High-performance Building Facades Workshop Organized by the Department of Architecture for Industry Professionals

Ajla Aksamija, an associate professor in the department of architecture, co-organized a free, online workshop for architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry professionals. The workshop was held over four days in January 2021 (Jan. 6, 8, 13 and 15) and brought together more than 270 registered participants from all over the world. Each session lasted 1.5 hours and the professionals gained continuing education credits that are required by professional accreditation institutions around the world.

The workshop co-organizers included Dave Sommer, president of Interra Building Envelope and mӧdfacade, and two UMass Amherst Ph.D. students, Mahsa Farid Mohajer and Suncica Milosevic. The workshop focused on methods for designing sustainable, high-performance facades, and the necessary steps in ensuring that the environmental factors and energy-efficiency strategies are integrated with the design process. The facade is one of the most significant contributors to the energy budget and the comfort parameters of any building. High-performance facades need to block adverse external environmental effects, while maintaining internal comfort conditions with minimum energy consumption. Aksamija presented all the material in this workshop, based on her book “Sustainable Facades: Design Methods for High-Performance Building Envelopes”and her ongoing research. Sommer and Ph.D. students, Farid Mohajer and Milosevic, moderated the sessions and were instrumental in organizing the workshop.

The professionals learned about these following aspects:

  • What are the appropriate building enclosure design strategies for different climate types?
  • How to choose facade types and materials to improve their performance?
  • What are the best passive design methods for improving facades’ performance?
  • How to improve occupants’ comfort with facade designs?
  • How to balance opaque and glazed areas of the facade?
  • What are the appropriate simulation tools and analysis procedures for sustainable facade systems?
  • What are the emerging technologies and materials for facades?
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Sommer indicated that “getting this information into the hands of professionals, educators, students and others interested in facade performance is a critical step in advancing the science of building performance and improving sustainable design and construction practices. I have received numerous comments from attendees of the four sessions expressing the same.”

Workshops participants included architects, engineers, manufacturers, building enclosure consultants, owner’s representatives and researchers interested in methods for designing sustainable high-performance facades. Participants included practicing architects from Western Massachusetts, but also many other professionals from the United States, Canada, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and New Zealand. The online platform removed geographic barriers and allowed professionals around the world to participate.

The workshop participants appreciated the opportunity to participate in this educational event. For example, Adrian Lowenstein, the National Business Development Manager for Skyline Windows, says “The high-performance facades workshop was very informative on today’s current market trends and challenges we will face moving forward. Ajla did an excellent job of breaking down the differences between different glazed and opaque wall types, as well as exploring system performance from a holistic design standpoint. It is very clear that we will have to continue to innovate as an industry in order to achieve the long-term climate and sustainability goals of carbon emission reduction.”

Lucio Ferretti, an architect from Argentina and one of the leaders of Axon Fachadas company, reflected “Research and collaboration push forward our profession. This workshop succeeded in creating a place for Ajla’s knowledge to be shared with participants across the world, encouraging questions and further debate.”

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The “High-Performance Building Facades Workshop” was free thanks to the sponsorship of UMass Amherst, with additional support from industry sponsors; Thermafiber/Owens Corning, Front-Tek USA, SHApe Architectural, Envel Facades, Nvelope, R-stud, Ceraclad, Prosoco, Telling Architectural Systems. Western Massachusetts American Institute of Architects (WMAIA) coordinated continuing education credits, led by WMAIA executive director Lorin Starr. The sponsorships will be used by the UMass Architecture Research Collaborative (UMass ARC) to support UMass graduate students.


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