Keeping Up the Right Façade

The colour and density of the frit needs to be selected judiciously so as not to hamper outward view through the glass. One alternative that can be used in combination or independently from the one above is to use low-emissivity glass.

This type of coated glass helps reduce infra-red transmission, while allowing natural visible light to enter the building. Low-emissivity coatings incidentally also help reduce the U-value discussed above, which represents a double benefit of this approach.

Glass colour also plays an important role in this respect. Green and blue glass generally performs best (more light than heat flows through), while grey glass is the worst overall (more heat comes in than visible light). As a last resort, or if mandated by aesthetics, external shading devices can also be used on the façades.

While it is important to control heat and visible light, reflectivity can make or break the façade of an airport. If the façade material is too reflective (glossy metal cladding, reflective glass, etc.), it may affect pilots landing and taking off, as well as controllers in the control tower. This represents a potential danger, thus needs attention. It may not be very easy to control with complex, articulated façades, since reflectivity varies with the angle at which the surface is viewed.

One other important consideration when designing the façade of an airport is acoustic control. Planes can generate very high noise levels. Sound transmission through the façade should be controlled to reduce this noise to acceptable levels within the airport.

Fortunately, airports are typically fairly noisy places, given the high density of people and the level of activity inside, thus the noise criteria are not extremely stringent.

Typically, laminated glass or DGUs are sufficient to achieve acceptable noise levels internally. If higher levels of noise cut-off are required, then it is possible to consider laminated DGUs, which offer outstanding noise-reduction performance.

The actual solution varies from airport to airport, depending on local regulations, as well as the expected size of aircrafts that will be using the airport.

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