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Solving the Penetration Puzzle



The danger is truly in the details when it comes to penetrating a building façade. Between complexity making a huge difference to the cost of a project, making a hole in the exterior wall of a building can lead to conversations of thermal management, necessary reduction of carbon emissions or even how to protect against the effects of extreme weather. If penetration is not done right, the results could lead to safety being compromised.


Thermal Management with Penetration

Crucially, we need to hit the correct procedures and behaviours around thermal management when preparing to penetrate a building’s façade. Understanding that extremes in weather could lead to unwarranted thermal bridging means that we can stay vigilant and introduce measures to manage the thermal properties of the building.


Thermal breaks are worth considering at every penetration point. For balcony anchors, choosing an anchor which has better thermal performance but poor structural performance is likely to not only cost more but fundamentally not provide the benefit of having a similarly performing thermal anchor which enables fewer connections to be used. Guarding the balcony anchor stub is vital, though extra considerations should be taken to ensure safety in weather extremes.


The effects of penetration in extreme weather

Across the globe, extreme weather remains prevalent. Peaking heat, freezing colds, earthquakes, strong winds and more can have a severe effect on the building envelope and penetrations to the façade are no exception.


Even if the penetration to the façade is utilized to bolster any natural ventilation to the building and stop overheating, precaution must be taken to make sure strong winds do not loosen any fixtures to the penetrations, such as balcony anchors.


Furthermore, protecting a penetration from extreme colds, in markets such as Canada, is crucial especially when considering how the internal concrete structure of a building could corrode if exposed to adverse levels of cold. Making smaller, more deliberate incisions to the façade when needing to penetrate could lead to fewer opportunities for the concrete to corrode in the first place.


Firestopping

It’s essential to get things right with fire. Fire safety should be at the forefront of our minds at all times, especially since the results of the Hackitt Report, and making sure mistakes are not made could be the difference between getting penetration right and disastrously wrong.


A strong firestop at a penetration junction point can ensure the fire rating of a building meets national guidelines as well as help to protect residents and the building at large from the spread of a fire inside an apartment.


Reducing Carbon

Reduction of carbon emissions, both embodied and operational, can be affected by the penetration of the façade. The moment a hole is opened for the addition of windows, ventilation or balconies, low-carbon connection methods need to be considered.


Using recycled metals such as aluminium or steel can reduce the embodied carbon present in a building and, as previously mentioned, correct firestopping measures can make these environmentally friendly connections thermally sound too. Using energy efficient windows with low emissivity coatings and insulated frames can reduce the operational carbon needed in an apartment complex’s lifetime as heating will be summarily less of a concern.


Finally, the cost implications of carbon reduction are staggering – in the short term, building materials that have a lower embodied carbon footprint (such as extruded aluminium) might be more expensive at the outset, but in the long-term, buildings with lower embodied carbon tend to be more energy-efficient and require less maintenance, resulting in lower operating costs and a higher-resale value for the customer.


Between guarding a balcony anchor stub as a method of thermal management, making smaller and more deliberate incisions to create sturdier anchor points during a penetration or making informed decisions on the reasons we’re penetrating in the first place – the façade plays a crucial role. Don’t compromise when it comes to penetration – the danger is in the details.

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