Rainscreen – Façades of the Future

Rainscreen - Ronad McDonald Hospital

Predicting the future is a tricky business, particularly when it comes to the built environment. If only it were as easy as gazing into a crystal ball!

Some of the more radical ideas have included Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller’s vision to reduce New York’s energy usage by covering mid-town Manhattan in a giant geodesic dome and, more recently, Yitan Sun and Jianshi Wu’s award winning proposal to build a giant video wall around Central Park.

In the final blog of this series, we’re going to take a look at some of the current trends in rainscreen and façade design, and where they may take us in the future.

The future of Rainscreen

Taking the heat

The advent of the rainscreen façade has made it much simpler to create large, fully glazed spaces. Whilst this can create a more pleasant, naturally-lit environment, it can also lead to issues of solar gains and, consequently, overheating. To solve this, architects are increasingly looking to combine passive solutions, such as highly insulated rainscreen, with more active or ‘intelligent’ façade solutions.

One simple but elegant solution is LP2 Architecture Studio’s use of wooden louvre panels to clad a new office in Tehran. With summer temperatures frequently rising above 40°C in the summer, keeping out the midday sun was high on the priority list. The vertical panels extend across the windows and can be manually rotated when shading is required, whilst their natural finish helps to soften the exterior appearance.

Henning Larsen Architects has taken this concept one step further at the University of Southern Denmark Kolding Campus. The building façade comprises hundreds of triangular, perforated steel shutter panels. The panels are controlled using sensors which continually monitor heat and light levels, driving motors which open and close the shutters, giving the impression that the building is breathing.

Architect Doris Sung has suggested that the next step in the evolution of the ‘breathing’ façade is the use of biometal panels which curl when exposed to heat without the need for any electronics.

Kinetic façades

These intelligent façades form a subset of what are frequently described as kinetic façades.

As their name suggests, kinetic façades are a broad church covering any exterior which incorporates moving elements. This can even include rotating rooms.

However, some of the most effective kinetic façades take a much simpler approach. For example, to transform the dated façade of the Debenhams department store on Oxford Street London, Archial Architects chose to install a new façade outside of the original exterior comprised from 185,000 suspended aluminium shingles. When blown by the wind the shingles shake creating a gentle ripple effect.

Future vision

The future of Rainscreens

Early on in the iconic 1980s sci-fi Blade Runner, the lead character, Rick Deckard, is driven through a futuristic Los Angeles complete with giant video screens standing over 30 storeys tall.

Whilst the film’s flying cars are still a thing of fiction, media façades have become a reality. Formed from hundreds or sometimes thousands of LEDs, these displays are typically used on low rise buildings such as the Blitzfänger installation in Vienna, but there are a few notable exceptions that have taken the concept further.

Endless possibilities

These designs represent just a few of the innovative facades currently being developed and installed across the world right now. As architects continue to embrace the flexibility and potential of rainscreen systems and look beyond the current reality, who knows what creations could be just around the corner?

Catch up with previous blogs in this series:

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Kingspan Insulation is a market leading manufacturer of optimum, premium and high performance rigid insulation products and insulated systems for building fabric and building services applications.

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