Case Studies

The following case study buildings integrate facade strategies with the overall building design and building systems to achieve high performance—energy performance as well as visual and thermal comfort. The buildings represent a range of approaches and performance. When available, measured or simulated energy data is provided. For additional information, references are provided. See also the design strategies section.To see PDFs of each case study, click on the links below.

London City Hall
London, UK
City Hall includes a series of green features, such as an unconventional form to minimize surface area and self-shade southern surfaces in the summer. Although the outer plane of the double skin facade is all glass, the inner wall contains significantly less glazing area.

Design Strategies Employed
- massing / orientation
- transparency (window to wall ratio)
- double skin facade
- operable shading in cavity
- natural ventilation

Heelis
Swindon, UK
Due to its deep floor plan and two-story configuration, this building’s high performance envelope includes the roof with north-facing skylights and south-oriented PVs. A series of double-height spaces and courtyards facilitate daylighting and natural ventilation. As documented by measured data, the building is one of the best-performing UK office buildings.

Design Strategies Employed
- massing / orientation
- transparency (window to wall ratio)
- natural ventilation

Het Kasteel
Amsterdam,
the Netherlands
This new housing project on the edge of Amsterdam uses a double skin facade to manage solar gain and ventilation through operable windows and shading in the cavity. The perimeter spaces also serve as balconies or glazed sun rooms.

Design Strategies Employed
- double skin facade
- operable shading in cavity
- natural ventilation

Arup Fitzrovia
London, UK
Arup has designed and engineered many advanced technical facades, but for one of their own latest office buildings, they chose a straightforward strategy—not with a fully transparent facade, but with ample transparency for daylighting and views.

Design Strategies Employed
- transparency (window to wall ratio)
- daylighting
- natural ventilation

Wessex
Bath, UK

When it was completed nearly ten years ago, Wessex was considered to be the greenest office building in the UK. It is still a very pleasant and effective building that is well managed and consumes about 1/3 of the energy of a conventional office building.

Design Strategies Employed
- massing / orientation
- transparency (window to wall ratio)
- fixed exterior shading; natural ventilation

RWE
Essen, Germany
Completed in 1997, this building is considered to be one of the first to incorporate a double skin facade for sustainable performance. Daylighting, solar control, and natural ventilation are well-integrated into the facade design.
Design Strategies Employed
- double skin facade
- operable shading in cavity
- natural ventilation
Deutsche Messe
Hannover, Germany
Another early high-performance double skin building, the Deutsche Messe tower also was an early adopter of a terra cotta rainscreen system to clad the core elements which are pulled out to two opposing corners.
Design Strategies Employed
- double skin facade
- operable shading in cavity
- natural ventilation
Nord/LB
Hannover, Germany
Daylighting, views, and natural ventilation are significant elements that influenced the courtyard and tower design of this building. Facade strategies are applied selectively—double skin facades are used where needed for acoustics, air quality, or where wind exposure wouldn’t allow exterior shading.
Design Strategies Employed
- double skin facade
- operable shading in cavity
- natural ventilation
- advanced daylighting
GSW Headquarters Berlin, Germany This is athird early double skin building, but utilizes a significantly different concept. With colorful automated shading panels in the cavity, the west double skin wall serves as a solar flue. Natural ventilation enters through the east double skin wall, across specially design corridor openings, and up the flue.
Design Strategies Employed
- double skin facade
- operable shading in cavity
- natural ventilation
Nordic Embassies Berlin, Germany

The embassies are a collection of coordinated individual buildings. The outer skin of the complex is clad with patinated copper panels with horizontal louvers at the windows. The individual buildings use a range of facade strategies including operable exterior shading.

Design Strategies Employed
- fixed and operable exterior shading
- transparency (window to wall ratio)
- natural ventilation

DWS—Carré Mainzer Landestraße Frankfurt, Germany The compelling facade composition of this building integrates double skin facades with shading in the cavity, as well as operable exterior vertical bi-fold louvers. The building includes both office and residential uses.
Design Strategies Employed
- operable exterior shading
- natural ventilation
- double skin facade
Deutsche Post
Bonn, Germany
With a completely transparent outer and inner skin, this building relies on dynamic shading within the cavity, as well as operable inner and outer windows to help moderate the interior without air conditioning. The envelope is supplemented with a low-energy geothermal system to temper thermal mass.

Design Strategies Employed
- double skin facade
- operable shading in cavity
- natural ventilation

Münchner Tor
Munich, Germany
This office building utilizes a refined double skin system for both solar and acoustic control. The building complex includes a 20 story tower and linear building. Other low energy strategies include stack ventilation chimneys and a geothermal system to pre-condition supply air.
Design Strategies Employed
- double skin facade
- operable shading in cavity
- natural ventilation
ørestad
Copenhagen, Denmark

The operable exterior shading devices—colored glass fins with graphics—create this signature facade as well as enhancing the performance of this higher education building.

Design Strategies Employed
-operable exterior shading
-natural ventilation

Philogical Library
Berlin, Germany
The form of this building envelope merges the notion of “wall” and “roof.” Glazing is used selectively to provide natural light and views. Shading and natural ventilation help manage temperature and daylighting.
Design Strategies Employed
- transparency (window to wall ratio)
- double skin facade
- operable shading in cavity
- natural ventilation
Jakob Kaiser Haus 2 Munich, Germany This federal government building elegantly incorporates exterior venetian blinds and natural ventilation via operable windows. The building is a portion of a larger complex designed as a series of wings and courtyards to provide the benefits of a narrow floor plate.

Design Strategies Employed
- massing / orientation
- operable exterior shading
- transparency (window to wall ratio)
- natural ventilation

Umweltbundesamt
Dessau, Germany
As the federal environmental agency, this building had extremely ambitious performance goals. Although not quite meeting them, the measured performance documented by an energy certificate is impressive. A beautiful atrium space allows a narrow floorplate while minimizing the skin exposed to the exterior.

Design Strategies Employed
- semi-conditioned atrium
- transparency (window to wall ratio)
- operable exterior shading
- natural ventilation

Lufthansa
Frankfurt, Germany
To provide visual connections, natural ventilation, and daylighting while mitigating the acoustic and air quality impacts of the adjacent highway and airport, this building incorporates a series of semi-conditioned atria and a double skin facade.
Design Strategies Employed
- semi-conditioned atria
- double skin facade
- operable shading in cavity
- natural ventilation
KfW Headquarters Frankfurt, Germany One of the most recent double skin facades, this building is just being completed in 2009. According to the design team, "the double-layer wind-pressurized facade offers natural ventilation independent of external conditions, high insulation and efficient solar protection."
Design Strategies Employed
- double skin facade
- operable shading in cavity
- natural ventilation
Prisma
Frankfurt, Germany
The double skin facades and large central atrium of this office building provide ventilation and passive conditioning to minimize energy use. The ventilation scheme provides passive heat in the winter, and removes excess heat during summer months.
Design Strategies Employed
- semi-conditioned atrium
- double skin facade
- operable shading in cavity
- natural ventilation
SOKA BAU
Wiesbaden, Germany
Using a clear organization of east-west bars, this building then treats the north and south elevations with specialized systems to optimize daylighting and solar control. Minimal glazing is used at the east and west elevations.

Design Strategies Employed
- massing / orientation
- transparency (window to wall ratio)
- advanced daylighting
- operable exterior shading
- natural ventilation

Find this article useful? Share it!