High-Rise Building Skins of Tomorrow: ‘Premium for Height’ vs. ‘Benefit for Height

Session: Track B: Technology and the Next Generation Façades and Innovation Award

Christina EisenbarthProject image

Christina Eisenbarth
Architect & Researcher, University of Stuttgart, ILEK University of Stuttgart

The rising impact of climate change and the limitations of natural resources force designers to drastically rethink the largest high-rise surface: building skins. Extreme heat affects urban architecture and causes considerable personal injuries and economic damage with both likely to rise in the future. The increase of temperature and precipitation rates urgently requires more retention and evaporation areas without further occupying the ground surface in an urban area. Nowadays, facades are predominantly designed to protect the interior but what if the immense area of high-rise building envelopes could contribute to more urban sustainability and climate resilience?

Fazlur Khan points out, as buildings become taller there is a "premium for height," and relates to how the material consumption increases exponentially with the building height due to the rising wind loads acting on the façade. What if this was not seen as a problematic challenge but as a potential to mitigate urban heat islands and inundations?

The implementation of hydroactive textile skins opens up new functionalities in both new and existing facades, taking advantage of a building’s height. As an artificial lightweight retention surface, it enables the absorption of wind-driven rain with use inside the building and a time-delayed release of water for cooling the urban environment through evaporation. With increased height, high wind velocities significantly increase the amount of wind-driven rain striking the façade as well as its potential evaporation performance. Considering this as a new category of “benefit for height” we foresee a future era of climate‐adaptive and climate‐resilient high‐rise buildings with an improved ecological footprint.