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7th semester dissertation

Bachelor of Architecture Technology and Construction




Consultant: Henrik Jansson

VIA University College


October 2015

DISSERTATION TITLE: Sustainable facades

CONSULTANT: Henrik Jansson

AUTHOR: Mikus Hercs

DATE / SIGNATURE: 30.10.2015.




All rights reserved no part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior
permission of the author.

NOTE: This dissertation was completed as part of a Bachelor Architectural Technology and
Construction Management degree course no responsibility is take for any advice,
instruction or conclusion given within!

Largely faade affects the building operation, efficiency performance and indoor
comfort more than others systems may. To ensure a pleasant and sustainable environment,
the building must be able to perform several operations at the same time, for example,
provide sufficient views to the outside, let enough light in, block unwanted solar heat gain,
protect people from outside noise, provide cool and clear indoor air quality, ensure
resistance to weather and many more.
This dissertation examines principles, which determines sustainability of the building.
It is based on passive design research, which is responsible for building orientation, passive
heating and cooling, natural ventilation, construction thermal mass, proper insulation and
efficient glazing choice. All these elements designed properly can lead to sustainable design.
This dissertation examines methods, which enhances the sustainability of the
materials. Material embodied energy, reuse and recycling potential and maintenance
requirements are very important in choosing the material. It is even more important.
Dissertation gathers information about most common construction types that can be
used in Latvian and other climatic conditions, such as, heavyweight or lightweight
The dissertation concludes with case study about one of the most sustainable building
in Latvia.

List of contents
Abstract 3
List of figures 5
1. Introduction 6
1.1. Introduction to the subject 6
1.2. Reason for chose the subject and its relevance 6
1.3. Problem statement 6
1.4. Delimitation 7
1.5. Research method 7
2. Sustainability 8
3. Passive design for sustainable operation 10
3.1. Orientation 10
3.2. Thermal mass 10
3.3. Passive heating 11
3.4. Insulation 11
3.5. Passive ventilation 12
3.6. Glazing and daylight 12
3.7. Shading 12
4. Material properties 14
4.1. Embodied energy 14
4.2. Embodied energy reduction 14
4.3. Durability and maintenance 15
4.4. Reuse and recycling 15
5. External wall construction systems 16
5.1. Opaque facade 16
5.1.1. Heavyweight walls 17
5.1.2. Lightweight Walls 19
5.2. Glazed facade 22
5.2.1. Double skin facade 22
6. Cladding systems 24
7. Latvian construction history 26
8. Latvian climate 27
9. Case study 28
9.1. Saldus Music and Art school 28
9.2. External wall construction 29
9.3. Ventilation and sound 30
9.4. Heating and thermal mass 31
9.5. Daylight 31
9.6. Operation and maintenance 31
10. Conclusion 32
List of references 33

List of figures

Figure 1: Principles of sustainability 8

Source: https://architectstrace.wordpress.com/category/design-process/
Figure 2: Thermal lag 11
Source: http://www.level.org.nz/fileadmin/downloads/Passive_Design/LevelDiagram7.pdf
Figure 3: Shading system embedded into the facade. 13
Source: http://big.dk/#projects-sem
Figure 4: Clay brick construction 18
Source: http://buildipedia.com/knowledgebase/division-04-masonry/04-20-00-unit-masonry/04-21-
Figure 5: Prefabricated concrete construction 18
Source: http://weeconstruction.com/tilt-wall
Figure 6: Aerated concrete block wall 19
Source: http://www.moderndesign.org/2009/03/aac-for-modern-architecture.html
Figure 7: Timber framing construction 20
Source: http://www.superfoil.co.uk/timber-frame/
Figure 8: Steel framing construction 21
Source: http://steelitinc.com/why-steel/
Figure 9: Structural insulated panel construction 22
Source: http://gin-sueent.com/structural-insulated-panels-sips/
Figure 10: Summer performance 23
Source: http://csfs.bue.edu.eg/files/Library/Papers/Sustainability%20and%20the%20Future/143.pdf
Figure 11: Winter performance 23
Source: http://csfs.bue.edu.eg/files/Library/Papers/Sustainability%20and%20the%20Future/143.pdf
Figure 12: Warm summer continental climate 27
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humid_continental_climate
Figure 13: Saldus Music and Art school 28
Source: http://www.azinter.lv/jaunakie-objekti/
Figure 14: External wall construction detail 29
Source: Latvijas Architektra. Nr. 113. (2014) p.21
Figure 15: Natural ventilation during the summer season 30
Source: Latvijas Architektra. Nr. 113. (2014) p.23
Figure 16: Natural ventilation during the winter season 30
Source: Latvijas Architektra. Nr. 113. (2014) p.23
Figure 17: Tin cladding 31
Source: http://made.lv/

1. Introduction
1.1. Introduction to the subject
Several years ago, architecture was like form with its structure stuffed full with
machinery which made it habitable. Sustainable and efficient architecture means, that
building itself can be innovated to an intelligent, responsive or even proactive device.
Sustainability is one of the main driving forces of contemporary architecture and
sustainable building cannot be imagined without smart designed and efficient facade.
Sometimes seems, that sustainability and energy efficiency are the same thing, but there is
some differences.
The facade works as an interface between climate changes and interiors, and in many
countries, the climatic conditions of the year are in sharp contrast.
In couple of cases feels, that sustainable mean something simple and boring that is not
beautiful, but it is all about the imagination and creativity of the architect.
Sustainable facades have wide material selection and everything depends on the
specific circumstances for choosing the right one.
1.2. Reason for choice the subject and its relevance
The desire to learn more and Latvian building construction special features was the
reasons, why I choose this topic. Here in Latvia we do not build a lot of high-rise buildings or
large scale construction objects. It is a rear phenomenon and more often small public
buildings or single family houses are being built.
Latvia has a goal to become the worlds greenest country, but it cannot be done
without thinking about sustainability as an important part of the building construction
process. Only in recent years people have begun to talk about sustainability in all aspects
and started to use it in practice.
I cannot imagine my future as an architect without thinking about society,
environment or economy.
This knowledge will be good addition to my final project, because it consists of
approximately 1500 square meter large building in Latvia with emphases on sustainability
and sustainable facade.
1.3. Problem statement
One of the main tasks and objectives is to find out what is the most appropriate
sustainable facade for small size building in Latvian climatic conditions.
To get to the results, dissertation will try to find answers to following questions:
1. What is sustainable facade working principle?
2. How big is the difference between the sustainability and energy-efficiency?
3. What determine the material sustainability and witch materials are used the most?
4. Which are the things that make material suitable for sustainable use?

1.4. Delimitation
Dissertation contains general information about sustainable faade construction types,
material characterization and design principles.
This dissertation contains information about sustainable facades for new buildings.
This dissertation is based on the construction type and material analysis and does not
mention specific numbers regarding to construction performance. The study focuses on
technical properties, not design possibilities.
This document examines the construction history in Latvia, because the analyzed
project is located in this country.
1.5. Research method
My work is based on secondary research method that includes analysis of existing
information and documentation. After that, I will do some analytical work, in which I will be
look at selected project in Latvia and analyze it through previously acquired information.

2. Sustainability
Sustainability architecture has to protect available natural resources for the future
generations. Sustainable design must be well-considered and flexible to change, reduce
consumption of resources and make a positive contribution to the environment in
collaboration with strong design. 1
Danish architect Bjarke Ingels has developed principle Engineering without engines
which determine, that instead of mechanical air conditioning, natural ventilation can be
used, instead of motorized shading, adaptive or facade design enhanced shading can be
used, instead of mechanical heating, passive solar heating can be used. All of these
techniques using, we can achieve positive impact on the environment, pleasant living and
economically justified design for us and our future generations. He once said, that
architecture is much more than designing pretty facades or expressive sculptures. It is
creating man-made ecosystems, where we channel not only the flow of people, but also the
flow of resources through our cities and buildings. (Bjarke Ingels 2015) 2
Three sustainability principles environmental (earth), social (people) and economical
(cost) works for the architecture in to the same way as for any other development oriented
area (Figure 1). These values are becoming increasingly important and it is also the same
with the construction industry.

Figure 1: Principles of sustainability.

Since sustainability includes evaluation a buildings impact on the environment, faade,
as an important part of building, has one of the major roles in whole sustainability
performance. As the climate conditions change during the day and year, the faade has to
respond dynamically to these changes. Solutions can not be the same for different contexts;
they have to be connected to the social-economic reality of each country and region.
The building envelope must be carefully designed with regard to climate, ventilation
and energy consumption within the structure. There are four basic functions of the building
envelope. These include adding structural support, controlling moisture and humidity,
regulating temperature and controlling air pressure changes. By serving these different
functions, the envelope also affects ventilation and energy use within the building. The
envelope is made up of all of the exterior components of the building, including walls,
roofing, foundation, windows and doors.
Today we have to design buildings in a way, so they dont have to be restored after 30,
50 or even 100 years.

3. Passive design for sustainable operation
Successful sustainable development is not possible without thought-out passive
design. Therefore these are the main things to think about when designing nowadays
appropriate sustainable and resource-efficient building.
Not only the choice of the material or insulation thickness defines faade sustainability
but it is also about the building location and orientation, thermal mass, window design,
insulation (including window insulation), shading and even ventilation can be embedded into
the design of the faade. Faade have to provide warm and pleasant indoor climate during
colder months but prevent overheating in summer. All these things work together and lead
to sustainable design. 3
It is assumed that in the long-term, sustainable design does not pay much more than
an ordinary building, it just requires more planning.
3.1. Orientation
Building (facade) orientation is one of the main things that should be considered at the
beginning of the planning process. Orientation has to be planned together with year
temperatures, access to views, cooling breezes, topography, shade elements, outside noise
and other. Properly designed orientation can create a comfortable living and increase the
energy efficiency reducing some of the heating or cooling requirements, costs and
greenhouse gas emissions.
In colder climates, building must get plenty amount of sun during the winter months
and faade have to protect the building from overheating during the summer months. Utility
and service rooms should be facing north, but living and working areas south, where they
will receive sun all day long and leave a good impression on energy efficiency. Free home
heating through serious design is a very sustainable solution. 4
3.2. Thermal mass
Thermal mass and insulated glazing, more or less, are responsible for heat
conservation. Thermal mass is the capacity of a material to store the heat. In Latvian climate
it can be used for passive heating more than cooling. Thermal mass reduces temperature
fluctuations by absorbing heat when the ambient temperature is higher that the wall mass.
Wall is releasing the heat when the ambient temperature is lower than the temperature of
the mass. If the system is used effectively, then the result is improved indoor climate (Figure
Materials like concrete, brick, tiles, earth and water requires a lot of heat to increase in
temperature, but they lose it slowly. Therefore they are considered as materials with high
thermal mass. They are characterized by high heat capacity, high density and low reflectivity
which provide matt, textured or dark surface. Conversely, lightweight, low density materials
as timber (timber framing) or timber products have low thermal mass, they require little
heat to increase in temperature, but they lose it quickly.

External wall thermal mass task is to storage the heat, but wall insulation task is to
reduce the heat flow through the wall, so it is not the same. In sustainable and effective
design they work together. It works well in Latvia, because of its large daily temperature
range. 5

Figure 2: Thermal lag.

3.3. Passive heating
The most environmentally friendly way to heat the house is with passive solar heating,
because it does not generate any harmful emissions and solar heat is free of charge. Passive
solar heating has to keep out summer sun and let in winter sun. In Latvian climate that is
possible with south-facing orientated glass areas and the main windows have to get the
maximum benefit of system. Without building orientation, thermal mass, glazing units and
shading, building occupants are closely related to passive design, because, for example, they
have to remember when windows have to be open and when close. 6
Solar heat through windows and good insulation of external walls is suitable for any
location or building type, because thermal insulation not only does not allow heat to escape
from the building, but it can also protect the house from overheating. It all depends on what
objective should be achieved.
3.4. Insulation
Insulation working as a barrier to heat flow, reducing heat gain in summer and
reducing het loss in winter to keep the building warm. Air leakage and inadequate insulation
are the main reasons of heat loss. Insulation material, format and thickness are three main
choices have to be made during the design process. The key consideration is the thermal
performance of the material over the life of the building material sustainability resistance.
Walls can be insulated with blanket, loose fill, or board insulation. The amount of thermal
insulation depends on internal and external temperature differences. 7
Selecting insulation material not only its thermal insulating properties are important
but also all other parameters as any other material.

3.5. Passive ventilation
Effective ventilation provides clean air quality and temperature control. Passive
(naturally occurring) ventilation is when air is exchanged in a building through openings in
the building envelope using the stack and wind pressure. There are possible two sources:
- Controlled through openings such as windows and doors or purpose built small vents
(seep vents or several windows)
- Uncontrolled by infiltration through unintentional openings such as gaps around
windows and doors and between building components. 8
Passive ventilation is an essential component of passive design and is a free and
environmentally friendly method of ventilation.
3.6. Glazing and daylight
Glazing units like windows, curtain walls and skylight are important elements of the
building envelope. These components allow natural light and fresh air to penetrate the
building and provide a transfer between indoor and outdoor space. Glazing leaves significant
impact on overall energy consumption. Almost 40% of heating energy can be lost through
the window therefore it is valuable to use energy efficient windows with high thermal
There are three main sources for daylight direct sunlight, external and internal
reflection therefore it is important to not just think about window as separate element but
also about the surroundings and faade detailing elements.
Glazing thermal performance, location of window opening and size should be selected
considering orientation and climate conditions. The higher the windows head, the deeper
the daylight will penetrate into the interior. In Latvian climate, daylight should be used as
much as possible for energy efficiency and pleasant indoor conditions.
To reduce the glazed area of the faade or it is not possible to place a lot of windows,
skylights can be used. Skylights are an excellent source of natural light, because they give
three times as much light as a faade window of the same size. They have to be designed
very carefully, because of the unwanted heat loss in winter and heat gain in summer. 9
There are wide variety of glass types and frame materials that have to be taken into
account in selecting the right one. The choice has to follow the principles of sustainability.
3.7. Shading
One of the main shading tasks is to reduce summer temperatures and keep building
cool, if necessary. Shading can block up to 90% of solar heat.
Shading can be made as external or internal systems. While internal shading can be
provided using blinds or curtains, external has many more opportunities. Internal shading is
less effective, because the solar radiation has already come into the building. External
shading systems can be made as fixed or adjustable shades, trees or vegetables. Eaves,

awnings, shutters, louvers, pergolas and shrubs are the most used types of shading. Shading
system can be made out of wood to stone and include all kinds of materials.
Fixed shadings have to be designed appropriate with right angles. Poor design can
block winter sun. Too much shaded building in summer can reduce incoming daylight and
increase the use of artificial lightning. 10
But it is always better to design a building, which does not require any external shading
devices, because of the extra costs and sometimes they have to be controlled mechanically.
If shading is necessary, the system is solved well, when it is integrated into the construction
and design of the faade (Figure 3). It is more relevant to high-rise buildings.

Figure 3: Shading system embedded into the facade.

4. Materials properties
To say something is sustainable essentially means that it meets present needs without
compromising future needs. A building material is unsustainable if it is produced and used in
quantities which will cause it to run out in the future. It is also unsustainable if its use results
in environmental damage that will be difficult or impossible to repair. If material extraction
or manufacture cause harm to people health it is also unsustainable. 11
There are several parameters that characterize the material efficiency throughout its
life cycle. Sustainable materials can be considered in three strategies that forming their life
cycle: pre-building, building and post-building.
LCA models the use of materials and energy and calculates environmental impacts as
a result of this use during extraction, handling, manufacturing, transportation, use, reuse,
maintenance, recycling and eventual disposal.(Branz 2015) Analysis results are summarized
in a single document called Environmental Product Declaration (EPD). 12
The most commonly used materials for the faades are wood, bricks and stone.
4.1. Embodied energy
Embodied energy is one part of a building materials overall environmental impact.
Embodied energy is the total energy required for the extraction, processing,
manufacture and delivery of building materials to the building site. Energy consumption
produces CO2, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, so embodied energy is
considered an indicator of the overall environmental impact of building material and
systems. Embodied energy does not include the operation of disposal of materials as life cycle
assessment does. LCA evaluates all of the impacts over the whole life of a material or
element. Embodied energy is measured as the quantity of non-renewable energy per unit of
building material, component or system. (Branz 2014)
Embodied energy must be considered over the lifespan of a building. In other cases
have been used building materials or systems with higher embodied energy, but operating
energy requirements of the building are reduced. For example, aluminum is durable material
with a long life span and because of that it is reasonable to use it, due to its high embodied
energy. For sustainability and energy efficiency improvements, it is important to reduce the
energy consumption. Therefore it is even more important, that embodied energy of the
building material is as low as possible. 13
The total amount of embodied energy may account for 20% of buildings energy use. It
means that overall environmental impact can be reduced by reducing embodied energy.
4.2. Embodied energy reduction
Climate, material availability, transportation distances and budget are those things
which should be combined to obtain the best possible result in sustainable performance.
Lower embodied energy will be for lightweight building constructions such us timber
framing, but higher for heavyweight constructions. If large amounts of high energy materials
are used, for example, steel or aluminum, this can work differently. Sometimes lightweight
construction can lead to higher energy use. For example, in Latvia heating requirements are
high and that can raise the overall energy use. From the other side, for building with high
heating requirements and large day and night temperature range, heavyweight construction
with high embodied energy and a thick layer of insulation can offset the energy use required
for the building. 14
In building material selection, the embodied energy should be considered for:
use of locally sourced materials to reduce transport;
use of recycled materials;
design for long life and adaptability;
restoring rather than demolishing;
choosing a standard size materials, for example, doors, windows, panels, to avoid
using additional materials as fillers;
avoiding waste;
easily separable materials;
material durability;
materials that are manufactured using renewable energy sources;
use efficient building envelope design to minimize material use.
4.3. Durability and maintenance
Maintenance and sustainability are closely related. It is important to understand, that
maintenance is not the same as repair, therefore carrying appropriate maintenance, the
building materials last longer and reduces repair costs. Wall cladding and coating systems,
specific, are those material groups which requires regular maintenance to remain durable
and waterproof. 15
Durable materials last longer and require less maintenance. This reduces the
consumption of raw materials needed to make replacements and the amount of landfill
space taken by discarded products. It also means occupants receive less exposure to
irritating chemicals used in the installation and maintenance of materials.
4.4. Reuse and recycling
New material production in the future can be reduced if more materials will be reused
after the end of their use. Great attention should be paid to the material installation and
fixing processes, because these activities can have an effect on the ability to reuse the
materials. If lifespan of the building is short, more attention should be paid on bolt or screw
fixing rather than adhesive and other constant fixings.
The same as with reuse, recycling also reduce new material production, if worn
materials are recycled. Recycling energy is much less than energy use in new material
manufacturing process. 16

5. External wall construction systems
Facades can be divided into two main groups opaque and glazed facades. Opaque
building envelope is mainly constructed of several layers of different solid materials, for
example, masonry, concrete, stone, steel or timber framing together with insulation and
different types of cladding systems and materials. This faade may include several openings
or windows. They can be constructed in three ways:
| Solid wall constructed from monolith or composite elements, sometimes with a
separate layer to provide climatic protection.
| Warm wall faade wall surface covered with thermal insulation and covered with
water resistant siding.
| Cols wall faade wall surface covered with thermal insulation and have a ventilated
cavity between outer layer (cladding) and insulation.
Several years ago, first way was used quite often in Latvia but it is not suitable for the
local climate. The second and third way is more suitable for Latvian climatic conditions.
Glazed faade is called curtain wall which mainly consists of transparent glazing
material and metal framing construction. 17
5.1. Opaque faades
Construction system must provide durable, comfortable, energy-efficient, a profitable
and weathertight home. Appropriate construction choice is closely related to homes design
and location, finances, the topography and climate. Systems can be mixed or adapted to the
specific circumstances, combining different systems to get the best results. If all these things
are summarized properly then it can lead to sustainable living.
Construction systems are the ways in which materials are combined to create building
elements. One of the ways how opaque external walls can be classified is according to the
mass of the system heavyweight and lightweight constructions. To achieve the best overall
economical and environmental outcomes, sometimes these systems are mixed. Reinforced
concrete, concrete masonry or bricks are commonly used heavyweight construction
materials but lightweight constructions are made of timber or steel framing combined with
thermal insulation, underlay and different kind of cladding materials. 18
Usually external walls are working as a load-bearing part and takes load of the roof and
other floors, or walls can be attached to the load-bearing slabs.
Every situation is unique and there is never one best solution that fits for everything.
There are always many factors that determine the needs and opportunities. From
environmental aspects, factors that are important in choosing a construction system are:
material durability, role in improving thermal comfort, cost effectiveness, life cycle energy
consumption, availability of materials, maintenance requirements, adaptability and reuse or
recycling potential, transportation distances and many more.

5.1.1. Heavyweight walls (high mass walls)
Mass can successfully contribute to the thermal performance when it is exposed
internally and insulated externally. When used this way as thermal mass, it can smooth out
daily ranges by preserving or shedding heat. To achieve that, access to passive heating and
cooling and daily temperature variations greater 6oC are required. If such conditions are not
possible, low mass construction usually performs better. In cool climates, high mass
construction is recommendable. 19
Brick, concrete block and reinforced concrete are the most commonly used materials
for heavyweight wall constructions. Familiar but not so widely used materials are rammed
earth and mud brick. They are often used in hot climatic conditions where they are easily
accessible and have good maintenance conditions.
The main characteristics of heavyweight construction:
excellent durability;
low maintenance;
high thermal mass;
most suited to climates with large daily temperature range;
should be used in places where the material is locally available and dont have to be
transported for long distances;
in most cases high embodies energy;
generally significant site impact because of essential foundation system
used raw material during the production process have a great impact on the
heavy lifting equipment required;
often increased amount of waste because of required temporary support during
The most frequently used materials are:
Brick wall clay and concrete bricks are two commonly used brick types. Clay firing in
ovens transforms it into a building component that has high strength and high weathering
qualities. This is one of the most thoroughly tested building materials. Concrete brick share
many properties with clay brick. Except it is more porous than clay brick, therefore it must
be protected to prevent water penetration and over time they can fade.
Brick wall have high embodied energy, high thermal mass and low thermal resistance
therefore they are used together external or cavity insulation. It is a very durable material
with low maintenance requirements (if unpainted). Because of the high mass they provide
excellent sound insulation. They can be improved even more by constructing a cavity wall.
Material can be crushed and recycled as road base after the end of its life, but
recycling and reuse rates are low. Material has a relatively high cost. 21

Nowadays, brick is widely used as facing material because of its weather resistance
and aesthetic qualities (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Clay brick construction.

Concrete concrete is made from cement (heated limestone and clay, grinded with
gypsum) mixed with sand and gravel and water. Concrete have two production methods
concrete cast on site and precast concrete. The choice, as with all other materials, depends
on site access, availability, required finishes, design requirements, costs and others.
Concrete wall have high embodied energy, but it can be offset by its extended life cycle
what is up to 100 years and more. With its high thermal mass, material may be used for
passive heating or cooling. Concrete is a poor thermal insulator that requires thermal
insulation for keeping heat from escaping the building. High mass provides good sound
insulation properties (Figure 5).
Concrete is very durable material. It allows moisture to penetrate, though adding
additives and sealers it can be made water resistant. Material has low maintenance
requirements (if unpainted) and a high fire resistance.

Figure 5: Prefabricated concrete wall.

To create economical and environmental savings, concrete can be crushed and reused
as aggregate for new concrete, road bases or construction fill. Precast concrete method
promotes the reuse of formwork and most of the production waste can be recycled.
Carefully designed precast structures have potential for relocation and reuse.
Concrete is not very expensive material but its transportation can be costly. 22
Aerated concrete block wall aerated concrete blocks contain lots of closed air
pockets that make it lightweight and energy efficient. It has a moderate embodied energy
and thermal and sound insulation, due to its thermal mass and thermal insulation. Air
pockets provide very good sound insulation (Figure 6).
Compared to other masonry, aerated concrete has very good thermal insulation
properties, but despite that, In Latvian climate material needs additional insulation. If there
is no insulation attached, an appropriate siding is required.
Concrete blocks can accommodate a relatively high load but it is prone to impact
damage. If material is exposed to moisture, it does not easily degrade structurally but its
thermal performance can lose their properties. Therefore the material surface has to be
Material do not consist any toxic substances.
Aerated concrete weight, embodied energy and greenhouse gas emissions is one-fifth
of the normal concrete properties. Good design that responds to the regime of standardized
panel sizes encourages low waste and resource efficient construction. Offcuts can be
recycled or can be used as concrete waste for reuse in aggregates. 23
Aerated concrete has been widely used in Latvia.

Figure 6: Aerated concrete block wall.

5.1.2. Lightweight walls (low mass walls)
As the structural support system, lightweight timber or steel framing are the most
commonly used materials for low mass wall construction with non-structural cladding, for

example, fiber cement, plywood, steel or others. Insulated lightweight walls can have small
embodied energy and they reduce heat loss.
Some of the sheet claddings like plywood sheet, fiber cement and other systems have
low environmental impact and low embodied energy. They are considered as durable
materials with low maintenance if the surface is not painted. 24
The main characteristics of lightweight construction:
less durable if not properly designed and maintained;
may require higher maintenance;
greater responsiveness to outdoor temperature changes;
more suitable for transportation over long distances;
generally lower embodied energy;
lower site impact than heavyweight construction;
lower environmental impact due to the use of natural and sustainable materials;
can avoid the use of heavy machinery. 25
The most frequently used construction types are:
Timber framing timber framing are lightweight but strong, reasonably priced and
made from sustainably grown local materials. Timber construction is not the most expensive
option in choosing construction system. This type of structure can last for a long time if it is
kept dry. If timber is untreated and allowed to be wet for a long time, then construction can
rot. To prevent timber deterioration it has to be treated and construction should be able to
breathe (Figure 7).
Wood is bad heat conductor, therefore to some extent it works as a thermal insulator.
In Latvian climatic conditions timber framing need additional thermal insulation to maintain
a comfortable indoor temperature. The gabs between the framing are filled with insulation

Figure 7: Timber framing construction.

Timber is bad at absorbing and retaining heat. It has a low thermal mass therefore
material cannot store heat as concrete or masonry. To have that mass, timber construction
can be used together with some other heavy and dense material. If lightweight timber

framing is used in climates, where thermal mass storage is desirable, it can be achieved by
choosing concrete slabs and storey partition, or masonry internal walls.
Timber constructions can be used in all climate conditions, but Latvian building
regulation does not allow multi-storey wooden buildings. Therefore concrete framing
buildings with wooden wall panels are being built.
Wood is completely renewable building material.
Without timber framing, wooden constructions have other forms, such as post and
beam, solid timber and pole houses. For example, solid timber constructions are built as log
cabin houses or use thick timber planks which are locked together. Solid wood is a relatively
good insulator, but not as good as most insulation materials. They are stronger than timber
framed buildings. Solid timber construction uses more material than timber framing, but less
cladding can be used because some parts of the surface can be left uncovered. 26
Steel framing instead of timber framing, steel framing can be used. Steel is
lightweight, strong, durable and competitive building material. Steel framing construction
can be used in all climate conditions. It has high durability, steel does not absorb water but if
it is exposed to moisture, it can rust. Surface cladding should provide protection from
moisture and should allow moisture to evaporate if it has entered the construction. Steel has
poor thermal insulation properties and it cannot storage heat (Figure 8).
Steel production requires large amount of energy but steel is 100% recyclable. 27

Figure 8: Steel framing construction.

Structural insulated panels standard structural insulated panel consist of an
insulating layer of rigid insulation material embedded between two structural layers of sheet
metal, plywood, fiber cement, engineered timber or compressed forestry waste. These
systems have high structural efficiency and insulation levels. To obtain the maximum
sustainable effect, rigid insulation plates can be replaced with recycled cellulose insulation.

The range of insulated panels is growing rapidly. In general, their characteristics are
very similar to the timber framing system, but it is more prefabricated (Figure 9). 28

Figure 9: Structural insulated panel construction.

5.2. Glazed faades
When the building envelope started to become something more like separator
between indoor and outdoor space and got a new role, new faade types were invented.
Optimized energy use and interior climate are two main objectives that have to be achieved.
5.2.1. Double skin faade (Sustainable building skin)
Double skin facades were invented in the beginning of the 20th century. In the 70th,
when energy crisis were developed, one of the main strands of thinking was the reduction of
energy consumption. At that time the conventional curtain walls were developed. They had
to work against energy loss and sun reflection through using double glazing walls. With
increasing the environmental concerns, double glazing walls were further developed as
double skin facades.
The idea of sustainable skins developed through time starting from double skin
faades up to responsive kinetic skins where a very elaborate innovation in building
components, regarding especially glass, shading and insulation systems takes place to gain
the passive capacity of the building to modulate climatic variations. A sustainable building
thus derives by a sophisticated synthesis between design passive criteria and technological
development of materials and building elements all under the umbrella of sustainable
building skins.(Khaled Dewidar)
The main advantages of the double skin faade:
better acoustic insulation;
reduced heating and cooling load;
nowadays adequate thermal insulation;
can achieve lower construction cost;
reduced wind pressure effects.
The main disadvantages of the double skin faade:
higher construction costs compared to conventional facades;
decreased fire protection;
reduced interior useful spaces;
additional maintenance and operational costs;
overheating problems if not properly design;
incorrect design can lead to overheating problems;
increased air flow velocity;
increased construction weight.
Double skin faade consist of outer glazed faade for weather protection and sound
insulation, air cavity or intermediate space and interior faade. Air cavity provides
ventilation opportunity and interior faade surface protection from thermal impacts. Faade
can be equipped with shading louvers. In each season faade works differently.
During the summer (cooling season), heat inside a building is mainly produces by the
penetration of the sun through transparent surface. When solar radiation is high, cavity with
embedded blinds provide good solar control, protecting the air inside the cavity from
exterior environmental conditions. The temperature inside the cavity will be a few degrees
lower than the actual external temperature. To prevent overheating, the cavity has to be
well ventilated (Figure 10).
In spite of the use of natural ventilation, double skin faade can make use of solar rays
in winter (heating season). Contrary to the summer period, in winter faade allows solar
heat to enter the room and remain inside. If outer opening are closed, the air located in the
cavity between two glass skins is heated by solar rays. This heated air can enter interior
spaces (Figure 11). 29

Figure 10: Summer performance. Figure 11: Winter performance.

6. Claddings system
Cladding is a non-loadbearing skin or layer attached to the outside of a home to shed
water and protect the building from the effects of weather. Cladding creates the aesthetic
appeal of the building and seriously affects the construction costs and property value.
Cladding choice has a significant impact on the environmental performance by choosing
environmentally preferred materials and systems. When choosing cladding materials their
embodied energy, resource depletion and recyclability have to be balanced with its
durability and maintenance. Cladding leaves a very small impact on the wall insulation. It
usually provides limited sound insulation, except brick layer which has a high mass and
higher thickness.
Cladding is typically made from wood, metal, plastic or different types of composite
materials. It can be attached directly to the frame, but in order to prevent condensation and
allow water vapor to escape, the material can be attached with spacers.
Some of the most commonly used cladding materials and their main properties:
Wood wood is one of the most sustainable cladding materials. It is available in most
locations, especially in Latvia, however. Timber has one of the lowest embodied energy
between. It has moderate maintenance, because after a certain period of time finishes
requires repainting. Material has high durability and waterproofness properties. Wood is
breathable material with low condensation risk, but if there is some, it can lead to mould
growth. Wood is non-toxic if it is untreated. Treatment and painting can change its chemical
composition. Generally, timber products are not recycled due to finishes. The material has
low costs, therefore not often used recycling. They have high manufacturing waste recovery
and water recycling. Clean wood can be chipped for mulch. It is completely renewable
Fiber cement most fiber cement products have high sustainability credentials.
However, these figures may vary taking into account manufacturers waste, recovery waste,
energy efficiency and water sourcing, and recycling. Material has generally low embodied
energy, low maintenance due to stability, high durability. Fiber cement has good
breathability because of the gaps between the sheets. Material has high fire resistance and it
is non-toxic if not painted. It has very good and high-quality appearance.
Brick brick is one of the most commonly used cladding materials because of its
availability, durability and aesthetics. It has relatively high embodied energy because of the
energy consumed during the production process, low maintenance and high breathability
with low condensation risk, due to well ventilated cavities. If not properly installed, material
can have low water resistance, because brick wall requires wide cavity and specially
designed ties, flashings and cavity drainage. These elements can rust. It is a poor insulator,
but with excellent fire resistance, non-toxic (if not painted) and can be recycled or reused.
Steel material has very high embodied energy, but low maintenance properties. Steel
has very high durability, because it can last more than 100 years. It should always be fixed
with a breathable cavity allowing condensate to evaporate. Waterproof cladding material,
poor thermal insulator with good fire resistance properties, non-toxic. Steel sheeting is
highly reusable and completely recyclable.
Aluminum aluminum is more corrosion resistant than steel. Material has very high
embodied energy, but it is appropriate in highly corrosive environments where the use of
materials with lower embodied energy have a reduced life span. It has low maintenance and
high durability. It should always be fixed with a breathable cavity allowing condensate to
evaporate. Waterproof cladding material, poor thermal insulator with good fire resistance
properties, non-toxic. Aluminum is highly reusable and completely recyclable.
Vinyl cladding is available in a range of colors, textures, profiles and they have no
maintenance. Vinyl is not environmentally friendly material, because the production of this
material includes hazardous and toxic materials, and relies on international supply chains. It
has high embodied energy and emits toxins during all its life cycles and vinyl recycling rates
are low. When vinyl burns, it releases toxins. People are working on so that material can be
more environmentally friendly. 30
Green wall green faade are created through the growth of climbing plants un and
across the face of a building, from either plants rooted in the ground, or those in containers
installed at different levels up the face of a building. Difference in temperature in front of
and behind the faade in summer stays cooler for 1,4 oC, but in winter stays warmer for
3,8oC. Absorption of light and heat energy by foliage keeps the cavity temperature lower.
Faade support system creates a microclimate / mixed air layer next to the wall even when
stems are bare. These walls have very high maintenance. Green walls reduce heat load on
the faade, it has good sound insulation properties. 31
The facades also can be covered with different type composite materials or innovative
eco-preferred claddings, but these materials are not so widely known yet.

7. Latvian construction history
In Northern Europe wood was the primary material from which external walls and
faade structures were built. It was different in Latvia, but it is changing now.
Many buildings in Latvia are built as large element panel construction apartment
buildings, offices, schools and others. Nowadays they need renovation to reduce cold
bridges and external walls thermal conductivity.
Second typical building type found in Latvia is solid brick wall buildings. Single family
houses or multi-storey buildings were built up from bricks solid or cavity walls. These walls
are exposed to rain penetration and the thermal performance reduces because of the
moisture level inside the constructions. Condensation and mould growth reduces external
wall efficiency and reduces the internal thermal comfort. It is clear that these walls are not
sustainable or even efficiency. This is so, because many years ago there were no proper
thermal insulation material and strong building regulations regarding to thermal
performance. Today people are solving this with externally applied insulation, ventilated
rain-screens or a render system. Usually these walls are insulated with 100 mm thick
insulation and plastered. This is most popular method how to improve the energy efficiency.
It is hard to talk about the sustainability in these situations, because of the embodied energy
of the materials and this process is considered to be a repairing works.
Sustainable wooden houses are getting more and more popular in Latvia recent years.
They are built up as wooden load bearing frames with insulation between or external walls
can be made as prefabricated panels which are assembled on the construction site.

8. Latvian climate
Climate encompasses the sum of temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind,
rainfall and other meteorological characteristics over specified period of time therefore it
plays one of the main roles in choosing of the faade. In Koppen Climate Classification
System Latvian climate is categorized as humid continental climate with significant
precipitation during all seasons (Koppen Dfb warm summer continental climate)(Figure

Figure 12: Warm summer continental climate.

The avarage annual air temperature in Latvia is +5,2oc. July average temperature is
+17oc, which is the hottest month of the year, but in coldes month January the average air
temperature is -4,7oc. At the same time, cant forget about extreme situation, because the
highest temperature in Latvia has been +36,4oc, but the lowest -43,2oc. Rainfall reaches 700
800 mm per year. Annual average relative humidity is 81%.
The weather conditions in Latvia have changed in recent years winter starts to
become warmer and summer is getting hotter almost every year.
The prevailing winds are from the south, southwest and west side. The strongest winds
occur in the winter months with an average speed of 3,9 to 4,0 m/s. The weaker winds occur
during the summer months with an average speed of 2,8 m/s. In Latvia often observed wind-
driven rain, which can penetrate the outer leaf of external wall. 33
Climate with exactly the same characteristics observed in All Baltic States, eastern
Europe, Germany, north of Sweden, Denmark, northern part of the United Stated and
southern part of Canada. This means that similarities in the construction principles can be

9. Case study
When two architects from the architectural office MADE returned to Latvia after
having worked at Denmark and they were so inspired that won a contest of Saldus Music
and Art school project. The aim was to realize the Latvian public building with lower energy-
saving natural ventilation. One of the main rules was that the Latvian resource tree has to be
used and the building has to be ecological to save resources. The result is one of the most
sustainable buildings in Latvia, organic, visually simple faade solution, where whole faade
are taking part in an air circulation system (Figure 13).

Figure 13: Saldus Music and Art school.

9.1. Saldus Music and Art school

Saldus Music and Art school is located in Saldus, Latvia, it was constructed under the
supervision of Saldus municipality in the period from 2007 to 2013. Total area of the building
is 3492 m2.
The project has won Best project in Latvian Architecture Award 2008 and GRAND
PRIX in Latvian Architecture Award 2012, and it has been nominated for the European
Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture Mies van der Rohe Award 2015.

9.2. Wall construction
The entire building has a double faade and it has visually simple design. Faade
consists of massive self-supporting cross nailed timber panels which are 34 cm thick, covered
with profile glass and is a part of energy efficient natural ventilation system, preheating inlet
air during winter. Materials not only show their functionality but also work as passive
environmental control system (Figure 14).

Figure 14: External wall construction detail.

Wooden panel is emotionally charged and provides thermal insulation and heat
capacity and regulates the climate in terms of moisture.
There is no single painted surface on any facade of the school building, every material
shares its natural color and texture.
With lime plaster plastered massive wooden panels accumulates moisture, providing
the good indoor climate for people and create a favorable environment for the storage of
musical instruments.
U-profile glass wall is sufficiently leaky not dense, compared with other glass
structures, so that air gap during the summer does not overheat. Its mottled optical game is
a great additional benefit. This turns the faade technically necessary cleavages for artistic
effect. According to the analysis, desired proportion of window opening amount was
9.3. Ventilation and sound
The building has a very cleaver ventilation system. The faade is the lungs of this
During the winter months, natural ventilation supply is provided with adjustable
valves, which are installed at the top of the wooden wall panels (PICTURE), but during the

summer with two levels of openable windows (PICTURE). Air escapes from rooms through
the exhaust channels, which are installed in corridor walls. During the ventilation mode
faade provided sound insulation is 40 dB.
Summer with two levels openable window placement night cooling is possible. During the
night building constructions are cooled and in the morning rooms are cool and does not
overheat during the day. Cool fresh air enters the room through the lower window, but
exhaled air leaves the room through the window near the ceiling (Figure 15).

Figure 15: Natural ventilation during the summer season.

Winter the cold fresh air enters the facade cavity. Moving up, air receives heat from the
sun and the wall of the building. At room ceiling heated fresh air enters the room and,
dropping down, mixes with room warm air. The warm exhaled air through the internal air
duct leaves the room and is eliminated on the roof (Figure 16).

Figure 16: Natural ventilation during the winter season.

9.4. Heating and thermal mass
The building has integrated floor heating and is connected to central heating. It has no
air cooling aggregates. Additional thermal mass is provided with exposed concrete surfaces
on walls and floors.
9.5. Daylight
The most frequently used classrooms are placed on perimeter, while larger rooms such
as practicing halls and libraries are placed in the middle of the building.
Daylight presence is felt everywhere: first floor supported by a glazed corridor
extensions and escape routes, the second a patio and atrium glazing. Patio and courtyard
facades are trimmed with shiny tin cladding, which creates a powerful additional reflected
light (Figure 17).
Faade is equipped with spruce tree windows.

Figure 17: Tin cladding.

9.6. Operation and maintenance

Operation management problems are visible in many modern and sustainable
buildings. Such buildings must be able to use correctly, otherwise all existing values can lose
its value and not to work.
Achieved energy efficiency in the first year of operation was 66,9 kWh/m 2 per year.
Compared to a similar sized public building, the average heating costs per square meter per
month is twice lower 0.64 euro/m2 opposite 1.20 euro/m2. And systems are not yet fully
adjusted. Price per square meter of Euro 1700 is justified by the fact that the city has rather
thought of a savings up in a long time. 34

Largely faade affects the building operation, efficiency performance and indoor
comfort more than others systems may. To ensure a pleasant and sustainable environment,
the building must be able to perform several operations at the same time, for example,
provide sufficient views to the outside, let enough light in, block unwanted solar heat gain,
protect people from outside noise, provide cool and clear indoor air quality, ensure
resistance to weather and many more.
I have examined principles, which determines sustainability of the building. Since
sustainability is closely linked to the passive design, it is very important to design building to
think about its orientation in nature, passive heating and cooling possibilities, natural
ventilation, construction thermal mass, proper insulation layer and efficient glazing.
I have examined methods, which enhances the sustainability of the materials. In
choosing material, it is very important to take into account material embodied energy, its
reuse and recycling optional and the need for the maintenance over its lifetime.
I have researched information about most common construction types that can be
used in Latvian climatic conditions, such as, concrete or aerated concrete, and what these
structures differ them from those, which are more appropriate for warmer climatic
conditions, for example, timber or steel framing.
Dissertation showed that sustainability and energy-efficiency work together.
According to the case study, faade can be one of the main parts of the building.
Thought faade design has lead to environmentally friendly, clean, social active and
sustainable building. Even the interior decoration colors selected in conjunction with the city
district flag colors. Passive design used in the building completely uses natural resources
from design to operation.
In doing this work, I got a lot of new and important information about things that have
to be considered in choosing a right construction material for a given situation.
In contemporary architecture faade need to respond to solar position, provide solar
shading if necessary, use natural ventilation for air quality, minimize energy use artificial
lightning, mechanical cooling and heating and many more.

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