As the world’s population moves toward greater urbanization for a better standard of living, cultural benefits, and human connectivity, the demand on buildings and building enclosures will continue to intensify. Increasing performance demands on energy usage, environmental life cycle analysis, the comfort and health of interior users, and resilience from storm events and climate change are quickly requiring architects, engineers, and contractors to put more importance and forethought around the design and construction of building enclosure systems. All six sides of the enclosure must be engineered and detailed to meet these demands. The design team’s responsibility for the enclosure design will continue to increase.
There are more than 5.6 million commercial buildings in the United States alone. The majority of the existing building stock in urban areas built between the 1920s and 1980s do not have enclosures engineered or constructed to meet current expectations. Exterior walls of multi-wythe masonry, brick veneer cavity, and glass curtainwall along with roofing materials of coal-tar pitch, built-up asphalt, and ballasted EPDM (ethylene propylene diene membrane) were designed under different criteria for different demands than required today.
As urbanization rises, building owners are becoming increasingly motivated to update and renew their building façades. Existing buildings must be positioned to compete for new tenants and potential owners; the initial aesthetic is critical to making the right impression. As owners and developers reposition their buildings, the restoration, over-cladding, and re-cladding of the enclosures will become more common. The opportunity to fine-tune existing enclosures with new materials and systems will further urban building renewal worldwide.