Here’s the thing about the building SKIN: It is utterly unique in the built environment in separating the interior and exterior environments, balancing attributes of both appearance and performance in the process. It’s the gateway to resilience and sustainability goals in buildings and urban habitats. It’s the great integrator; the lynchpin to holistic building systems integration. It’s the linkage to all things. It’s the expressive soul of a building, inside and out. We spend 90% of our time indoors (with the pandemic it’s probably closer to 99% for many of us), with the interior environment shaped largely by the facade system. So, when it comes to the building facade, there is much to talk about; the topics are broad and the conversation cuts swaths through multiple silos of markets and society. In this small-world age of interconnectedness, where degrees of separation are collapsing and the recognition that “we are all in this together” surges, there is, after all, nothing much that doesn’t connect in some fashion to the building skin.

So, in this context, we were surprised to receive some criticism from a couple of our readers last month questioning why we were discussing the impacts of the pandemic on the building industry and academic processes…”What does Covid-19 have to do with the facade system?” We were advised to “…stick to technical content directly related to the facade.”

The Facade Tectonics Institute is, above all else, a community with a shared mission to accelerate the transformation to a resilient and sustainable built environment. We don’t believe that reductionist thinking will get us there. Social considerations, for example, are as relevant as technical factors in optimizing the pervasive influence of the building skin. Functional obsolescence and brand perception determine the service life of a building or facade system more often than age-related degradation. The accelerating pace of social change is an existential threat to our building stock. We see the facade system as the ideal lens through which to critically consider these myriad issues.

With the support of our membership, we will continue to explore these linkages, focusing on the building skin but also on the issues that shape the context of the facade system. But never fear, technical considerations will remain the backbone of our endeavors, and we assure you there will be plenty of evolving technical content.

This brings us to the issues of equity, diversity and inclusion. What does that have to do with building skins? In my early research in sustainability, I was surprised to find that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change listed inequity as the number one barrier to sustainable development. The Architects Declare movement also includes inequity along with climate breakdown and biodiversity loss in its manifesto. We continue to move in the wrong direction as a global population. Recent events have highlighted economic and social disparity and triggered unprecedented global demonstrations. Clients are stepping up their demands for women and minority participation on design teams. Research and experience confirm the advantages of diversity at all levels of the workforce. Design and construction firms need to step up their game. This month, we link to a 2-part series from Paula Melton with BuildingGreen, who lays out why this not only matters but is vital to the building industry.

Pay special attention to the item regarding the release of documents and an RFI from the Department of Energy. Please take the time to review and respond to these important documents. The Institute intends to provide a response, but it is also important for as many of us as possible to participate in providing feedback on the critically important work the DOE intends to pursue.

Lots of stuff in this edition; always lots to talk about when it comes to SKINS! So, take a look. We hope you enjoy.

We do love hearing from you, even if it involves a healthy dose of criticism! We can’t promise agreement with your comments, but we do promise consideration. Please let us know your thoughts. Send your comments to skins@facadetectonics.org.

This is the personal opinion of Mic Patterson, PhD LEED AP+ and does not reflect the views of Facade Tectonics Institute.

Photo of Mic Patterson, PhD LEED AP+

Mic Patterson, PhD LEED AP+

Editor, SKINS

Facade Tectonics Institute

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