Construction technologies

The building envelope

Walls and rainscreens The glazed curtain wall has advanced considerably since it came into vogue in the 1960s. The repository for knowledge in this context is the Centre for Window and Cladding Technology (www.cwct.co.uk). Metal panel systems are now available with integral insulation, for example EDM Spanwall which uses flat metal sheets pressure bonded to the insulation core. Precast concrete panels also come with integral insulation. Trent Concrete has introduced an insulated concrete sandwich under the name of Hardwall Cladding. The Ocean Terminal at Leith completed in 2001 is a good example of this technology. Often these panels have an exterior finish of stone or reconstructed stone.

Climate facades The glass curtain wall is a familiar feature of office and institutional buildings dating from the 1950s, though the feature first appeared in the US at the end of the nineteenth century. Liverpool can boast a number of office buildings that point the way to the glass curtain wall such as Oriel Chambers in Water Street, designed by Peter Ellis and completed in 1864.

The technique was conceived at a time when energy was cheap and plentiful and there was no glimmer of global warming. Buildings challenged the environment. Now there is mounting pressure to design buildings which operate in harmony with nature, making the most of solar resources. The demand for increasing energy efficiency led first to the introduction of double glazing. Now things have moved on with the incorporation of a second inside skin of glazing creating what is termed a 'climate facade' or alternatively an 'active facade'.

These are terms for facades that play an active role in controlling the internal climate of offices in which there is an optimum requirement for daylight.

The active facade fulfils a variety of functions. It:

Renewable Energy 101

Renewable Energy 101

Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable. The usage of renewable energy sources is very important when considering the sustainability of the existing energy usage of the world. While there is currently an abundance of non-renewable energy sources, such as nuclear fuels, these energy sources are depleting. In addition to being a non-renewable supply, the non-renewable energy sources release emissions into the air, which has an adverse effect on the environment.

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