Façade Matters - Mr. A P Mahesh

Mr. A P Mahesh is the Director of Meinhardt Façade Technology (India) Pvt. Ltd. Meinhardt is one of the few multidisciplinary consultancies in the world. Meinhardt Façade is a division of the Meinhardt Group specializing in façade engineering. It is perfectly equipped to deliver solutions that are original, practical and cost-effective. Meinhardt Group has a global presence with more than 100,000 projects under its belt. Meinhardt has worked on some of the world's most iconic buildings.

Mr. Mahesh shared invaluable inputs on façade consultancy. Following are excerpts:

  • What are the things that façade consultancy should address?

    Ans: Façade consultancy should address all forms of façade elements which are designed and engineered starting from glass, aluminium and metal panels, stones, tiles, veneers and every kind of material that can be built and integrated into a building to withstand wind pressure, performance requirements, UV and other external factors. Façade interacts with cooling, heat, structure, acoustic, electrical and also plumbing, drainage and all the weather conditions. Façade is vulnerable to all these conditions. Façade engineering is simply not limited to enveloping a building. It even addresses the comfort level of the occupants. Performance, energy saving and green building norms should also be taken into account. The workable and functional aspects of the entire exercise plays a pivotal role in façade engineering and its consultancy. A façade consultant should individually address all the specific issues of façade construction, interacting with all other trades.

  • Could you tell us how façade consultants make the interior of a building more habitable?

    Ans: Making habitable means you need to take into account the occupant's requirements, as well as, usage requirements besides the isolations and separations within the same floor. All performance requirements also need to be considered and kept in mind. So when you are working on this, you have to take into account window-wall ratios, daylight requirements, orientation of the building and shading/sun-shading devices. Moreover, one should also consider the external and internal climatic conditions, for façade is after all a barrier between the external and the internal.

  • Why do you think it's taking time for the importance of façade consultancy to sink in on the industry in India?

    Ans: Façade consultancy and the façade industry in our country is still in the maturing stage. In India glazing and façade concepts started after 1995. In Asia it started way back in 1980. The markets of the Middle East, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and the US are already mature and experienced. People understand what is actually needed for a façade and how to get the best results. In our country, this maturity level is yet to be achieved. We all need to collectively address the pros and cons to take façade implementation to the next level.

  • What is critical to having a good façade?

    Ans: The professional liability in ensuring a good façade lies with the consultant but the performance liability is purely and fully with the contractor. As consultants, we have to give the right inputs and get the best out of the contractor and enhance the overall performance. So the coordination and the correlation among consultant, architect, fabricator, contractor and the client are vital to develop a good façade.

  • An architect can't do what a façade consultant does. Could you please elaborate?

    Ans: Basically an architect gives the geometric aesthetical view and the vision of the building. It has to be engineered in terms of wind pressure resistance and other performance criteria. Most of the façades in India are primarily a combination of aluminium, glass, insulations, metal claddings and enclosures. All have to be engineered to the requirement and performance parameters. The functional aspects and compatibility among all the materials involved should be ensured. All materials have to be properly bonded into a single panel for easy execution. So a lot of engineering and tests are involved. That's why an architect requires a façade consultant's expertise to get the job done. Façade consultancy addresses the technical aspects of aesthetics and performance.

  • Is façade the highest risk in any project?

    Ans: Yes in a way. If the execution is not perfectly done, the risk factors increase manifold. The windows, glasses and panels may start falling off. Only if it is properly engineered, tested for the warranted period and designed life span, and fixed, a façade becomes safe with enhanced longevity and durability.

  • Does Meinhardt always advocate fire retardant façades?

    Ans: Yes, we sincerely advocate fire rated façade materials for combustible materials and as per design requirements. Every country has its own building code. Similarly, India too has a National Building Code which mandates that every building's combustible material should have the fire resistance capacity of 2 hours or as per the code requirements, and should be able to suppress smoke to the minimum. For smoke kills faster than fire. Smoke within the building can kill a person in just 3 minutes.

  • Could you share your experience about providing façade consultancy for Indira Gandhi International Airport?

    Ans: We had a deadline to complete the entire project. So we had to get a design documentation of 5.2 km long façade across a façade area spread over 15 lakh sq. ft., which had 23 façade systems. Additionally, 100,000 sq. mtrs. of ACP work had to be done. We had to design and document in one and a half months and spent one month taking technical interviews of various fabricators and appoint them in the third month. We had to finish the entire job within the stipulated time and hand it over to the authorities before the Commonwealth Games. It was a critical job, executed very efficiently.

  • How do you rate ACP as a material?

    Ans: ACPs are produced using different technologies and different configurations. They can be used for both interiors and exteriors. ACP is a good flexible material. However, it should be fire retardant besides adhering to the insulation system. It should perform in a way that minimizes risks and loss and facilitates evacuations in case of fire.

  • How would you rate Copper and Zinc composite panels?

    Ans: Copper and zinc non-composite panels have been used since the olden days. For example, copper has been used as roof sheets mainly in Europe. But the most important criteria is to get the right product. To achieve this, the material should be properly designed, manufactured, and tested before it reaches the market. The product performance should always pass the necessary tests. The performance of these panels is measured in terms of withstanding UV and other adverse environment conditions, and of course fire. So what I mean to say is that attaching zinc or copper to ACP is not an issue. For ACPs like these having a bonding between two materials, resin compatibility becomes the key factor in terms of preventing de-lamination and durability aspects.

  • What's your view on the partnership between façade consultant, architect and interior designer?

    Ans: In the interest of the project, these three have to work together as a team. In our country construction of high-rises has not yet reached the peak of perfection as it has happened overseas. Whenever one goes for high elevation buildings, it requires a lot of detailing and integration of the system. For example, in case of emergency staircases, it has been observed that in many instances in our country the right planning was not there. Proper fire suppression, separation provisions and emergency escape routes must be correctly planned as per requirement. So addressing such details is a mandatory issue. Here comes the question of proper synchronisation of responsibilities vested with the architect, the façade consultant and the interior designer. Collective coordination is a must to get a good job done.

  • Façade consultancy is a confluence of many disciplines. Please tell us how it is so.

    Ans: Façade consultancy is an integration of various forms of engineering endeavor. So neither an architect nor an MEP Consultant or Structural Consultant can complete a façade design on his own. It requires collective team effort to get the job done. In our organization, there is a structural engineer, an MEP engineer, a mechanical engineer, detailers and system designers. There is no independent vertical which can ensure perfect façade installations.

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