Launch Slideshow

Customization for the Masses

Customization for the Masses

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/0511_AR_Toren_Polidori_011-001_tcm20-753773.jpg

    600

    SOM | © Robert Polidori

    For the Toren residential tower in Brooklyn, N.Y., designers at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill wanted to avoid a dull gridlike appearance for the curtainwall and to deemphasize the tower’s verticality. They did this by slicing and jogging bands of material for a varied effect, pushing clear vision glass toward the edges.

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/0511_AR_Toren_Polidori_002-001_tcm20-753761.jpg

    600

    SOM | © Robert Polidori

    The design team located a manufacturer in South America that could translate its elevations into several panel types, which were then configured into some 200 unitized glass-and-aluminum panel units, most 10 feet tall. Many different combinations of the units were installed in nearly every floor.

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/0511_AR_3_Eng_V_Exterior_Oldjpg_1_tcm20-753732.jpg

    600

    Lisa Logan Architectural Photography

    Perkins+Will’s Engineering V building at the University of Waterloo embraces the grid for its curtainwall, unlike Toren, but gives it the illusion of depth: A white ceramic frit is silk-screened onto the glass in dot patterns of different densities, to create the illusion that the exterior is studded with shallow pyramids.

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/0511_AR_SMH_MM_SUPERGRAPHIC_tcm20-753753.jpg

    600

    Michael Moran

    For the U.S. Land Port of Entry in Massena, N.Y., Smith-Miller + Hawkinson had to meet stringent blast-resistance requirements.

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/0511_AR_SMH_MM_PASS%20ENTjpg_3_tcm20-753724.jpg

    600

    Michael Moran

    The designers came up with an unexpected solution: polycarbonate panels, which cost less than ballistic-rated insulating glass units, have a high insulating value, and harvest daylight for the federal facility.

What’s Behind the Next Curtainwall?

It is likely that in the near future, changes in energy codes will alter curtainwall designs more significantly that any aesthetic trend architects can come up with. Up until now, many developers, and some owners, have let the higher first costs associated with better thermal performance deter them, choosing instead cheap, poorly performing wall systems, despite the fact that better envelope performance would permit them to drastically downsize their mechanical systems.

But poorly performing curtainwall may be on the way out. Codes are moving toward higher average U-values for wall assemblies, and the proportion of glass to opaque materials will likely be limited one day. That may make buildings that look like grid-paper-in-glass much more unusual than buildings like Toren.

Even Dubai, United Arab Emirates, recently announced that it had revised its building code to limit the amount of permissible window area to 60 percent. The change will take effect in 2014. If the idea of limiting the amount of glass in walls catches on, architects will have some new variables to help them justify more creative geometries as well as systems that perform better.

SOM partner Roger Duffy, FAIA, Toren’s designer, sums up the delicate balance. “In the design of curtainwalls, lots of variables must be balanced relative to a set of objectives: energy conservation, comfort, formal qualities, cost. This is both a science and an art, as unique contexts and programs create the potential for envelope solutions tuned to a responsive design idea.”