Hints & tips - unitised façades

Working with Unitised Façades – Some Hints and Tips

The Design Process

  • Working with unitised façades is very different to conventional ‘stick’ curtain walling and requires a change of approach.  For a successful project, which maximises the benefits of unitised curtain walling, it is critical that a building is designed around the façade and not vice versa.
  • Involve the façade specialist at the earliest stage to design the building structure to best accommodate the unitised façade and its allowable tolerances.
  • Is the design concept suitable for unitisation?  Flat, non-projecting façades without overhangs will allow the units to be hoisted into position for fast and efficient installation.

Selecting the Façade Partner

  • When selecting the system supplier, look at the manufacturer’s track record, project portfolio, financial stability, R&D resources, in-house facilities, technical back-up and design experience.
  • The façade specialist should be willing to work as an integral part of the design team from the earliest stages and participate in design workshops.
  • Will the façade specialist offer a complete turnkey service?  One single point of contact will give you the benefit of a seamless approach and complete peace of mind from design to fabrication, site installation, testing and handover.
  • Is there a team already in place for the façade design, fabrication and installation?
  • look for independent approvals for the system and ask to see certificates and test results for verification.
  • Ensure you are comparing façade systems that are like for like and are looking for quality of components, technical competence of the team and best value.
  • Use the façade specialist for advice and involve their team from the outset to make best use of the expertise available.

Design Detailing

  • The structural integrity and built-in tolerances of the building frame are important to the success of the façade construction and should be specified at an early stage.
  • Consider what the unitised panels will be fixed to at the design concept stage – steel or concrete?
  • What will the floor thicknesses be?  Possible deflections?
  • Façade projects in excess of 3,000sqm will achieve the best economies of scale, but smaller fast track schemes or developments on constrained city centre sites where access is restricted, can also be accommodated

Managing the Project

  • Schedule for increased lead times to allow for manufacturing.
  • Allow more time for bespoke schemes.
  • Consider the whole façade cost including the advantages of reduced site time, eliminating the need for scaffolding and earlier fitting out, completion and occupation when comparing the cost of a unitised façade against traditional curtain walling systems.
  • Monitor and evaluate. Was the project delivered on time and to budget?  If not, why not?  Use this information and the lessons learnt for setting the specification for your next façade project.

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