Double Skin Façades, Technology and Innovation in Architecture: Learning from 20 years of experience in Germany

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Some 25 years ago, the development of Double-skin Glass façades (DSFs) grew in Germany as a promising alternative to address the well-known problems of curtain walls, particularly heat loss, over-heating and noise, by combining a thermal buffer and sun protection in a ventilated glass chamber. The introduction and spread of DSFs was not only based on technical innovations from the field of building physics, but also strongly fostered by a growing trend within architectural practice, including social and aesthetic values, such as the construction of a “green” corporate image or the pervasiveness of fashionable and widely published buildings that served as examples.
In this paper, I discuss the articulation of the technical fundamentals and the social mechanisms that promoted the use of DSFs in buildings in Germany starting in the 1990s, based on available documentation from patents, industry catalogues, contemporary literature and ex-post evaluations of the buildings. I hold that DSFs make a clear case for a combined techno-social development, far from linear or objective, but intertwined with a cultural and social elements suggesting a new understanding of technical decisions presumed neutral. The case of DSFs shows how this process goes beyond objective technical properties or performance, and needs to be accounted for and kept in mind in order to fully understand the development and success or failure of technological innovations in architecture.


Conference Paper: EES 2015 – Multidisciplinary Symposium on Energy, Efficiency and Sustainability, November 2015

Autor: Renato D’Alençon


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