Whether blending in or standing out, embodying transparency or solidity, expressing coarseness or softness, a façade is the medium through which we engage with architecture. It tells a story and can often set the tone for the rest of the interior. But apart from defining a purely visual experience, a building’s envelope must also be practical, durable and have the ability to properly manage natural lighting and ventilation needs. After all, by being the point of contact with the outside, it is responsible for mitigating sounds and providing protection from climatic conditions, such as wind, rain, heat and humidity. Therefore, when designing a facade, it is important to consider a balance between performance and a beautiful aesthetic. Of course, many materials successfully meet these criteria. But when it comes to creating a comforting, light-filled ambiance while ensuring resistance, ease of installation and versatility, the properties of translucent polycarbonate panels seem to be unparalleled.
Polycarbonate: The Latest Architecture and News
Translucent polycarbonate panels boast unique and striking aesthetics while simultaneously maintaining efficient functionality. They can add depth and color to a façade and may adapt to meet a wide range of performance requirements, from temperature resistance to impact resistance to UV protection and more. Rodeca, a leading company in the polycarbonate panel industry, offers high-quality products with high customizability vis-à-vis colors, transparency levels, treatments, profiles, sizes, joint systems, and more. Below is a detailed list of these many options, accompanied by diagrams and installation steps. We also discuss several case studies where polycarbonate facades have been used to great success, taking full advantage of the options available alongside the intrinsic aesthetic qualities of the translucent panels to complement and elevate their designs.
Polycarbonate has become an alluring alternative to glass in facades, as it has different levels of translucency and can provide optimal transmission and diffusion of light. Moreover, it is light, flexible, recyclable, durable, resistant to impact, and includes UV protection, in addition to resisting temperatures between -40°C and 115°C. But beyond its functional properties, this thermoplastic also provides wide-ranging aesthetic opportunities, allowing architects to create unusually dynamic and expressive facades.
Diversifying the materials of an interior space can greatly improve its depth and visual interest. At the same time, adding partitions or other delineations of internal space can help organize flow, circulation, and visibility. Polycarbonate, a type of lightweight, durable thermoplastic, is an excellent medium for both functions.
In its raw form, polycarbonate is completely transparent, transmitting light with nearly the same efficacy as glass. However, it is also lighter and stronger than glass and tougher than other similar plastics such as acrylic, polystyrene, ABS, or nylon, making it a good choice for designers seeking durable, impact and fire resistant materials that still transmit light. Like glass, it is a natural UV filter and can be colored or tinted for translucency, yet it is also prized for its flexibility, allowing it to be shaped into any size or shape. Finally, it is easily recyclable because it liquefies rather than burning, making it at least more environmentally friendly than other thermoset plastics. For example, recycled polycarbonate can be chemically reacted with phenol in a recycling plant to produce monomers that can be turned back into plastic.
Translucent facades are light glazing panels used on the exterior of buildings, protecting the structure from weather damage, dampness, and erosion. Its composition of polycarbonate microcells creates a soft, naturally diffused light with a wide range of possible colors, brightnesses, and opacities.
By fixing these panels in place with concealed joints, it’s possible to hide unsightly building elements and assist in protecting users from harmful UV rays, while also ensuring maximum thermal conduction. Individuals who use them will notice a reduction in energy bills because they use the sun’s natural light to heat and illuminate buildings, creating very attractive indoor environmental conditions for different uses.
This investigation by Kuan-Ting Lai, developed as part of his thesis on Reconfigurable Systems of Tensegrity at the University of Stuttgart, is an exploration of the capabilities of structural principles in creating transformable architectural structures.
The project, a prototype made of pneumatic cylinders and polycarbonate panels, explores different methods of reconfiguration based on the basic rules of tensegrity, demonstrating the potential to rapidly adjust the lighting or ventilation conditions offered by the structure.
The main objective behind the design for the new Staten Island Animal Care Center was to create a high quality environment for the animals, staff and visitors. The building is sheathed in a highly insulating, translucent polycarbonate envelope. This provides higher performance in comparison to typical glass and maximizes the benefits of natural light. The roof of the outer perimeter housing the animals is raised above a lower interior roof plane, which covers other shelter functions. This configuration permits the daylight to enter the facility on multiple sides. Natural ventilation is encouraged along the periphery with the use of a passive air ventilation system. A sophisticated mechanical system that uses heat recovery to feed heat gain energy back into the system is incorporated into the design to provide constant fresh air exchange.
Producing an image between the real and the virtual, the Emile Rassam Building, by architect Paul Kaloustian, becomes a statement of identity in Dekwaneh, Beirut, Lebanon. Through its materiality, a sense of disappearance is generated by the envelope which becomes an active instrument that reflects the changes in weather and light conditions. More images and architect’s description after the break.