Designing the Envelope: Choosing a ventilated facade pattern

The pattern, applied onto the opaque part of the building’s envelope, has a significant impact on the overall building appearance. That is why cladding design requires a comprehensive and systematic approach in terms of its aesthetic, cultural and environmental aspects. And last, but not least, is the final decision regarding the material selection and the fixing techniques.

Façade pattern of Grafix Building, Sofia. Completed with BILDA system.

What is a pattern?

The façade pattern is the order of the façade elements. They can be symmetrically, regularly or irregularly repeated, following an arrangement combination or a specific calculated parametric design. The pattern creates an emotional impact and is responsible for the architectural performance, which determines the building uniqueness.

Random/Custom facade pattern
Façade pattern of a house in Bankya. Completed with BILDA system. | Random pattern with horizontal stagged joints (landscape & portrait)


Categories of façade patterns

According to the classification made by Christopher Alexander in his book “A Pattern Language” 1977, patterns can be divided into five categories:

Applied patterns – surface treatment of the façade such as painting, printing, stenciling, sandblasting, acid-etching, and chemical treating techniques. The pattern with the shallowest dimensions of the façade surface.

Perforated and cut patterns – can have environmental functions such as light control, room climate through internal permeability and perforation by determining the size and the arrangement of the produced openings. Permits not only the optimization of the building’s skin, but also the surface with innovative features and a memorable façade look.

Layered patterns – created of multi-layered material elements which give the envelope a greater spatial depth. This approach leads to thermal or light transition between the interior and the exterior, a special multi-layered appearance by superimposing different materials.

Formed and cast patterns – made through moulding, casting or other form shaping methods. With the development of innovative technologies, architects can work with custom design castings and vast façade design options.

Stacked and tiled patterns – individual elements in modular repetition, identical or irregularly shaped tiles with uniform sub-construction. The shape and elements arrangement create millions of façade design variations.

There is one more additional pattern category, emerged lately as complementary to all five mentioned above:

Digital media patterns – created as a result of the implementation of new technologies as virtual and augmented reality, digital technology, moving images and the screens they are projected onto. Besides the physical expression of the façade as a border between interior and exterior, the façade receives the influence of urban context with its communication function. In that sense, the façades are playing the role to transfer information and create an urban social media communication environment.

Facade pattern types table, with different facade pattern types and building photo examples
Photo credits: Inas Abdelsabour (from Facades’ pattern effect on architectural performance)

Pattern categories according to most used techniques in ventilated facades

Ventilated façade patterns can be distinguished according to:

  1. panel arrangement;
  2. combination of different cladding materials;
  3. application of one material with different surface treatment techniques;
  4. application of one material with different colour options;
  5. different panel thickness;
  6. different joint processing techniques;


Coursed façade pattern
Photo by Bernard Hermant (Unsplash) | Coursed pattern with vertical staggered joints (landscape)


Ventilated façade pattern
Photo by Mitchell Luo (Pexels) | Pattern with one material but different colour and form options

The frequency of used panel arrangement patterns in ventilated facades according to the joints layouts

Continuous joints - in-line patterns

  • Grid pattern
  • Landscape pattern
  • Portrait pattern

Continuous joints - In-line patterns
Photo by Pixabay (Pexels) | Portrait in-line pattern with continuos joints

Continuous joints - In-line patterns
Photo by SevenStorm (Pexels) | Landscape in-line pattern with continuos joints

  1. Staggered joints – horizontal & vertical patterns

The staggered cross joints will create some verticality as they line up.

  • Horizontal staggered – coursed pattern;
  • Vertical staggered – stretcher pattern;
  • Random/Custom pattern – with varying panel widths and lengths;

Staggered joints vertical pattern
Photo by Brett Sayles (Pexels) | Random vertical pattern with staggered joints


Stretcher façade pattern
Photo by Bernard Hermant (Unsplash) | Stretcher pattern with one material but different surface treatment techniques

  1. Stepped cross joints/patterns

The stepped cross joints impart a sense of movement.

  1. Angle joints – diagonal patterns

The joints at angle give unique visual three-dimensional appeal.

  1. Custom parametric design joints/patterns

Used mostly for high-rise and spacious landmark buildings. Can create any movement, mood vibes and gives the building a unique look.

  • Wavy patterns – tridimensional;

Custom parametric design joints/pattern
Photo by Meric Dagli (Unsplash) | Wavy tridimensional diagonal pattern 


  • Non-orthogonal patterns – curved joints;

Custom parametric design joints/pattern
Photo by Reinhard Thrainer (Pixabay) | Non-orthogonal patterns – curved joints

  • Special repeated forms patterns;

Custom parametric design joints/patterns
Photo by Pixabay (Pexels) | Special repeated forms pattern with continuous joints

Custom parametric design joints/patterns
Photo by Giovanni Garnica (Unsplash) | Algorithmic special repeated forms pattern with continuous joints

  • Algorithmic patterns – tiling, subdivision or lacunary;

Algorithmic facade pattern

  • Other parametric patterns as spiral and core algorithms.

Patterns in-line & staggered

Patterns stepped & custom


Enhancing the visual perception of ventilated facade pattern designs

The ventilated façade patterns’ emotional impact forms a landscape image and a unique signature. As a result, the ventilated façade skin can act as a landmark.

  1. Artificial light – as an instrument for creating interesting movements in the façade pattern;
  2. Modern glass design patterns – using glass as a cladding material in order to add diversity to the facade pattern is a trendy approach, but needs more conscious application to preserve the optimal physical building conditions;
  3. Vertical gardens or planters – with the new pollution regulations, façade designers tend to also implement plant elements in the façade pattern where it is possible;
  4. Shadow effects – the study of the sunlight for the different geographically located zones was and is an interesting theme. Façade designers can assimilate the givens of dropped shadows and use them to draw a second pattern and an exciting façade appearance.


Shadow effects
Photo by Christian Holzinger (Unsplash) | Custom form pattern design, shadow effects


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