CURTAIN WALLS SUSTAINABILITY ARCHITECTURE, BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION

Functional façades help tackle building emissions

Around two-thirds of today’s buildings will still be around in 2050, and by 2060, the world is projected to add 230 billion m² of buildings - an area equivalent to the entire current global building stock. What can the building and construction sector do to reduce the environmental burden of buildings?

According to the United Nations Environment Program, buildings and their construction together generate 36% of global energy use and nearly 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions annually. Given these projections, careful materials’ selection and design can make all the difference.

Incorporating functional façades like curtain walls is a smart approach. Curtain walls have a big impact on energy efficiency, protecting the building and its inhabitants from weather, heat, noise, light and glare. Unsurprisingly they are growing in appeal.

Global CO2 emissions by sector, from Global Alliance for Building and Construction
Global CO2 emissions by sector, from Global Alliance for Building and Construction

The International Energy Agency believes that the energy savings potential from improved building envelope performance improvements is huge: globally, high-performance buildings construction and deep energy renovations of existing building envelopes represent a savings potential more than all the final energy consumed by the G20 countries in 2015, or around 330 EJ in cumulative energy savings to 2060.

Architects have choices for curtain wall materials.  Nickel-containing stainless steel offers low thermal conductivity and is an ideal material for structures in corrosive environments or for architecturally exposed structural steel applications. And they have an excellent lifecyle-cost track record.

Nickel-containing stainless steel offers low thermal conductivity and is an ideal material for structures in corrosive environments or for architecturally exposed structural steel applications.

Leading architects, Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, Inc. (PCPA) has been designing stainless steel into building façades for the past 30 years. “Stainless steel building façades are full of visual impact and add an exciting luster, remaining like new over time,” explains architect Jie Zhang, who leads PCPA’s Shanghai office. “However, the successful application of stainless steel in building façades relies on having an adequate budget, rigorous detailing and specification selection, as well as refined manufacturing and construction quality.”  

A range of PCPA’s projects, employing different applications of stainless steel in building façades are featured in the April 2020 edition of Nickel magazine, where Jie Zhang reflects on the opportunities and challenges in working with stainless steel.

The landmark projects featured include London’s One Canada Square and Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Towers. These constructions add to the catalogue of iconic stainless steel clad buildings. Think of the Chrysler Building, a feature of the New York skyline for the past ninety years. Proof that nickel-containing stainless steel is more than just a pretty façade. 

Technical information about nickel-containing materials for building exteriors is available for free download from the Nickel Institute’s online library.

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