When the public judge a building they do so by judging the facade. However, a facade is not just a pretty face – it’s a crucial element of a successful building that determines both its aesthetics and performance.

We are a group of more than a hundred experts from multiple backgrounds who are passionate about tackling the complexities inherent to increasingly sophisticated and creative architecture. Our facade practice includes engineers, architects and consultants devoted to turning ambitious visions into reality while ensuring perfect environment for tenants and low energy and maintenance costs for building owners. 

Aesthetics and Performance

Facades are becoming increasingly complex as architects are pushing the limits of creativity and coming up with a diverse array of geometrical features. The intricate forms include details such as multi-sloped surfaces, cantilevers, chamfers, lanterns and canopies. Our facade teams have rich experience with complex facade systems for low-rise, high-rise and super-tall buildings, allowing us to provide the best possible advice to developers and architects.

Amounting to around 25% of the overall construction cost, the facade is a potentially high-risk element in successful building delivery. Combined with roofing and other building enclosure systems, it is a critical interface to overall building performance success. As such, facade system comprises a series of interdependent and sometimes conflicting requirements. It must be weather-tight, control the light entering the building, maximize natural daylighting inside the building, as well as minimize heat losses in winter and heat gains in the summer. Similarly, not only must the facade work in conjunction with a building’s HVAC system to provide natural ventilation, but it must also control incoming noise, such as from traffic, and limit noise transmission between floors or rooms.

Building enclosures also need to resist wind, carry their own load, be compatible with the supporting structure, as well as provide blast resistance to pre-agreed limits where required. Moreover, facades play an important role in controlling fire and smoke spread between floors or compartments. 

Holistic Approach to Facade Engineering

Our facade practice offers consultancy services to developers, architects, portfolio managers and end users regarding the planning, design, materials procurement, construction, and maintenance of building enclosures. We complement the architectural design team with our deep knowledge in building science and facade materials and systems. We are also adept at commissioning building enclosure systems, staying ahead of the guidelines and standards we helped set for the industry.  

Whether we’re working on a new cultural icon for a city or a high-end residential skyscraper, we always use an integrated design approach, in conjunction with fellow professionals from the project team, to create an economically viable solution that ensures the desired image, constructability, durability, comfort, safety and energy-efficiency, as well as future maintenance, repair and renewal.  

Our vast project experience ranges from high-rise developments such as Dongguan International Trade Centre in China and the 60-storey Newfoundland residential development in London, award-winning cultural buildings such as the National Music Centre in Calgary and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, to groundbreaking projects such as the Zayed National Museum in Abu Dhabi and The Royal Atlantis in Dubai. 



Pool of Multidisciplinary Experts

Designing a facade system encompasses structural engineering, building physics, materials science, weatherproofing technology, architectural detailing, construction management and many other disciplines. In order to provide clients with optimal solutions and solve all interfacing problems, we can tap into a wide resource pool across the company and bring specialist skills to facade projects. This includes facade engineers, structural and MEP engineers, sustainability experts, acousticians, lighting designers, security consultants, blast analysis experts and fire engineers. 

Sustainable Facades for Various Climate Conditions

From extreme heat and sandstorms in Dubai to icy winters in Calgary, our specialists apply their knowledge to adapt facade designs to local climates. We use thermal and hygrothermal modelling to ensure that buildings are sufficiently well insulated, provide optimal comfort levels, are more responsive to climate, and fit the overall energy efficiency strategy.   

Additionally, regulations governing energy use and environmental sustainability are forcing a huge shift in the way facades are designed. Improved passive solar control, with a strong emphasis on external shading, alongside active measures to make facades more responsive to the climate, are no longer just desirable, they are becoming legally required; and we welcome that change.



Access and Maintenance Strategies

A major aspect of our services is the provision of strategies and designs that establish principles for how the building will be cleaned and maintained, and how glass and other facade components will be replaced in the future.

Facade access is a particularly important aspect of a building’s design since an inadequately maintained building or an inaccessible facade will require costly remedial works. Therefore, it is essential that a strategy be put in place to replace failed glass or cladding panels. This is predominantly relevant for high-rise buildings and areas where the facade line is essentially overshadowed by the building line above. We provide robust overarching strategies that significantly enhance a building’s life expectancy, appearance and commercial viability for existing and prospective tenants. Our expertise also includes the design of Building Maintenance Units (BMUs) for super-tall high-rise buildings which exceed 300 metres.

Strategic Advice on Materials

Once we have developed the design and written performance specifications, we can assist clients in tendering and procuring best value from prospective facade contractors. WSP has extensive knowledge of manufacturing and installation techniques employed by various contractors and can specify contractors who are able to deliver a facade that is compliant with the specifications, constructed to appropriate quality standards, and installed safely and completed within program.

Following the appointment of a specialist facade contractor, we can monitor the contractor to ensure that their proprietary design is completed to the specified standards, as well as provide guidance to the contractor in addressing particular problems that may arise during the project. By working as a team and passing on knowledge, we are often able to reduce contractors’ learning curves which facilitates the delivery of the project.

In addition, we can conduct cladding manufacturing facility visits and inspections and work together with contractors on testing prototypes through simulated weather conditions.  


Fire Safety Embedded in the Design

One of the most important matters related to facade design is fire safety. WSP has unique expertise in this field and can advise on materials selection and facade system configuration to achieve better reaction-to-fire and fire resistance performance of the whole facade.

We consider the performance characteristics of materials in the early stage development of a fire, which encompasses combustibility, ignitability, flame spread, heat release, smoke development and toxicity, and undertake reaction-to-fire tests to evaluate some of these characteristics for materials used in facades. We consult on large-scale tests using all layers of the facade to test performance of the whole system. We also consider quantity, geometry and orientation of the combustible materials used in the facade to diminish the risk of fire. Our experts can also provide fire safety reviews and audits for the facades of existing buildings and offer recommendations on managing and mitigating fire risks.


Existing Buildings: Assessment, Repairs, Restoration and Renewal

In addition to our work on new buildings, we provide services for existing buildings. We can evaluate the physical condition of buildings to establish parameters for renovation, restoration, and rehabilitation programs, as well as conduct analysis and evaluation of impacts of HVAC systems, heat, air and moisture on building enclosures.

Relying on our unparalleled experience with virtually all enclosure technologies, our facade teams recommend repair and renewal solutions that balance the potential benefits with the cost and estimated life cycle of existing buildings. To help correct problems with leakage or deterioration, we combine our experience with building science theory and knowledge of the practical realities of cladding performance to develop appropriate solutions for each specific project. Our experts use a wide range of specialty testing capabilities from thermography and moisture sensing, to leakage testing and acoustic monitoring.

We can also provide thorough, timely and well-documented building evaluations, due diligence reports and capital plans to building owners, managers and tenants of all types of facilities.