The Role of Fenestration in Sustainable Architecture

By November 23, 20212019, Articles

The term fenestration in architecture refers to openings, such as windows, doors and skylights in the building envelope. It is an integral part of façade design, serving both functional and aesthetic purposes.

While the building envelope can be constructed of brick, wood or veneer the majority of high-rise buildings in this region are designed using highly-glazed facades to capitalise on the abundance of natural light and the views the cities offer.

The function of fenestration extends beyond its conventional definition. More than a point of reference for architectural expression, it has evolved into a determining factor in designing sustainable buildings. Fenestration components impact a building’s overall energy consumption, as well as the well-being, health, comfort, and productivity of its occupants. Inadequate fenestration system design and construction can result in unwanted drafts, glare, noise, condensation, and excessive heat loss or gain, resulting in occupant discomfort as well as unnecessary excessive energy use.

Sustainable, high-performance facade design begins with assessing the environmental and climatic elements affecting the building envelope, building orientation, facade orientation, and the glass-to-opaque wall ratio. The appropriate façade type is then selected based on the programme’s requirements, orientation, spatial organisation, client specifications, and desired aesthetic features.

A sustainable building design assimilates these components ensuring that design decisions are made in a way that minimises the project’s negative environmental impact. Designers must consider the attributes of the materials and components used to construct a building’s facade, such as thermal and optical properties, as well as the embodied energy.

By Christine Espinosa-Erlanda, senior associate

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