
specific joints.
Large areas of glazing and aluminium framing (despite
being thermally broken) limit the U-values, which can be
achieved with curtain walling. U-values averaged over a
whole curtain wall panel are typically in the region of 1.3
to 1.7 W/m2K. The thermal performance of igus is
improved by using argon (or other inert gas) filling and/or
triple-glazing.
Solar gain, light levels and views out are controlled as
described above.

Support conditions

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Curtain walling systems are generally top-hung and


laterally supported at floor levels. The effects of edge
beam deflections are seen in relative vertical movement
between the panels supported at a given floor level and
the panels supported at the floor above. For this reason,
the edge beams should be sufficiently stiff to prevent any
damage to the cladding system, particularly if it is highly
glazed.
The span of a steel edge beam is typically 5 to 8m (6m
and 7.5m are common dimensions), and the span of a
concrete edge beam or slab is typically 5 to 6m. A total
deflection limit of span/500 under imposed loading is
normally specified for the edge beams for more brittle
cladding systems. The installation of the panels should
also allow for dimensional tolerances at the slab edge by
use of packers or levelling devices.
Some curtain walling systems are designed with steel
strong backs so that they can span directly between the
perimeter columns and therefore do not require vertical
support from the slab edge although they may require
lateral support to resist wind action on the panel. The
ability to transport and lift these large panels is the critical
design consideration.

Strongback cladding system

Support to brickwork

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Light steel infill walls with brickwork outer leaf

Brickwork can be attached to a steel framed building by several methods:


It can be supported on the ground or an intermediate structure and laterally supported by the steel framework
and infill wall. This approach is permitted for walls up to about 3 storeys high
It is supported every floor or in some cases, alternate floors by stainless steel support angles that are attached
to the edge beams of the primary steel structure or to the edge of the floor slab.
Brick tiles or brick slips have also been developed which give an external appearance of brickwork but which
are bonded to a sheathing board or supported on horizontal rails or sheeting.
Alternatively, masonry facades can be formed by supporting brick or natural hand-set stone panels from
storey-height precast concrete panels.

A method of fixing brickwork to steel frames

Stainless steel support systems


Stainless steel support angles may be used to support brickwork at floor levels. The key design parameters are the
wall height and the eccentricity of the brickwork from the supporting structure. The Stainless steel angles are typically
10mm thick so that they can be placed in the horizontal brick courses, and their position is adjustable to allow for
geometric deviations in level of the coursing by attachment to stainless steel support brackets.
Two generic support systems for the stainless steel brackets may be used:
Connection to the steel edge beams, which are generally made through steel plates that are welded to the
flange tips of the beams to which the support brackets are attached. These plates are attached in 200 to
300mm lengths and allow the brackets to be bolted to them every 400 or 600mm. An example of this type of
detail is shown in the figure below.
Connection to the slab edge generally though a pre-formed steel edge trim to the floor slab, which has
horizontal dovetail slots in which the connecting bolts are placed. This form of attachment is made every floor
as it is not capable of supporting such heavy loads as the above system. An example of this type of detail is
shown in the figure below.
Generic support systems for stainless steel brackets

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Brickwork support system at a steel edge beam.


(Image courtesy of Halfen Deha)

Brickwork support system at a slab edge in a composite steel framed structure.


(Image courtesy of Halfen Deha)

The eccentricity of the brickwork from its support is important because it determines the bending effect on the
attachment points. The eccentricity is also dependent on the thickness of the insulation in the cavity space between
the brickwork and the internal light steel walling. This maximum value is 120 to 150mm depending on the wall height.
The brickwork is laterally supported by wall ties that attached to the infill walls at a density of about 4.4 ties per m2; of
the facade area.

Brick slip systems

Brick slips used for the upper levels of a building.


(Image courtesy of Unite Modular Solutions)

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Modern brickwork can be manufactured in the form of brick slips that are attached to a supporting steel sheet or
composite panel. The advantage of this system is that it is lightweight and can be installed rapidly as mortar is not
necessarily required. Brick slips can also be stacked vertically, and ribbon or unusual shaped windows can be created
for architectural effect. Examples are shown in the photograph below.
In this system, the brick slips are not considered to be weather-tight, and so the wind and weather resistance is
provided by the backing material. Composite (or sandwich) panels provide both excellent structural and thermal
characteristics for use as the backing system.
Use of brick slips attached to steel backing system, such as a composite panel

(Image courtesy of Kingspan Panels and profiles)


Corium
(Image courtesy of Wienerberger)

Support from storey-height precast concrete panels


Masonry facades are also formed by supporting brick or natural hand-set stone panels from storey-height precast
concrete panels. Stainless steel support brackets and restraining pins are used. Thicknesses of hand-set stone vary
from 20 mm to 70 mm, depending on the wind load, the tensile strength of the stone and the spacing of fixings.
Continuous areas of masonry cladding have naturally low air permeability so generally air permeability is controlled by
good detailing at interfaces with windows and doors and other penetrations through the wall for building services.
Solar gain, light levels and views out are balanced by choosing appropriate window type, size and arrangement with
suitable shading.

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Natural stone cladding and stainless steel fixing

Facade retention in building renovation

Existing brickwork supported by a temporary steel structure

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In many building renovation projects, the existing brick or stone faade is preserved and is supported temporarily by a
steel structure, whilst the rest of the building is demolished. A new steel permanent structure is constructed behind the
existing faade which is then integrated into the new building. In this way, the appearance of the building is not
changed but its functional use is much improved. A good example of the support to an existing brick faade by an
external temporary steel structure is shown below. The framework at ground level allows for pedestrian access.

Steel and glass facades

Steel and glass are synergistic materials and are often used in facades and roofs of multi-storey buildings. The glass
panels are generally supported by separate vertical steel elements to the main structural frame of the building that may
be internal or external to the building. Stainless steel and hollow steel sections are often used in combination with
glass.

Fixing of glazed facade systems to steel frames

Building performance

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Solar shading with bonded photovoltaic cells attached to a curtain walling system

The glazed walling system is designed to provide the necessary functions of weather-tightness, natural lighting and
shading, and thermal insulation. The silicone joints between the glazing panels are therefore very important to these
functions.
The main issue in the design of glazing systems is the avoidance of high solar gain, particularly on south facing
facades, and also the heat loss due to the relatively high U-value of double or even triple glazing systems that adds to
heat loss. A modern argon filled double glazing system (combined with low emssivity glass) has a U-value of 1.6 to 1.8
W/m2K, and this can reduce to 0.8 to 0.9 W/m2K for high quality triple glazing systems.
Large glazing panels are usually supported by vertical mullions or in some cases, glass fins. The glass is designed to
accommodate the movement of its support system due to the wind and other forces acting on it. Typical deflection
limits under the design wind loads are defined by the Institution of Structural Engineers[3]
The glass elements may also be combined with louvres and bonded photovoltaic panels, as shown.

Double faade systems

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Note the access ladders inside the cavity

Double-skin facades originated in northern Europe and are formed of two glass walls separated by a cavity on southfacing elevations and are used to reduce the energy consumption of a building. Shading devices are usually mounted
in the cavity and, depending on its width, walkways for access and cleaning. This type of faade and has many
variations in arrangement. The variations relate to:
width of cavity;
type of glazing (single/insulating) for the inner or outer skins;
division of the cavity horizontally and vertically;
natural or mechanical ventilation of the cavity;
integration of the cavity ventilation with the building services;
use of opening windows into the cavity.
The two skins form a thermal buffer zone and passive solar gains in the cavity reduce heat losses in winter. If the
cavity ventilation is integrated with the building services, air heated by the sun can be introduced into the building,
providing good natural ventilation and reducing the heating load. In summer, the heated air in the cavity is ventilated to
the outside, conducting heat away from the building and reducing the cooling load. The design of the double skin
faade must be integrated with the design of the building services to be most effective.

Double faade steel glazing system used in a multi-storey steel framed office building, 1 Angel Square, Manchester
(Image courtesy of Severfield (NI) Ltd.)

Solar shading systems

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Solar shading using projecting roof with external tubular columns, Heelis building, Swindon
(Image courtesy of Simon Doling/Feilden Clegg Bradley Architects. Copyright Simon Doling/Feilden Clegg Bradley
Architects)

There is a wide variety of solar shading systems that may be used and incorporated as part of the building faade.
There are:
Oval shaped horizontal steel elements that span horizontally between external columns and their size and
spacing is designed to reduce the intensity of solar gain.
Projecting roof or canopy , often supported by an external steel structure as shown.
Glazed or metallic louvres.
Metallic perforated screens that allow natural light to penetrate but also provide a high degree of shading.

Glazing support systems


Main article: Steel-supported glazed facades and roofs
Modern glazing support systems are based on attachments to 2 or 4 separate glass panels using stainless steel
brackets, also known as spiders because of their multiple legs. The attachments to the glass panels are generally
made by stainless steel brackets with neoprene gaskets through the glass, as shown below. These attachments
permit articulation due to thermal and structural movements so that local stresses on the glass are minimised.

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Glazing support structures can be of various forms:


External or internal tubular columns that may be inclined
Horizontal tubular or lattice members that span between widely spaced columns.
Cable tied systems, as shown below, using stainless steel external couplers, arms and struts.
External glazing support system using stainless steel connectors

Corning Musem of Art, Corning, New York


(Images courtesy of TMR Consulting)

The Manchester Justice Centre shown below is a good example of the vertical and horizontal support by an internal
tubular steel structure to a fully glazed faade over 8 storeys. Cable tied systems can be external or internal and use
the cables to resist tension forces due to wind action on the faade and the tubular sections to resist compression. For
minimum visual impact, the tubes should be of small diameter.

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Mixed use of glazed faade system and weathering steel at the Manchester Justice centre

Steel in atria and canopies


Main article: Steel-supported glazed facades and roofs

Use of curved tubular steelwork to support an atrium roof

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Atrium roofs and feature entrances are often supported by exposed structural steelwork detailed to provide visual
excitement. Structural hollow sections are often used to form the elements because of their clean appearance. Also,
stainless steel wires are used to minimise the intrusion of structure.
Feature entrances

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Point-fixed glazing supported by tension cables

Glazed entrances are often made as transparent as possible to allow visual connection between the inside and outside
of a building. Point-fixed glazing or glass fins may be used to increase transparency.

Glazed atrium

Glazed atrium roofs let light deep into a building allowing the use of large building footprints while reducing the external
perimeter. Atria are also used to promote natural ventilation by the inclusion of opening vents in the roof. Warm air
rising in the atrium and escaping through the vents draws outside air through open windows in the faade. Atria are
used in offices with deep floor plans and are also a feature of shopping centres where retail units face onto a central
atrium. Various glazing support systems are available including steel, aluminium or timber framing.

Rain screen cladding

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Use of composite (sandwich)panels to support tiles.


(Image courtesy of Kingspan Panels and Profiles)

A rain screen cladding system is usually drained and ventilated and consists of open-jointed, rail-mounted panels with
an air-gap behind. The rails are supported by brackets from a backing wall which spans from floor to floor. The
backing wall is either insulated itself or supports insulation mounted on its outside face. In the latter case, a membrane
may be used to protect the insulation from moisture in the air gap.
Rain screen panels are made from durable materials and are chosen by the architect to achieve the desired visual
effect. Stainless steel, weathering steel, anodised aluminium, glass and terracotta are all materials which can be
used. Rails and brackets are made from materials such as stainless steel and aluminium. The backing wall resists
wind actions and supports the rain screen and can consist of an infill wall made from cold-formed steel sections faced
with cement particle board, precast or composite panels or blockwork.
Open jointed rain screen systems shed most of the rainwater from the surface of the rain screen panels. The open
joints are wide enough to allow free ventilation of the air gap and any rainwater penetrating the joints between the
panels is able to drain freely to the exterior. Residual moisture which does not drain away is able to evaporate freely.
Metallic rain screen panels

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Metallic rain-screen cladding attached to light steel infill walls

Window openings must be carefully flashed to direct water around them. The backing wall is sealed to control air
permeability. Solar gain, light levels and views out are balanced by choosing appropriate window sizes and shading.

Weathering steel rain screen cladding panels

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Residential building

Sports centre

Broadcasting Place, Leeds

Rain water runoff from the surface of buildings clad in weathering steel is coloured red-brown by iron oxide and will
stain the ground at the perimeter of the building. This effect reduces over time as the panels weather. Appropriate
details around the building can be included to manage the staining. One approach that has been used is to include a
gravel strip which has been renewed after a period of time.

Insulated wall panels

Typical section through joint in sandwich panels

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Insulated wall panels are interlocking, composite metal-faced sandwich panels or concrete panels with insulation
between internal and external concrete elements. Steel-faced insulated panels are frequently used on single storey
and low-rise industrial buildings.
Panels are usually designed to span one-way (either vertically or horizontally) and are made to suit commonly-used
frame spacings without intermediate supports. Various insulation materials are available such as expanded
polyurethane (PUR), polyisocyanurate (PIR) and mineral fibre with a range of insulating, fire-resisting and other
physical properties. Insulating materials should be selected with care, taking into consideration all the performance
and functional requirements.. Various surface profiles and colours are available. Insulated wall panel systems have
interlocking joints which include overlaps and compression gaskets to prevent water ingress.

Insulated metal faced panel


Horizontal-spanning sandwich panels

For horizontally-laid panels, vertical joints at supports are butt joints with compression gaskets and sealed or
gasketted cover strips.
Insulated wall panels are a proprietary product and the manufacturer provides the results of test data which may be in
the form of tables of span to wind pressure (or load) for various panel thicknesses, allowing the specifier to choose a
suitable panel type and thickness.

Insulated render

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Insulated render attached to light steel infill walls

Insulated render, commonly known as External Wall Insulation (EWI) in North America has been in use in the UK for
over 30 years. It has been used increasingly since 2000 to meet the demand for lightweight, energy efficient,
architecturally interesting facades. Student accommodation and other residential and mixed-use buildings are often
clad in this material.
Rigid insulation board is applied to a supporting frame and coated with a polymer-modified render which may be
cement-based or acrylic-based and fibre reinforced. Light steel framing systems made from cold formed sections have
increasingly been used to provide the supporting structure. Additional insulation can be placed within the depth of the
framing. Early partial closure of the building is achieved by fixing cement particle board to the outer surface of the light
steel framing system, prior to fixing the insulation.

Insulated render on student accommodation

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Render systems form a face-sealed barrier and shed water from their external surface. They may be designed with or
without a cavity depending on the degree of exposure of the building. Appropriate provision for drainage of a cavity
must be made. Suitably detailed flashings and seals at penetrations for windows and doors are required. Further
guidance is given in SCI P343.

Interfaces
Main article: Facade supports and structural movements
Interfaces between steel frames and cladding systems may take various forms as follows:
Brickwork support systems by Stainless steel angles and brackets.
Attachment to curtain walling systems for both vertical and lateral support by the structure or the edge of the
floor slab
Attachment of steel hollow sections and cables in glazed cladding systems
Projections for louvres or canopies, etc.
Support to external steelwork
Support to the atrium or featured steelwork.
These interface details are designed to take account of:
Forces in the vertical and horizontal directions often combined with bending effects when used in louvers, etc.
Allowance for relative movement with the support structure
Allowance for installation tolerances in the alignment of the faade.

Curtain walling support details


Curtain walling mullions are generally top-hung outside the edges of the floor slabs. The cladding brackets are usually
fixed to the floor slab and are designed to resist both vertical and horizontal loads from the cladding self-weight and
wind actions respectively. The brackets project beyond the floor edge and resist the weight of the cladding in bending
and have to be sized appropriately. The fixing arrangements are required to be adjustable to allow the curtain walling
panels to be properly aligned during installation. The fixings between the brackets and the mullions are designed to
allow fine vertical adjustments.
The lower ends of the mullions are often sleeved into the mullions below to transfer horizontal forces but allow vertical
movement.

External steelwork
An external steel structure can be designed to be part of the primary structure or to support canopies or bracing. Often
the external steelwork can be designed as unprotected against fire by considering the intensity and direction of
potential fire plume emanating from the faade. Also, the external steelwork is designed to be part of the architectural
concept, as shown below in Exchange Square, which straddles the railway lines to Liverpool station. In this project, the
beams projected outside the faade line, and so penetrated the faade.

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Such elements passing through an envelope or faade bridge the insulation and provide a potential path for moisture
to pass into the building interior. One consequence of bridging the insulation is that local heat losses occur where the
insulation is penetrated. A further consequence is that in cold weather, condensation occurs inside the building on the
cold surfaces of the elements which communicate with the outside. This may result in visible staining and saturation of
the insulation with consequent reduction in its performance.
Thermal performance and condensation issues can be avoided if suitable thermal breaks are introduced in the
penetrating elements to keep their temperature inside the building above the dew point. Further guidance is given in
SCI P380.
Where the forces in the elements are too large for a thermal break to be introduced, (for example because insulating
materials are too flexible and weak) the penetrating element is insulated over a sufficient length inside the building for
condensation not to occur.
On the Exchange Square project shown below the beams in the floor zone were insulated over a length of about 1.5m
on the inside of the building for this reason.
Louvres and canopies
Louvres and canopies are generally attached to the primary steel structure. To avoid cold bridging through the steel
members passing through the insulation, the special thermal break details mentioned above are typically used, as
shown below.
Canopies are often highly glazed as shown below and can be supported by a separate structure or suspended from
the internal structure. Curved steel members (particularly hollow sections) are often used in canopies for visual effect.
Steel interface details

External steelwork used in Exchange Square,


Broadgate, London

Attachment points for external canopies using


thermal break bolted details

Use of glass canopy supported by curved


steelwork

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References
1. ^ 1.01.1 Standard for systemised building envelopes, Part 8 Testing, March 2006, Centre for Window and
Cladding Technology
2. ^ Technical standard L2, Measuring air permeability of building envelopes (Non Dwellings), October 2010, Air
Tightness Testing and Measurement Association
3. ^ Structural use of glass in buildings (1999). Institution of Structural Engineers

Resources
SCI P101 Interfaces: Curtain wall connections to steel frames
SCI P102 Interfaces: Connections between steel and other materials
SCI P103 Interfaces: Electrical lift installations in steel framed buildings
SCI P166 Interfaces: Design of steel framed buildings for service integration
SCI P193 Steel supported glazing systems
SCI P298 Stainless steel masonry support systems- best practice information sheet for specifiers
SCI P343: Insulated Render Systems Used With Light Steel Framing
SCI P380, Avoidance of thermal bridging in steel construction
SCI P396 New Beijing Poly Plaza Cable-Net Wall
SCI IE P2 Services coordination with structural beams; Guidance on defect free interface

See also
Infill walling
Design codes and standards
Acoustics
Fire and steel construction
Steel construction products
Thermal performance
Steel-supported glazed facades and roofs
Facade supports and structural movements

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