Double-skin facade
The Double Skin Façade is a system consisting of two skins placed in such a way that air flows in the intermediate cavity. The ventilation of the cavity can be natural, fan supported or mechanical. Apart from the type of the ventilation inside the cavity, the origin and destination of the air can differ depending mostly on climatic conditions, the use, the location, the occupational hours of the building and the HVAC strategy. The glass skins can be single or double glazing units with a distance from 20cm up to 2 meters. Often, for protection and heat extraction reasons during the cooling period, solar shading devices are placed inside the cavity


The essential concept of the Double Skin Façade was first explored and tested by the Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier
Le Corbusier
Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, better known as Le Corbusier , was a Swiss-born French architect, designer, urbanist, writer and painter, famous for being one of the pioneers of what now is called modern architecture. He was born in Switzerland and became a French citizen in 1930...

 in the early 20th century. His idea, which he called mur neutralisant (neutralizing wall), involved the insertion of heating/cooling pipes between large
layers of glass. Such a system was employed in his Villa Schwob (La Chaux-de-Fonds
La Chaux-de-Fonds
La Chaux-de-Fonds is a Swiss city of the district of La Chaux-de-Fonds in the canton of Neuchâtel. It is located in the Jura mountains at an altitude of 1000 m, a few kilometres from the French border. After Geneva and Lausanne, it is the third largest city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of...

, Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

, 1916), and proposed for several other projects, including the League of Nations competition (1927), Centrosoyuz building (Moscow, 1928-33), and Cité du Refuge (Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, 1930). American engineers studying the system in 1930 informed Le Corbusier that it would use much more energy than a conventional air system, but Harvey Bryan later concluded Le Corbusier's idea had merit if it included solar heating.

Another early experiment was the 1937 Alfred Loomis
Alfred Lee Loomis
Alfred Lee Loomis was an American attorney, investment banker, philanthropist, scientist/physicist, pioneer in military radar usages, inventor of the LORAN or Long Range Navigation System, and lifelong patron of scientific research...

 house by architect William Lescaze
William Lescaze
William Edmond Lescaze was a Swiss-born American architect, and is one of the pioneers of modernism in American architecture....

 in Tuxedo Park, NY. This house included "an elaborate double envelope" with a 2-foot-deep air space conditioned by a separate system from the house itself. The object was to maintain high humidity levels inside.

One of the first modern examples to be constructed was the Occidental Chemical Building (Niagara Falls, New York, 1980) by Cannon Design. This building, essentially a glass cube, included a 4-foot-deep cavity between glass layers to pre-heat air in winter.

The recent resurgence of efficient building design has renewed interest in this concept. Since the USGBC rewards points for reduction in energy consumption vs. a base case, this strategy has been used to optimize energy performance of buildings.

Technical Details

The cavity between the two skins may be either naturally or mechanically ventilated. In cool climates the solar gain within the cavity may be circulated to the occupied space to offset heating requirements, while in hot climates the cavity may be vented out of the building to mitigate solar gain
Solar gain
Solar gain refers to the increase in temperature in a space, object or structure that results from solar radiation...

 and decrease the cooling load. In each case the assumption is that a higher insulative value may be achieved by using this glazing configuration over a conventional glazing configuration.


The advantages of double skin facades over conventional single skin facades is not clear-cut; similar insulative values may be obtained using conventional high performance, low-e windows. The cavity results in a decrease in usable floor space, and depending on the strategy for ventilating the cavity it may have problems with condensation, becoming soiled or introducing outside noise. The construction of a second skin may also present a significant increase in materials and design costs.

Building energy modeling of double skin facades is inherently more difficult because of varying heat transfer
Heat transfer
Heat transfer is a discipline of thermal engineering that concerns the exchange of thermal energy from one physical system to another. Heat transfer is classified into various mechanisms, such as heat conduction, convection, thermal radiation, and phase-change transfer...

properties within the cavity, making the modeling of energy performance and the prediction of savings debatable.

More information on Double Skin Facades

A literature review on Double Skin Facades was written by Harris Poirazis in 2004. The main aim of the report is to describe the concept of Double Skin Façades based on different sources of literature. The literature survey covers a brief description of the concept, history and common Double Skin Façade types and classifications. A technical description including construction parameters, (façade) opening principles and choice of panes and shading devices is also given. The possibilities and limitations of the system are described and the advantages and disadvantages are presented. Daylight simulations control strategies are also discussed. Finally, roughly 50 case studies are briefly described.
In order to serve as a literature report for the SHC IEA Task 34/ECBCS Annex 43 an extensive description of modelling approaches and methods for DSF was added in the existing literature review report (in 2006), covering modelling issues including airflow and thermal simulations. In his PhD thesis, an analysis of different Double Skin Facade types is carried out and conclusions are drawn for intergation in nordic climatic conditions.

External links

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