Pre-fabricated facades – niche forever or mass market soon?

2 November 2015, Vienna – Professional stakeholders from the building and energy sectors gathered in Vienna this week to discuss the deployment of pre-fabricated façades in energy efficient building projects. Hosted by the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) of Vienna and organised in partnership with the EU-GUGLE and MEEFS projects, the workshop gave an opportunity to focus on lessons learnt from real life projects.

Going beyond insulating the envelope, this approach allows for the integration of ventilation systems, efficient windows or even solar panel modules. Off-site fabrication of these components allows for improved precision and quality. For tenants, it also means the retrofitting works will be shorter and lead to less noise and dust pollution, hence improving the overall comfort and acceptance.  This technique was found to be particularly useful in schools retrofitted in Innsbruck as part of the SINFONIA project, where the use of pre-fabricated façades reduced disturbance to the minimum. Finally, pre-fabricated façades are particularly well adapted to the use of light and eco-friendly materials such as wood.

With more than 40% of existing buildings being older than 50 years, there is definitely a market for energy efficiency renovation. However, the market for prefabricated façades is limited by a series of barriers, including the fragmentation of the building value chain, the high payback time, and the structural nature of the buildings. Nevertheless, some building typologies are particularly suited to prefabricated façades.  According to Frank Lattke, from Lattkearchitekten, prefabricated façades could actually be cheaper than traditional retrofitting when implemented on buildings without load bearing façades, where the new façade elements can simply replace the existing outer layer.

Under the right conditions (ease of access, structural typology, skilled providers), prefabricated façades have proved to bring real added value compared to traditional refurbishing techniques, and hence have real replication potential, in particular for the social housing sector.

For more information, please visit the MeeFS and EU-GUGLE websites.

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