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    Changing Faces: Examining the Evolution of the Masonry Facade

    Published: 2014

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    Hybrid wall systems make up the majority of the masonry facades that were constructed shortly after the advent of the skeletal frame structural system in the late 19th century. These facades represent the design progression from load bearing mass masonry walls to the modern cavity wall systems utilized today. While the introduction of the independent structural frame (steel or less commonly used reinforced concrete) was the driving force behind the shift in design theory for masonry facades acting as part of the structure to become an element of the building envelope, multiple other factors also played a role in this transition. Some of these elements included ventilation, efficient use of lighting energy, interest in maximizing leasable area and volume, the introduction and perfection of the plate glass industry, and ultimately the arrival of affordable and reliable mechanical systems after World War II. The technological achievements that occurred during this period and advancements in civil engineering significantly altered the built environment. Numerous unique wall systems, oftentimes proprietary in nature, were utilized for many building types throughout the United States during this period. As expected, building facades constructed in comparable periods were frequently designed and built with analogous systems; however, subtle nuances have been observed by the authors in later renditions of these systems due to a better understanding of these wall systems gained through empirical or practical experience and numerous other external factors. This paper will focus on the evolution of masonry facade design from the early load bearing examples to the single wythe brick-clad curtain walls made famous following World War II as well as the elements leading to such design alterations, by means of multiple case studies.


    brick, terra cotta, hybrid wall

    Author Information:

    Gerns, Edward A.
    Principal, Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associate, Chicago, IL

    Will, Rachel L.
    Associate III, Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associate, Chicago, IL

    Committee/Subcommittee: C07.90

    DOI: 10.1520/STP157720130138