A building facade is just the exterior face of the building, and the word ‘facade‘ is used as an architectural term to describe the presentation of the building exterior.
The photo below shows the common “Washington Row“ home in Washington, DC from the front exterior. This particular style of rowhome is ubiquituous in Washington DC with a square bay and segmented header windows.
In the image below, the architectural elements of the facades are similiar, but the building to the left has a segmented bay.
This type of historic building facade is very common in the historic neighborhoods of Washington DC, Georgetown, and Capitol hill and Capitol Hill. However, the aesthetic and elements of building facades can vary so greatly that it can include all different types of materials and archirectural details. In other entries on the IDS website, you can see a variety of types of building facades such as glass curtain walls, granite stone, and many other materials.
Building facades serve several purposes, some functions are obvious but the details of how building elements work in systems is interesting.
1. WEATHER SHIELD. It’s important, in almost every non tropical climate in the world, that building facades keep the weather out of the building peris a building. In the Winter the facade walls must be insulated enough to keep the cold out. In the summer, depending on the exact material makeup and climate zone on the building, a facade may work as a heat sync, but more importantly than anything else, the facade must keep wind driven precipitation out of the building.
2. DURABILITY. Some materials are inexpensive and can go up fast and be replaced fast, but in most climates it’s important that materials are durable and withstand weather and time. All materials deteriorate. Some some materials such as stone and brick deteriorate on a very long time scale. These materials, in some cases, can last for thousands of years.
2. FENESTRATION. Fenestration is the admittance of light into a building. Windows or fixed glass openings provide such light, but but the openings in a masonry facade are engineered with great effort to allow these openings to support the individual masonry units above.
3. STRUCTURAL SUPPORT. One of the core purposes of a wall is to support the roof. In the case of is the case of Washington DC multiple level buildings, the facade, in many cases is also part of the supporting structural load path to hold the floors in the building as well. In most cases in buildings like this, joist or set with a fire-cut into into mortised beam pockets. In traditional balloon framing, by comparison though, the floors were built with a rim joist fastened and in cases hung or recessed (similar to let-in bracing) from wooden studs.
4. CONTROLLED ACCESS AND SECURITY. Doors and portals allow people to come and go into and out of buildings. However, in most places in America security is extremely important. Doors need to be able to be strongly secured to give us the freedom to leave the property unguarded without concern of unwanted entry.
5. BEAUTY / STATUS. Some building owners may think of themselves as humble and believe that but they’re not concerned with the aesthetic of their property. But the truth is Going back for thousands of years humans have been and making efforts to work within economic constraints to create the most prestigious and building facades possible. Evidence of these architectural efforts are present in every city in America.
Another picture of traditional 100+ year old Capitol Hill building facades follows, showing the historic beauty of which we are so fond.
By comparison, the building side facade is very different, here the builder has used a plywood type of siding.
The building in the photo below, a commercial highrise building, is an example of a completely different type of facade, built with aluminum frame glass and aluminum panels.
In the photo below you can see several buildings with great variety in each facade. The example of commercial buildings shows starkly contrasting architectural styles.