rat[LAB]’s new façade system can be optimised for any climatic context and building typology.
The ability to control a structure’s temperature and sunlight exposure is the holy grail of current endeavours in structural engineering and architecture. In fact, one of the major functions of facadesis helping to control this aspectof construction.
rat[LAB], an independent research organisation and international network of designers and researchers has developed a possible solution to this problem. The organisation consists of professionals who specialise in computational design or similar technology-related domains. rat[LAB]’s network is spread across the UK, USA, Europe and Asia; with a studio in New Delhi.
The Cellular Morphology Façade was designed and developed by a team of designers from rat[LAB]’s Delhi studio, led by architect and computational designer Sushant Verma.
The façade; which was developed through the use of computational design and parametric design, can control the heat, light and visibility in a given space.
The multi-faceted geometry of the system – which is made up of individual hexagonal cells of different sizes and angles– controls the solar incidence angle (the angle at which sunlight falls) on localised areas of the façade, thus affecting solar gain through radiation on the entire building skin.
The façade system is designed algorithmically in a parametric workflow. This means that data related to the prevailing climatic conditions and building requirements such as dimensions, angles, opening size, etc. is calculated through an algorithm and taken into account while fabricating the facade.
For instance, if a façade has vertical members and horizontal louvers the distance between one louver and another becomes a parameter of design. The physical structure of the façade is controlled by such parameters which can be optimised to lessen heating and cooling loads.
Instead of a traditional façade of a single piece, this façade system is made of different smaller components that are hexagonal in shape which are mathematically controlled through an algorithm.
As they are of different size, their angles are different; and they respond differently to how the sun hits them and ultimately how it hits the building. By controlling all this data, architects are free to model the façade in any way they feel like.
“You basically change a smooth surface to a multifaceted surface, where each face is controlling how the sun is hitting the façade. So you can understand what part of the façade is going to heat up and which is not”, explains Verma.
This allows the architect to develop and test multiple versions of a building against the desired criteria and reach an optimum solution.
rat[LAB] presented a large scale mathematically driven prototype of the Cellular Morphology Façade system in an exhibition at Galerie Romain Rolland, Alliance Francaise de Delhi where it was shortlisted as one of 20 designers from Delhi to be a part of 20 under 35 Exhibition 2015 by Design XDesign, a joint initiative of Alliance Francaise de Delhi and Studio IF. The prototype was made of cardboard.
A newer prototype made out of aluminium sheets is being proposed but anything that comes in a sheet material can become this kind of façade. Wood and panelling can be used; and rat[LAB] is currently testing a similar faced made of stone for a building in Dubai.
Given India’s climatic diversity and temperature extremes of both highs and lows; our built environment is exposed to harsh dynamics of climatic change that gradually affects the performance of buildings.
“Since building envelopes lie at the intersection of external and internal environment, there is a huge potential of regulating the internal conditions of a building through a building skin,” says Verma.
The Cellular Morphology Façade is a retrofit-able system as well; hence it is possible to fix issues like overheating of building parts by localised differentiation of components that form the façade.
A varied angular configuration of each face of the component-based façade system leads to a façade which is optimised to local solar conditions, making the building more energy efficient. This can potentially help making our built environment more responsive and adaptable to changing environmental conditions in India.
The system is not necessarily restricted to a hexagonal shape. As it is parametrically designed it can take any shape, whether square, quad or octagonal. The façade form can be changed to suit the desired aesthetics. Thus it can take on any physical shape – be it a roof system on a large scale, or a screen on a small scale.
The research team at rat[LAB] performed a digital simulation of the façade system on Gopal Das Bhawan in Delhi to demonstrate its potential. “We did it on an existing building since people can relate more to the system if its effects are demonstrated on a real project”, says Verma. “We did an analysis of the convex shape of the façade and then we digitally modelled the Cellular Morphology Façade to it and did the same analysis to do a comparison. We intend to pitch it to the authorities to have it as a large scale system.”
Text By Alyssa Lobo