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December 2012-July 2013



Graduation Studio Research l Facade Specialisation


December 2012-July 2013



Graduation Studio Research l Facade Specialisation


Photo of the 3D printed window frame

RESEARCH ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF A GRP FACADE WITH Project: Research on the development of

a Glass Fiber Reinforced Polyester (GRP) facade with integrated GRP window frames Mentors: Arie Bergsma, Marcel Bilow, Jhon de Wild, Jack Smit In collaboration with the companies: Dgmr, Polux BV

RESEARCH QUESTION The goal of the graduation thesis was to achieve the development of an integrated GRP façade system with operable windows where only two main materials (GRP and Glass) will be used. The design of the windows should obtain a high degree of integration and the entire façade should exhibit better performance values in several aspects over traditional façade systems. The research question can be summarized in: “What principles should a design of a Glass Fiber Reinforced Polyester (GRP) façade with integrated operable GRP window frames meet, in order to achieve high degree of integration and a great number of performance benefits over a conventional GRP façade?” This question is divided in several sub-questions: -How can an operable window be attached to a GRP façade element without the use of aluminum or steel? -How will the detailing of such an element be? -How can a GRP façade element with an integrated GRP operable window frame be manufactured? -Which are the performance benefits of such a facade system? Stadskantoor building in Utrecht l Front view and facade element detail (Dgmr)


RESEARCH CONTRIBUTION The research provides: - a design concept about how a GRP facade can be made. The designing of course of a GRP facade cannot lead to one exclusive result but it provides the development of a general facade principle - the knowledge regarding whether a GRP facade is possible to be manufactured with the help of current technologies. The research studies the possibilities and the inabilities of current production techniques.

Details of the connection of the GRP element and the aluminum frame that supports a non operable window (Dgmr)

“In the future there will be few construction needs that plastics and advanced resins cannot meet�

[ Prof. Jan Brouwer ]

During the research, an analysis of the Stadskantoor Building in Utrecht (NL) was performed. The building’s facade elements consist of GRP sandwich panels with aluminum window frames to support the operable windows. This method of construction has been realized in almost every GRP façade including the SoZaWe Building in Groningen and the Hilton Hotel in Schiphol (both in the Netherlands). According to this method the window panes are supported by traditional aluminum frames which are mounted onto the GRP sandwich panels. The frame is mounted the same way it is done in traditional facades of for instance brick. During the manufacturing of the GRP panels a special space for the aluminum frame is left. This has exactly the same size with the frame that needs to be attached to the panel. After the panel is finished, the aluminum frame is bolted onto it. An adhesive is also added to ensure the façade’s water tightness. The main advantage of this method is that it allows having operable windows on a façade. The aluminum frames provide an easy and well-tested solution for façade manufacturers but when combined with GRP materials they present some drawbacks. GRP façade units if well designed they have very high thermal insulation properties, better than those of aluminum frames. Thus, the combination of these two materials ruins the overall thermal performance of the façade. Final goal was the design of a new innovative design where only GRP and glass will be used for the realisation of facades with operable wndows. Stadskantoor building in Utrecht

RESEARCH ON FRAMING MATERIALS Different examples of currently used framing materials were examined and compared.These are aluminum, steel, timber, PVC, fiberglass and their combinations (timber/aluminum and GRP/aluminum). At the table below, ten different examples of the most commonly used window frames are displayed and compared according to their GRP window frame (Ecliptica)

basic functions. These are thermal insulation, drainage, stiffness, sound insulation and andjustability of the glazing width. Through this comparison, several advantages of GRP as a framing material are highlighted. It is a light weight, strong and stiff material that produces complex shapes and presents exceptional thermal performance values.

WALL - TO - FRAME CONNECTIONS The different ways of connecting a window frame with a solid wall construction were also analyzed. The walls were divided into two main categories, the traditional concrete/brick walls and the composite sandwich panel walls. All the possible and so far existing combina-

tions of window frame materials and solid wall construction methods are presented at the following table. As observed, the traditional wall structure can be combined with every framing material, while the composite wall structure has only been combined with aluminum frames.

COMPOSITE STRUCTURE: The connection method followed in case of a composite solid wall connected to a GRP frame is relatively similar with that of a traditional solid wall connected to a GRP frame. The aluminum frame in this case is directly connected to the GRP faรงade element with the use of screws. No extra thermal insulation in required and no other water-protection layer is added. The two elements are just attached to each other. Connection detail of a traditional solid wall connected to a GRP window frame

Aluminum frame l Traditional wall

GRP frame l Traditional wall

GRP frame l Composite wall


STEPS OF DESIGNING A NEW FACADE The starting point for the design process of new GRP faรงade concepts was the development of various hand-made sketches. The sketches were based on the previous analysis of window frames, functions and wall connection principles and aimed to provide a first idea of the GRP faรงade. Several aspects, as water and air-tightness, stiffness and integration principles were explored.

The starting point of the research was the current way of producing GRP facades, while several other possible developments of the current technique were explored. According to the final one (fifth sketch on the right column), the outer window frame does not exist any more and the solid wall is designed in a way so that it can function as both a wall and an outer frame. The vent profile of the window is in this case directly attached to the wall.

FACADE CALCUL ATIONS For the evaluation of the new designs several attributes were considered. -Thermal insulation -Acoustical performance -Stiffness -Weight -Manufacturing method -Manufacturing and installation time -Production cost Three façade cases were compared: -A composite façade having aluminum frames -A composite façade having GRP frames -A composite façade having integrated GRP frames

The outcome of the calculation is that the designing and manufacturing a GRP façade with integrated operable GRP window frames, is possible. The new design presents: -high thermal insulation -acoustical performance values -water and air tightness -high stiffness of the construction and at the same time low material usage -low weight -feasibility in manufacturing -ease in assembly and installation -less manufacturing, assembly and installation time needed -high degree of integration of the façade’s elements -ease in disassembly -high quality of the fi nal product


3D render of the final product

Vertical section of a GRP facade element

Horizontal section of a GRP facade element

MOCK-UP MODEL After the final design, the production of a small piece of the GRP product was realised, as the final step of this research. The mock up model consisted of a GRP sandwich wall section of 120mm thickness and a GRP window frame element of the same thickness, that was attached on the wall. For the manufacturing of the model, the product has been divided into two main parts: - the wall section part and -the window frame part The manufacturing company POLUX helped me during the whole manufacturing procedure of the sandwich wall section, by provididng me the knowledge, the materials and the equipment I needed. For the production of the GRP window frame my tutor Dr. -Ing. M. Bilow offered me his 3D printer. So, the GRP frame and the rubber gaskets of it were printed in 3D.

Grp project