Bryant Bannister Tree Ring Research Laboratory, University of Arizona. Image © Liam Fredrick/Courtesy of Richärd Kennedy Architects.

Facade design expertise has become a growing niche for companies and individuals who specialize in building envelopes, facade fabrication techniques, and performance-based design solutions. A facade specialist helps companies create unique building exteriors that combine architecture, engineering and material innovation.

Our latest article from the Archinect Job Title Guide explores the role of a facade/envelope specialist, the qualifications needed to pursue this career, and what companies look for when hiring.

Dream Downtown Hotel by Handel Architects. Photo: Bruce Damonte.

The role of facade/building envelope specialists

A building’s outer skin, its outer envelope, serves as a point of connection between the specific functions of its interior and the conditions of its wider environment. The exterior envelope of a building is an essential attribute of the building. It functions as a container for the internal program space and a backdrop for the surrounding city context.

Working between two fields of study, the role of a facade specialist involves the art and science of solving the aesthetic, environmental and structural conditions of a building to provide an effective fence. This niche sector of design sits between the architecture and engineering industries.

A facade specialist works to reduce the total energy consumption of a building while producing a comfortable, healthy, secure and safe indoor environment. The role must also resolve any architectural or aesthetic requirements and standards of a building development proposal. Facade/Building Envelope Specialists are involved in providing building envelope, facade, roofing, waterproofing and air barrier solutions with particular attention to aesthetic detail.

Novartis. Image courtesy of Flad Architects.

Essex at Essex Crossing. Image © Lester Ali Photography/Courtesy of Handel Architects.

Qualifications and experience

One entry point into the role of a façade or envelope designer is to work as an assistant or entry-level designer in a façade consultancy firm. Assistant or entry-level positions allow individuals to develop skills in understanding building envelopes, enclosure systems, and different facade types based on performance needs.

For those looking to explore this niche specialty, common qualifications and academic requirements may include:

  • Professional Degree in Architecture and/or Engineering
  • Excellent communication skills, time management, organizational skills
  • Experience in facade design, architecture or engineering
  • Drafting technical facade details and problem solving
  • Attention to detail to ensure plans and sections coordinate, eliminating inaccuracies during production
  • Experience and proficiency with AutoCAD, Rhino and Revit
  • Excellent graphic presentation, verbal and written communication skills
  • Knowledge of building and energy codes (an asset for many companies)

For those with previous experience in cladding construction, for example, one can apply directly to a building envelope contractor to pursue a building facade specialist role.

Chelsea Modern designed by Audrey Matlock Architect. Curtain Wall Facade Consulting provided by Engineering Group Associates. Photo credits: Bruce Damonte, Pavel Bendov, Michael Roberto.

What are companies looking for?

For Flad Architects, they are looking for an exteriors specialist for their office in Tampa, Florida. The candidate will specialize in the design of exterior envelopes and will focus on both the planning and execution of various projects. The firm shares the following responsibilities:

Focus on planning and executing projects from start to finish, developing design and technical solutions through all phases of a project with an emphasis on the outer shell. They go provide leadership and coordination of exterior details by providing guidance to design teams and consultants to ensure successful project implementation from start to finish.

New York-based Engineering Group Associates, PC shares that it is looking for a Facade Associate who will work on a “wide range of structural jobs and project types.” The firm shares:

The Facade Associate position is for an individual in the structural or architectural field with a minimum of 1-2 years of experience and knowledge, who has a strong, well-organized and detail-oriented background in constructing and assembling complete sets of DOB classification and construction documents. and coordinate with architectural and other consultants, clients and contractors. In addition, the candidate must be able to produce reports containing photographs and text”.

LaufsED, a New York-based engineering design firm is currently seeking an Intermediate Technical Architect for Facades. The company explains that their ideal candidate is someone who “likes to solve spatial problems, can manage a small team, is resourceful and has extensive experience in facades and waterproofing, including in-depth knowledge of products, types of assembly and structure”. They also have an open position for a facade designer. The company shares that this role is a perfect fit for a junior architect or designer who is familiar with release software and construction methods. The firm explains:

This person would spend approximately half of their time creating fabrication drawings and the other half learning façade architecture and producing sets of drawings in all phases: schematic design, design development, construction documents and shop drawings.

Meinel Optical Science Research Laboratory, University of Arizona. Image © Bill Timmerman/Courtesy of Richärd Kennedy Architects.

South Mountain Community College Library. Image © Timmerman & Boisclair. Image courtesy of Richärd Kennedy Architects

Is this the right role for you?

Undertaking the role of a building facade/envelope specialist comes in many forms. Most often, you can work specifically for a company specializing in facades. For people with a passion for building envelopes and facade performance, some may wonder if a building facade specialist role is only available in a facade consultancy studio? The answer is no. Companies like Urbahn Architects, an architecture and interior design have an open position for an entry-level architectural designer. For practice, the projects include “health care, education, justice, public transit facilities, and renovations to the outer envelope.”

Richärd Kennedy Architects, an Arizona-based firm, is currently seeking a Senior Project Architect who has experience in construction administration. According to the company, it is an architecture and interior design firm where “sustainable design permeates all levels of work, from site to landscape, building envelope, building systems , interior spaces and furniture”. For Handel Architects, based in New York, they are looking for an experienced architectural designer specializing in facades. For this role, candidates should have 5-7 years of work experience with strong Revit skills. Additional qualifications include someone with experience in multi-family and mixed-use residential development.

Look for a job? Take a look at the current opportunities on Archinect Jobs for Facade Specialist/Designer and Building Envelope Specialist ↗