The building envelope’s main function is to act as a filter between the exterior environment and the building indoors. But as technologies have evolved and the urgent need to reduce buildings emissions and overall energy consumption has grown, the role of the envelope has now become more complex.
It has to guarantee that the necessary interior climate conditions can be maintained during the whole year with low energy requirements within a very limited space: The high-performance building envelope, which is a state of the art design, looks not only at the façade elements but at the blend of all the façade materials and behavior, energy and services performance, cost-efficient solutions, and environmental benefits delivered by this one product.
The importance of the building envelope in the life-cycle performance of an edifice is outlined and recognized today in most of the projects aiming for a high-performance construction or green building certification, such as LEED, BREEAM or even WELL ( the first building standard that focuses on human health and wellbeing).
If designed appropriately, the building skin can deliver an indoor environmental quality that meets standards and contributes to the reduction of the energy demands required for the users’ comfort.
The main concerns that high-performance envelopes must address are: insulation, conduction, solar radiation control, infiltration (air tightness), openings, and daylight. Energy performance will be determined depending on how these issues are approached. But keep in mind that no two building enclosures are exactly equal.
Each one of these issues requires special attention and unique solutions since the environmental conditions change from location to location and even from a city to a suburb only 10 miles away, known as microclimates.
Conceiving a high-performance or a certified green building is not an easy task, and there are multiple approaches and viable options out in the market today. But if evaluated through the eyes of the building envelope, we can resolve at once most of the concerns with the one element that gives a project its character and aesthetic appeal.