Fabric facades: the balance of aesthetics, function and sustainability.

When new buildings are designed and build, architects and constructors must consider the future in terms of climate change. They have a crucial responsibility to design sustainable, energy-efficient structures, and to take active measures that are thoroughly low-carbon (and ideally carbon-neutral). These measures have to take into account the building process, but also and more important in terms of impact, the use of the building.

Our love for glass in architecture is a clear example. Not too long ago, architects chose fully glass facades as the solution. Simple, elegant and cost-effective, glass was the first choice for a lot of buildings. But it renders inefficiency in energy use. Full-height glazing lets in a substantial amount of light, but also a great deal of heat, which then requires air-conditioning -itself a generator of heat- to correct this problem.

Nowadays, architects are changing their approach on this matter. New energy saving sources of light (LED) are reducing the need for attracting as much light as needed into the building, saving a lot of heat buildup. But we still would like to see our world from our building. Through shading constructions a lot of heat can be shielded from entering the building, reducing the strain on the climate control systems in the building.

80% heat reduction from solar effects with fabric facades.

A PES/PVC fabric facade as a flexible second skin around a building is one of the most cost-effective types of facades, as it can retain up to 80% of the heat from the sun. It’s a low cost solution compared to other facade claddings, and it offers a higher degree of customization as the fabrics can be printed with any pattern or design. They are characterized by their light weight, high durability, flexibility and resistance to different weather conditions.

Thanks to a very low ecological footprint, fabric facades are an ideal application to make the building and renovation industry more sustainable. The idea that PVC-containing materials should be excluded in the search for sustainable materials in the construction industry does not apply in the case of polyester/PVC facade mesh. This material has a technical lifespan of 18-30 years. Producers offer recycling programs to fully process waste and replacement materials. And thanks to the temperature control and lighter substructure required, energy and costs are saved. As such, the use of fabric facades actively contributes to achieving environmental certifications in the construction sector. Think of LEED, HQE and BREEAM.

More benefits from fabric facades.

As mentioned above the flexibility offered by fabric facade systems. Depending on the design, the facade mesh fulfils various primary functions, like noise reduction, wind shields, heat shields. But also visual functions as a branding or communication tools. Collaborations with (local) artists that can be applied by print both to the inside or outside of the facade.

Next generation is actually taking Nitrogen out of the environment.

At this moment a pilot project is done by RWTH Aachen University supported by the Institute for Textile Technology Aachen (ITA) on a facade of a ECE office building in Hamburg. This textile facade has been treated with an additional coating with nanotitanium oxide. The coating binds the harmful nitrogen oxides that pollute the air through car emissions. The facade not only binds nitrogen oxides, but also helps to reduce the CO2 emission of the 22-year-old building: Studies have shown that this new mesh fabric building envelope can reduce up to 78 percent of the solar cooling loads of buildings in summer.