Aksamija Speaks on Sustainable Building Facade Systems in Shanghai

Ajla Aksamija
Ajla Aksamija

Ajla Aksamija, associate professor of architecture and author of “Sustainable Facades: Design Methods for High-Performance Building Envelopes,” was a presenter at the China ZNC (Zero Net Carbon) Professional Training Program in Shanghai, China, Sept. 20-22.

She presented a workshop on design of sustainable facade systems, which are essential for ZNC buildings. Building facades significantly impact energy usage of any building because they affect heating, cooling, ventilation and lighting systems.

The event was billed as the first training program to prepare architects, building sector professionals and future trainers from all parts of China in the design of ZNC buildings and developments.

To accommodate an urban population that is expected to reach 1 billion by 2030, China is adding roughly 2 billion square meters of new buildings annually. With a design standard of “carbon neutral or near carbon neutral” for new building projects, it is vital for Chinese design professionals to have proper training.

Aksamija spoke about building envelopes, including facade design strategies for particular climates, passive design methods, thermal performance, advanced facade systems, innovative materials and the challenges of high-rise and double-envelope facades.

“The design process for net zero buildings is not traditional,” she said. “It requires engineers, architects and builders to collaborate on a project from the beginning.Also, it requires use of building performance simulations throughout the design process, since the impact of each design decision on energy performance needs to be quantified. Net zero design doesn’t necessarily cost more, but it does require more planning and expertise.”

The training program, which included question-and answer-sessions after the presentations, was simultaneously translated. All eight presenters were all from the U.S., and only two were academic. Others were from major architecture and engineering firms.

Aksamija said her book, published in 2013 and currently being translated into Chinese, was meant as a guide for practitioners, rather than academics. But over the past several years, it has also become popular in academic circles and is being used as a textbook in several universities that teach courses on facade design.

Aksamija’sinterdisciplinary research approach spans architecture, engineering, material and computer science. Her research expertise includes building science and sustainability, emerging technologies, digital design and representations, and information modeling.

She teaches a seminar on designing facades for sustainability and energy efficiency that incorporates much of the material presented at the forum in China and gives students an opportunity to learn principles for designing high-performing facade systems.

Her latest book, published in 2016, is “Integrating Innovation in Architecture: Design, Methods and Technology for Progressive Practice and Research.” It discusses strategies for setting up and organizing innovative architectural firms, integrating research in practice, and reviews technological innovations that are impacting the architectural profession.