Facade Engineer Greece

Facade Engineering in Greece: Anna Ioannidou Kati

Anna Ioannidou Kati is a Senior Facade Engineer in one of the most famous facade engineering offices globally, Eckersley O’ Callaghan (EOC). She’s holding a Civil Engineering degree from Technical University of Athens and an M.Sc. in Building Engineering from Delft University in Netherlands. Based in London for the last 5 years, Anna managed the Facade Engineering services for Piraeus Tower, probably the first project in Greece where a facade consultant was appointed. We discussed with Anna her experience, as well as the reasons why Facade Engineering is a common practice in many countries globally but not in Greece, at least yet.

Anna, what is the real value that facade engineering brings in the projects?

Facade engineering can bring significant value to projects. As a discipline it aims to enhance both architectural aesthetics and performance of building envelopes. It looks at how the facade can influence energy efficiency, daylight, indoor thermal and visual comfort of buildings. As facade engineers we also investigate and ensure the buildability and structural integrity of the architectural proposals from early stages.  Overall, facade engineering plays a crucial role in achieving sustainable, visually appealing, and high-performing building envelopes.

Why do you believe that facade engineering is not popular in Greece yet? As far as I am concerned, Piraeus Tower was the first project that this function actually applied to. 

Facade engineering is a relatively new discipline not only in Greece, but even across the world. Architects and engineers were always collaborating to explore new materials and technologies for building envelopes, but the term and specialization ‘facade engineering’ probably emerged in the last 50 years or so. With the advent of modern construction methods and the increasing complexity of building designs, facade engineering became more and more popular. Also, the increasingly strict regulations related with sustainability that slowly came into effect in the last 10-15 years increased the complexity of facade designs and led to a demand for specialist consultants that could advise on facade technologies and performance.  

In Greece, traditionally, there was an intentional simplicity in architectural designs of building envelopes. This tendency likely stemmed from our country’s high seismic activity, leading to simple buildings in plan, and simple architectural elements and materials to the building exterior. Of course, the recent recession contributed to the construction industry being dormant for a few years. During this period, very few large and complex buildings were designed and constructed, and thus the circumstances did not allow for this discipline to emerge and grow like the rest of Europe and abroad.

Would you think that this discipline will have bigger demand in Greece in the coming years?

Greece seems to be entering a new era as it is starting to experience a significant growth in the construction sector. Private and government initiatives are slowly driving investments in new construction developments. We are currently seeing various notable new projects under construction, such as large mix-use buildings, high-rise towers, and refurbishments. We also see more and more ambitious and complex designs from Architects who are not afraid to explore new materials and technologies. This is where facade engineering can play a crucial role guiding Architects and Clients in achieving buildable, sustainable, and high-performing envelopes. Therefore, I do believe this discipline is going to grow in Greece in the next few years.  

What was the biggest challenge that you faced in Piraeus Tower?

The biggest challenge we faced was probably the construction method of the facade. The industry across the world has embraced the design of unitised curtain walling for tall and repetitive buildings, such as Piraeus Tower, due to the benefits of the off-site manufacturing. However, due to the lack of tall buildings in Greece, this system had never been applied in any project and there was an understandable hesitance on the ability of the local market to deliver this project technically and within time and budget. During this process we had multiple discussions with Greek system suppliers and installers. We understood that the industry had the required ‘know-how’, they were only waiting for the right opportunity to put this knowledge into effect. I am very glad that Piraeus Tower was built with a unitised system, as this makes it the first building in Greece where this technology was applied and stigmatizes a new era for constructing tall buildings in Greece.

Facade Engineering Greece

In what stage exactly did you get involved in this project? 

Ilias Papageorgiou from PILA reached out to EOC during the competition stage to provide technical support on their facade design proposal for Piraeus Tower. During the competition, we explored options for the construction method of the facade and investigated the optimization of the external shading fins. It is very fulfilling being involved in projects from such early stages, as this is the time when important decisions are made. We delivered a technically feasible design proposal and provided confidence to the Client that the design was buildable and efficient. Collaborating with architects for competitions is something we do very often, and we see more and more architects requesting our input due to the increased value we can bring in projects.

Tell us a few things about the dynamics in the project team. By project team, I mean the Architect, the Client, the General Contractor, the Facade Contractor.

Dynamics in project teams can vary depending on the type of project and the procurement process. The Architect is responsible for designing the overall appearance of the building and often acts as lead designer. They need to work closely with Clients to understand their vision, programme and budget constraints. Clients on the other hand, need to be actively involved in the decision-making process and constantly provide feedback on the design team’s proposals. The General Contractor is responsible for managing the construction phase of the project, while the Facade Contractor is appointed to design and build the building envelope. The sooner the General Contractor is involved in the project, the more influence they can have on the design solutions. As facade engineers, we often work with contractors at pre-construction phase to ensure the appearance and performance of the facade is in line with the requirements of the project. Effective collaboration and mutual respect among all members of the team are essential for achieving successful project outcomes, as each stakeholder brings unique expertise and perspectives into the table.  

You are one of the few qualified Greek Facade Engineers. What is the educational or career path that someone becomes Facade Engineer?

There are actually many Greeks that have been educated abroad as Building or Facade Engineers following their first degree in Architecture or Engineering. The number is probably disproportionate to the opportunities this discipline has in Greece at the moment, but hopefully things will change in the future. Most of them currently work internationally.

If someone is interested in a career in Facade Engineering, first they would need a degree in either Architecture or Engineering. Then I would recommend pursuing a relevant master’s degree in either Building or Facade Engineering. There are excellent universities that offer relevant studies such as Delft University of Technology, Politecnico di Milano or UWE Bristol

For young individuals aspiring to enter the field of facade engineering, what advice would you give them based on your experience?

I would recommend young individuals during the first steps of their career to explore job opportunities aboard, if possible. Facade engineering is a well-established discipline in Europe and the UK. There is significant opportunity for personal growth on the subject through hands-on experience on the various projects which are currently under development.

In addition, I am an advocate of being a ‘generalist’. I believe it is important to have the opportunity to explore different materials, systems, and technical challenges as early on as possible. Of course, each person has specific interests and areas they wish to specialize on, which they should still carry on pursuing. I do believe though it is important in the beginning to get as much exposure as possible to different building and facade typologies, which will make you more flexible in responding to various challenges in the future.  

You are active at a global level. Do you see any technological innovation in the facade business?

At Eckersley O’Callaghan we are working on a variety of projects on a global scale where different facade technologies are often explored, from building integrated photovoltaics, dynamic glazing and shading to 3D printed materials. However, it feels that the industry is now facing a difficult challenge related with sustainability and the relevant goals for 2050. The mindset for assessing the effectiveness of a certain product or technology is being put into a whole life cycle perspective, where impact on both operational and embodied carbon is measured.

The design process has become more complex and technologies that seemed very promising in the past may now be put under the microscope and challenged on a life cycle level. Therefore, before any new technological innovation, it feels that first we need to go back to basics and challenge the current and most common construction approaches. It is very promising that the industry is slowly reacting to this new state of things and we see more and more suppliers re-engineering their products with the aim to make them more sustainable by reducing embodied carbon. Most notable are the efforts of the supply chain to increase the post-consumer recycled content in the most used materials in the facade industry; aluminium and glass.