Living Behind a Façade

Good façade engineering has a huge impact on building performance.Heritage and Modern Facades

The façades, with their opaque and transparent elements, form the interface between the climate and the people inside, and we need them to do so much. We don’t want any unfortunate or unintended consequences of the design to affect how long the building will last, or whether the occupants will be able to go about their business supported rather than hindered by their environment. An expert approach is required but the question is whose expertise to seek?


There are experts in the structural engineering design of facades so that they stand strong, keep out the elements and respond safely when the wind blows or the earth shakes.

There are building surveyors who specialise in the maintenance of that function and the prevention, divination and rectification of issues when it goes wrong.

There are safety specialists like fire engineers who advise on penetrations, compartment design and materials.

There are HVAC engineers who at first glance have little to do with the physicality of the façade but rely on its effects on the building to succeed in their own complex field.

Suppliers and installers bring a wealth of knowledge of glazing and cladding systems, control layers, and structural materials. They have expertise to share about buildability and site construction details; of connecting the structure with the skin; and of mechanisms within systems to control heat, water and vapour.

Facade engineer at workThere are architects, on whom we all rely for aesthetic and form, and on whom many of the disciplines lean for guidance in function.

And then there are façade engineers who are supposed to wrap up all of the above and be everything to everyone. These specialists come from a variety of backgrounds with teams having varying knowledge and experience but all described by the catch all name ‘façade engineer’.

Because no one has it all, you’ll need to ask what background your specialist has. Know who you are talking with. Know when to seek out someone else to fill the gaps. And ask them who else might be able to help. And if it’s façade performance engineering you’re looking for you might well have found your source in InsideOut.


Façade engineering is such an important part of building performance and it’s a major part of what we do at InsideOut. Our part of façade engineering takes into account what it means to live behind a façade; to be benefitted by its design; and for building and occupants to work together.

Because we get involved with the way the building functions as a whole we can look at the choices to be made for materials and systems. Of course, the important thing is to consider what the building needs to achieve to meet its function, things like:

• Thermal comfort – Transient or stationary? Adaptive? Uniform?
• Ventilation strategy – Natural, Mechanical or Hybrid?
• Indoor air quality – Temperature, Moisture, Pollutants and Control Practices
• Solar – Daylight, Glare and Thermal gain
• Energy – Passive engineering, Supplementary heating and cooling

CJESP Sun pathWe help our clients choose the right products, designs and specifications. Things like:

• Shading (external and internal) – to respond to the location, orientation and sunpath
• Glazing – to limit heat gain and heat loss, make use of daylight, and improve thermal comfort
• Insulation – to control conduction heat loss or gain in the right way at the right time
• Membranes (air-tight, water-tight or vapour-tight) – to save energy, allow vapour migration, and protect materials
• Cavities (yes, we even get involved with the absence of things) – for drainage and drying, insulation, and buildability

And best of all each is planned to work with all the other decisions and the designs for supplementary light, heating, cooling and ventilation systems, and the loads imposed by occupancy of the building.


Your façade choices affect how you use your building and how long it will last. It’s a matter of investing in returns to see a return on your investment. Surprisingly to some, there are budget savings for looking at how your façade will work; usually significantly larger than the costs. This is the true ‘value engineering’ way to design.

Author: Ruth Williams – Principal, Buildings That Work InsideOut Ltd

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