TEX-FAB explores new frontiers in high performance facade design

Plasticity Pavilion. (Courtesy Andrew Vrana)

Plasticity Pavilion. (Courtesy Andrew Vrana)

The motto of Houston architecture, civic art, and product design firm METALAB is “finding new and better ways to build things.” In addition to forming the core of his professional practice, this mission aptly describes principal Andrew Vrana’s work with the Texas digital design and production network TEX-FAB.

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Kirksey’s Julie Hendricks on closing the gap between designed, actual performance

Kirksey's Memorial Hermann Medical Plaza. (Jilleann77 via Wikipedia)

Kirksey’s Memorial Hermann Medical Plaza. (Jilleann77 via Wikipedia)

As EcoServices team leader for Kirksey Architecture, Julie Hendricks spends her days thinking about how to build sustainably without busting a project’s budget.

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High performance facade design is on the rise in Houston, says Jorge Muñoz

HOK's Sysco headquarters building in Houston. (Hequals2henry / Wikimedia Commons)

HOK’s Sysco headquarters building in Houston. (Whisper To Me / Wikimedia Commons)

As founding principal of Muñoz Albin, Jorge Muñoz has a unique global perspective on high performance facade design. Based in Houston, the firm’s earliest projects were located overseas. “In the last 20 plus years, we have worked and continue to work on projects in Western Europe, where there is a tradition of more generous budgets on building envelopes as well as more flexible user and developer demands on efficiency,” said Muñoz.

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Sanjeev Tankha explains the intracacies of engineering facades for hot, humid Houston

Houston's sunny climate presents a special set of challenges to facade designers and fabricators. (Theodore Scott / Flickr)

Houston’s sunny climate presents a special set of challenges to facade designers and fabricators. (Theodore Scott / Flickr)

Thanks to the city’s humid subtropical climate, facade designers and fabricators face a special set of challenges in Houston. Unchecked, steady sunshine and high temperatures can permeate the building envelope, leading to a heavy reliance on mechanical cooling systems. Meanwhile, Houston’s Gulf Coast location makes it vulnerable to tropical storms.

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Gensler’s Kristopher Stuart on Houston’s Facades Scene

Facades+AM makes its Houston debut June 18. (Katie Haugland / Flickr)

Facades+AM makes its Houston debut June 18. (Katie Haugland / Flickr)

For Kristopher Stuart, design director and principal at Gensler, Houston‘s rapid evolution is exactly what makes practicing architecture there exciting. Read More

Save the Date! Facades+AM heads to Houston this June

Facades+AM is coming to Houston June 18. (Sarath Kutchi / Flickr)

Facades+AM is coming to Houston June 18. (Sarath Kuchi / Flickr)

They say “everything is bigger in Texas.” So it goes for Houston‘s skyline, the fourth largest in the United States. Big, too, are the names behind Space City’s most iconic skyscrapers. The city’s tallest, the 75-story JPMorgan Chasetower, was designed by I.M. Pei in 1981.

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Laurie Kerr: AEC industry key to achieving New York City’s emissions reduction goals

NYC AEC industry leaders will gather next week for Facades+ NYC. (5chw4r7z / Flickr)

NYC AEC industry leaders will gather next week for Facades+ NYC. (5chw4r7z / Flickr)

Eight years ago, in the face of rapidly rising carbon emissions, PlaNYCNew York City‘s sustainability and resilience blueprint—set a goal of reducing emissions 30 percent citywide by 2030 compared to a 2005 baseline. “Enormous progress has been made thus far: the growth has been stopped and emissions have substantially decreased—by 19 percent,” observed Laurie Kerr, Urban Green Council‘s Director of Policy. “But as impressive as that is, we need to do more, faster.” Read More

Alex Barmas on implementing innovative facades in New York City

Richard Meier & Partners' 173/176 Perry Street and 165 Charles Street. (A. Strakey / Flickr)

Richard Meier & Partners’ 173/176 Perry Street and 165 Charles Street. (A. Strakey / Flickr)

For Enclos‘ Alex Barmas, true innovation in facade design and fabrication is about more than the latest technological bells and whistles. Rather, it is about exercising creativity despite the restrictions posed by tight budgets, compressed timelines, and aggressive real estate markets.

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Facades+ Tech Workshops: Quick-Take Continuing Education

Facades+ tech workshops offer hands-on exposure to design tools.

Facades+ tech workshops offer hands-on exposure to design tools.

In the constantly-evolving AEC industry, the importance of continuing technical education is difficult to understate. Yet learning opportunities for design and construction professionals tend to occupy two extremes, explained Thornton Tomasetti’s Jonatan Schumacher. “You can take a class, which is a long undertaking,” he said. “Or you can watch online lectures, which require self-motivation.” The Facades+ conference series offers a happy medium in the form of day-long tech workshops, providing hands-on exposure to new tools under the guidance of subject specialists.

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Skyscraper Expert Antony Wood Calls for a Facades Revolution

Battery Park high-rises, New York City. (Anthony Quintano/Flickr)

Battery Park high-rises, New York City. (Anthony Quintano/Flickr)

As the director of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, Dr. Antony Wood spends a lot of time thinking about the high-rise envelope, which he calls “its single most important interface to the external environment.” For decades, hermetically sealed glass was the gold standard in facade design for tall buildings. With sustainability an increasingly urgent priority, things have begun to change for the better, says Wood. “But we have barely scratched the surface,” he argues. “So much more needs to be done.” Wood will issue his call to action next month in a talk and subsequent panel discussion at Facades+ NYC, the premier conference on high performance building envelopes.

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Talking SHoP with facades expert Gregg Pasquarelli

SHoP Architects' 626 First Avenue, currently under construction. (Courtesy SHoP)

SHoP Architects’ 626 First Avenue, currently under construction. (Courtesy SHoP)

Since its founding in 1996, SHoP Architects has been committed to fostering architectural innovation despite on-the-ground constraints. In New York, those constraints often take the form of municipal regulations. “From day one SHoP was always a firm that was interested in pushing the limits of design, really getting into materials and craftsmanship,” said principal Gregg Pasquarelli. “But we were also building in the pressure tank of New York, where a lot of the innovation has to occur in the skins of the buildings, because zoning is so prescriptive.” Pasquarelli will outline his firm’s approach to cutting-edge facade design in the context of New York’s regulatory environment in the afternoon keynote address at next month’s Facades+ NYC conference.

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Thorsten Helbig on Engineering Cutting-Edge Facades

Knippers Helbig provided custom parametric modeling, full facade engineering service, and structural design for Massimiliano Fuskas' Shenzhen International Airport. (Courtesy Massimiliano Fuksas)

Knippers Helbig provided custom parametric modeling, full facade engineering service, and structural design for Massimiliano Fuskas’ Shenzhen International Airport. (Courtesy Massimiliano Fuksas)

As an engineer, Thorsten Helbig, co-founder of Knippers Helbig Advanced Engineering, has a unique perspective on facade design. “We conceptualize a facade as an integral part of a whole, as part of a larger system,” he explained. Helbig, who will deliver the morning keynote address at next month’s Facades+ NYC conference, identified two focal points. The first is the relationship of the building envelope to structure. The second is performance: “What can the facade offer back to the building?” Helbig asked

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