Double Skin Facades - US Examples - 601 Congress, Boston MA

Manulife Financial - John Hancock
601 Congress, Boston MA
Architect:  Adrian Smith- while at SOM

This building is fascinating on several counts. It was the first example of this type of double skin construction in the US, the entire envelope is a double skin as opposed to one elevation of the building, and it is simply a very beautiful object in person.

The facade system fabricated by Permasteelisa is an 8" "active" facade. The exterior light is a 
1" insulated glazing unit. The interior is a single 3/16" unit. Conditioned air is drawn from the occupied space through a filtered slot in the base of the wall at each floor, travels up between the glass units and drawn out through a slot to the return air plenum. During periods of high heat gain, operable blinds which occupy the space between the 2 glass units arrest solar radiation before it reaches the occupied space. The heat is carried out through the flow created by the plenum draw.
A six storey atrium takes up the majority of the south face of the building. The exterior glazing of the atrium is an insulated unit and the walls of the office space facing the atrium are the single glazed units, as if the typical wall had peeled apart to form the occupiable space.

Where this project really sings, however, is in the way the designers took the opportunity to use two types of textured rolled glass on the interior single light of the double skin.

In the spandrel from ceiling to floor line is a glass with a mirrored silver backing, and in the zone from floor to chair rail height is the same 
glass without the silver. The result is a facade on the exterior that changes dramatically with the light conditions, and a 
beautifully lit interior space.

GSW Headquarters - Facing East-West Facades

Many architects face the problem of what to do when site or other factors force the major axis of a building to face east and west. The solution for GSW Headquarters in Berlin by sauerbruch-hutton of Berlin was to deal with the problem face on.

The west facade is a double skin which acts a thermal buffer, and a thermal flue which draws fresh air through the building.

Arup who engineered the building claims the goal to achieve "energy savings of 30-40% in comparison to an ordinary building." And because of the cross ventilation created by the flue effect, mechanical ventilation is no longer required 70% the year.

The second layer of automation is the system of colored blinds within the cavity on the west facade. The automation can be overridden by the occupants, but protects against the direct sunlight in the afternoon.
Image from Flickr: Uploaded by runningforasthma

The plan demonstrates how the new 515,000 sf connects to the existing building with the new core leaving a 36 foot clear lease span. This depth with the large glass area results in excellent daylighting characteristics.

(Note: Plan image north is down)

Architecture Week
Lawrence Berkley Labs

Shingle Glass Curtain Wall

This $100mil building at 1099 New York Ave. NW in DC has what is described on Davis Construction's Website as,
"facades are custom curtainwall systems that appear shingled. The typical intersection of four glazing units results in the individual glass panels occurring in four different horizontal planes, with each unit being sloped horizontally and vertically."

Apparently this will be a moving facade. "The facade will be made up of individual glass panels that will move and reposition based on the angle of the sun to maintain optimum light inside the building all day." - Washington Biz Journal

No mention is made on architect Thomas Phifer & Partners website or Developer Tishman Speyer's website, who considers this to be a "trophy Property". And why would there be since the building is half leased by Law Firm Jenner and Block who also holds an option on the rest of the building.

J&B makes no mention of the unique curtain wall, but rather touts,

"In 2008 our offices will be relocating to a 175,000 square foot office building to be built at 1099 New York Avenue, N.W., one of Washington’s most prominent intersections. The Firm will be an anchor tenant and will initially lease in excess of 80,000 square feet with options for the remaining part of the building. Employees in our new facility will benefit from interior parking, a new fitness center and a rooftop terrace to experience a view that will include the White House, the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument." Hope the skin is worth the extra rents.

The glass appears to be clear, probably Viracon VE1-2m, and is floor to ceiling. No word yet on who the wall fabricator is. Here are a few more views (thanks to Rugel and Anna):

And this is a real nice image from Otavio on Flickr:

Clean Technology Tower

Smith+Gill have in their portfolio section of their website a project called Clean Technology Tower. (See the facade section at left.) This "mixed use" tower in Chicago is an evolution of the Pearl River Tower which both Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill were responsible for while at SOM. Where Pearl River used the face of the building to funnel wind into two large turbine zones this design uses an array of smaller turbines at the corners of the building to catch the wind at its highest velocity. It would be very exciting to see this project take shape, as both the form of the building and the technology involved are very engaging. It is equally interesting to see them continuing to push the limits of net zero building technology after leaving SOM. By looking at their internal roster it's clear that Smith+Gill have enlisted some of the finest talent.

Double Skin Facades - Canadian Examples - Manitoba Hydro

Manitoba Hydro Headquarters - 2008 Scheduled Completion
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Approx. 695,000 sf
Architect: KPMB

This is probably the most interesting North American high performance project under way. Coupled with the Transsolar Energietecknik GMBH of Stuttgart, Germany, this project pushes the technical design aspects of a high performance project beyond any ssen in the US to date. There is an excellent supply of information available both on Manitoba Hydro's website, and on consulting engineer's AEI's web site. This Leed Gold project is a great example of whole building environmental design.

AEI's site shows wall sections, which include the extension of the floor slab to create the cavity for the double skin. This is a technique I have been interested in, but we will have to see how the performance plays out with the possibility of thermal transfer through the slab.

We will also wait to see if some of the solar control automation suffers from some of the same fate that the Occidental building suffered from.

There are some excellent Power Point shows that can be found here:
Canadian Standards Association Conference 2007

and here:

Manitoba Hydro's PR
This is a pretty nice flash presentation by KPMB partner
Bruce Kawabara.

Thanks to our friend Danny, who's building the curtain wall, on this one.

Double Skin Facades - Canadian Examples - Telus

Telus William Farrell Building - (Original Construction 1947) Renovation 2000
Vancouver, BC
Approx. 130,000 sf
Architect: Busby + Associates

Two things distinguish this project. This was the first double skin wall constructed in Canada and it is a renovation of a building that originally constructed in 1947. As part of a larger sustainable strategy, in lieu of tear down and rebuilding, the architects chose to reuse and enhance the efficiency of the existing structure. Once again the theme of glazing as an aesthetic choice dominated the decision making process. The addition of the second skin effectively transforms the vintage facade into a contemporary icon.

Terry Boake's site has some good photos of the building. An interesting Underfloor Air study can be found at Berkley's site. Advanced has a good summary of the project and systems. And some good diagrams of how the wall operates were found here :

Double Skin Facades - US Examples - Seattle Justice Center

The Seattle Justice Center was completed in 2002. Designed by NBBJ Seattle, this is the second US example of a naturally vented double skin facade. This project attained LEED Silver rating. The LBNL Report has a complete power point by NBBJ architect Kerry Heegedus. This is a pretty good summary of the process required to get this type of facade built. The key points that Hegedus makes are that they were dealing with an "educated" client.
"Our mayor, former mayor, Paul Schell, was formerly the dean of architecture at the University of Washington. One of our clients was an architect, which also helped. In terms of design and aesthetics...." - Kerry Hegedus, LBNL Workshop.

This seems to be one of the more important points that allowed this project to happen. The other thing to note is the intersection of the concept of "transparency" of government.

Double Skin Facades - US Examples - Occidental Chemical

This is a series of listings of currently constructed double skin buildings in the North America. I'll make a separate post for each example as there is a good bit of information out there to highlight.

The Occidental Chemical Building - 1982
(also called the Hooker Chemical Building)
Niagara Falls, New York
Approx. 200,000 sf
Architect: Cannon Design

This was a nice idea. Floor to ceiling glass with views of an amazing natural wonder; Niagara Falls. Somewhat clunky in execution but still makes for an interesting visual presence.
Conceived in the midst of the oil crisis of the early 1980s, this landmark structure continues to maintain its place as one of the most energy efficient commercial buildings in the world.
-From Cannon Design's website
These kind of claims by the architect highlight the need for more research and follow up by designers. Yes this building was forward thinking and innovative, but was the solution elegant enough to withstand the test of time? 20 years is probably just barely the payback period for much of the added cost of the "innovation".

Energy Star Propoganda
-A description of what this building aspired to be. And a nice night image.

Terry Boake, U. Waterloo
Has some interesting follow up research and good photos of this building.

A Protocol to Determine the Performance of South Facing Double Glass Façade System-A Preliminary Study of Active/Passive Double Glass Façade Systems
A masters thesis by a Virginia Tech Student. Chapter 2 has a good section of the wall and more information on Double Skins. A pretty good primer for double skins.

Hope Springs Eternal - Trouble in Paradise

No longer the symbol of an energy efficient corporate headquarters, this was the state of things for the Occidental building in 2006. Now called One Niagara Center, the new owner has turned the building into a Falls welcome center. "Mrs. Ribs", "Punjabi Dhaba Restaurant", "Niagara Therapeutic Massage"; it seems the very attraction of the location has made it a local attraction.

New York Times - Daylight Control

“On the 51-story tower façade, low-iron, water-white, double-pane spectrally selective glass forms the inner wall of the façade…”

“The New York Times selected a design that codified its philosophy of a "transparent" organization and one dedicated to creating a high quality work environment for their employees. The exterior of the building was proposed as a transparent floor-to-ceiling, all-glass façade that encouraged openness and communication with the external world.”

Central to the NY Times headquarters project was the desire to share what was learned and move the market toward cost effective daylighting strategies.

This is the link to a new website by Lawrence Berkley Labs recording the evaluation and field testing of the daylighting component of the NY Times project.

And be sure to read the article by David Thurm, NY Times CIO and client team leader of the HQ project, from “Harvard Business Review” titled:

Master of the House: Why a Company Should Take Control of Its Building Projects


Building Skins was started as a supplement to an in-house seminar presented in September 2007. The postings and links here are meant to serve as a repository and forum for discussions relating to high performance and well designed buildings with a focus on their envelopes. We are most interested in the place where elegant technical solutions become poetic moments. As authors study and embrace grammar, we as designers study the details and systems of our compositions. Through the encouragement of well considered design solutions we seek to elevate the quality of our human experience.

Much of the initial discussion comes out of a study produced at Lawrence Berkley National Labs called High Performance Commercial Building Facades which was finalized this year. This study was a clear and concise survey of the state of high performance building science in North America at the time.

But, it is the keen observations of glass artist James Carpenter which elevate all of these efforts and clearly place the technical developments and the social agenda at the temporal intersection of technesis and poesis:

This trend is a rejection of much work in the 70's, which relied heavily on heat reflective coatings or heat absorptive glasses, to answer solar issues. There is currently a rejection of the methods of construction of those decades and one now sees the reemergence of modernism and its entendant embrace of transparency. It is a rejection of post modernism and a reemergence and a reinterpretation of modernism. That is not so much a fashion as much as a philosophical and aesthetic undertaking that re-states philosophical arguments that were very much in the forefront of societal discussion at the turn of the last century. That discussion focused upon the openness of buildings to enhance interchange of the individual with the public and how urban environments can be more open and communicative in terms of their functions. I think what is really driving this is a coupling of industry developments and a reemergence of a more social agenda, an agenda that attaches a significant value to the energy used being part and parcel of that social agenda." - From the Workshop Session at California Edison

This is what brings poets and gearheads to an intersection that is most fascinating. We look forward to good discussion and open collaboration.