Ajla Aksamija – Sustainable Facades

There is so much in the world today revolving around sustainable design.  Every industry and profession is seeking to register their sustainable efforts.  This is a noble endeavour.  Through the combined effort of Ajla Aksamija and Perkins+Will, an unassuming book about façades has humbly introduced. Sustainable Façades: Design Methods for High Performance Building Envelopes is a textbook, a reference book, and a strong push for bringing theory to life in the built environment.

The book is divided into five chapters: Climate Based Design Approach for Façades, Characteristics of Sustainable Façades, Designing for Comfort, Emerging Technologies in Façade Designs, and finally Case Studies. Each chapter builds on and complements the next—what you learn in chapter one relates directly to chapter two, which then feeds into chapter three, leading to chapter four, and finally, everything is revealed in real world examples by Perkins+Will.

The content of the book is presented with theory first, followed by either a case study or an example from a test project.  In areas where large cross-section drawings were displayed, an individual may not need to read them if they didn’t understand what they were looking at, as the content was quite well described verbally.  The pages are filled with callouts of thermal properties of different materials, R- and U-value calculations, charts and diagrams of sun path analysis, and interpretations of different materiality and its effect on the interior comfort level, once again charted in bar and line graph format.  Its in-depth nature ensures that it is not a read one just picks up and uses like a standard textbook.

I only had two small issues with the book. The first is a complaint common to many architectural books: the lack of disciplines featured. I understand that this book is about façades and their designs, but internal comfort is moderated primarily by façades and, as such, the interiors of a project cannot be dissociated from facade design. Similarly, landscaping was a footnote.   The second issue was quite specific: there were several abbreviations which were explained, but certain key ones were left undefined. At one point, for example, I had to Google what “h-ft2-oF/Btu” meant. I understood the basics of it, but for a book which does such a great job describing everything else, I found it a bit surprising that something so integral to understanding energy use (thermal) would be left unexplained.

That being said, from beginning to end, the book delivered everything it promised, and did so in such an unpretentious way.  The more we understand each others work, the more we can enhance our own to better suit a cohesive outcome. Sustainable Façades does this with elegance and tact, uncommon in a “textbook” style publication.

Jeremy Senko