The focus on building performance has shifted and broadened to encompass related issues of operational and embodied carbon emissions. This consideration is bringing new attention to façade system design and delivery. There is also increased attention to the role that the façade plays on occupants (e.g. view, comfort, well-being, productivity) and resilience in the face of extreme climate events and power loss. Simultaneously, other drivers of change impacting buildings and façade systems are accelerating, including; workplace evolution, local and global economic fluctuations, and extreme climate events. Contemporary façade system design largely fails to anticipate the adaptive capacity required to efficiently respond to these altered states as they emerge. This puts the buildings they clad at risk of premature obsolescence.
The cause and effect of obsolescence in buildings is poorly understood and rarely considered by the building industry. The predominant focus on low first-cost, code minimum performance (with notable exceptions), and no-to-low maintenance requirements, tends to strip redundancy, compromise resilience, and ignore the adaptability necessary to respond to the forces of obsolescence in a manner to extend service life. Lacking flexibility to easily adapt to changing demands, the façade system can play an outsized role in the threat of obsolescence impacting buildings. We outline some of the constraints posed with traditional metal-framed and glazed curtainwall systems and explore some of the opportunities to address these challenges for the future, including solutions built around combinations of new technologies, new integrated systems solutions, new design/operational approaches, and new economic investment/funding models.