Multi Layer Facades

A Modern Take on the Challenges and Balances



Robert Moisy

Surface Design Consulting Pty Ltd



The history of high performance facades and glazing has been a tale of attempting to manage the conflicting requirements of, on one hand inviting connection with the environment through providing access to daylight and views, while restricting or rejecting other aspects of the natural external environment namely heat, cold, rain and wind as well as human caused attributes such as noise, dust, pollution and security risks.

The development of various products and facade systems have been strongly influenced by the climate but also the economic fortunes of the countries of the products origin. To an extent these have been driven by the technologies and materials available at the time.

Invariably single skin/single layer products and systems have prevailed but for various reasons have not fully been able to satisfy the balancing act and as a response over time various multilayer approaches have come and gone in an attempt to find a way to manage the various conflicting requirements.

The transformation of facade systems from “exclosure” (keeping the wind and rain out) to that of a filter (admitting light not energy) are well known. Multi-layer facade systems allow designers to integrate measures that meet both the environmental filter and the metaphoric transparency that modern designs set for corporate and intuitional buildings.

This paper looks at the current trends in the construction of modern multi layered facades and facade products that integrate both static and variable interstitial elements to provide a dynamic response to their environment and how these interact with the buildings system they support and drive.

We explore a brief history of the development of multi layered facades and glazing to acknowledge their contribution as forerunners to today’s high performing multilayered facade systems and how each of the impact on the building mechanical and lighting systems. We explore this relationship with respect to the external environment, the thin and thick facade and how they affect building use.

We will present the challenges, processes, performance and testing required and undertaken to deliver several leading-edge projects that have adopted multi-layered facades to respond to their particular performance briefs.


The façade is a complex set of material layers that protect the users of a space from nuisance environmental parameters. The modern façade is also expected to provide connection to

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The Environment

Buildings from all over world experience various temperature extremes and wind and storm events. The focus of this paper is to provide comparative performance requirements, methods and outcomes and applicable

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Modern Sydney has developed with most of the worlds technical façade solutions in mind and therefore provides a suitable example to showcase many of the facade typologies. The moderate winters

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Facade Construction Types

For the purposes of this paper we have limited our discussion to the following main façade families used for modern offices, we have focused on predominantly glass facades, being a

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Single Skin Facade

The single skin façade refers to unitized curtain wall, window wall or stick systems. The first single skin curtain wall in Australia was the Berger House building (82 Elizabeth Street)

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Double Skin Facade

The double skin façade such as that at Sydney University Law School (completed 2006) and 1 Bligh Street Sydney (completed 2008) are rare in the modern market. They provide superior

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Small Cavity Double Skin Facades

The small cavity DSF refers to a modified single skin façade where an internal operable sash is installed, the blind can be installed within the cavity, these are common and

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Modern Variation on Small Cavity Facades- Closed Cavity Facade

The closed cavity façade was introduced to the Australian market by Permasteelisa in 2011 on the 200 George Street project. Having been researched and developed for the European and Middle

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Glass Technology

The Sydney market is exposed to all glass technology including Low e coated glass (soft and hard coatings, with modern triple silver coatings common, Coloured substrates (Crystal Grey and Greys

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Sealed Boxes

The performance expectations of a façade typically include the need for a sealed facade to the building, this aspect is often non-negotiable for modern city offices. This provides weatherproofing from

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The Battle of Light Versus Shade and the Role of the Dynamic Shading Device

One of the most highly fought battles in any design process is the one for light and shade. With light comes a connection to nature and positive biological response among

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Performance Comparison Table

The following Performance Comparison Table is a summary of the various multilayered façade typologies for direct comparison. From this table, we are able have informed discussions and understand the limitation and consequences of these designs in regards to the overall performance, the architecture, construction and cost:

Figure 1: Performance comparison table.
Figure 1: Performance comparison table.

Cost Versus Performance/The Value Proposition

In addition to the PCT we have provided the following graphic as to serve as a value proposition of Cost Versus Performance. This chart allows further assessment of the benefits

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Cities provide vibrant and exciting social environments however the city’s streets will never achieve performance expected within a building, and nor should they. The cities buildings contain offices, schools and

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