IN-Review: Enclose | Build: Walls, Façade, Roof

IN-Review: Enclose | Build: Walls, Façade, Roof

Written by : Eva Maria Herrmann/ Maritn Krammer/ Jorg Sturm/ Susanne Wartzeck
Published by Birkhäuser, Basel 2015

enclose build

Scale is a series of books that focus on providing general principles of design as well as typical construction details. The book under INmatteria review is its most recent, Enclose/Build: Wall, Façade, Roof; one that essentially wraps up the Scale series as well as the building through an envelope as we should know it, or so we thought. The book starts with a direct foreword of the theme in question and a conclusion to the series by pointing out a very important question that architects face for every project when it comes to the façade: “What comes first- the structural system or the appearance and effect of a building?“ Through a summary of architecture and façade history, followed by fundamentals as a first chapter, the basic index is as follows:

  1. Fundamentals
  2. Self-Supporting Envelopes
  3. Non Self-Supporting Envelopes
  4. Roofs
  5. Examples
  6. Appendix

Fundamentals serve the purpose of compiling a broad yet very selective content that is cleverly divided into subcategories. Goes from an introduction of the importance of building and providing shelter for mankind to the cultural context, history and how the façade or building skin evolved from Gottfried Semper’s explanation of a protective layer of nomadic tents, to architectural design as a discipline with historical examples.

The importance of the evolution of the building envelope that starts to separate from the building during the Gothic era, emancipates itself from the building structure in the Renaissance and disappears or merges back into the structural and material integrity in Modernism only to bounce back and maintain its garments and protective layers based more on performance and not merely ornament in current times is what Fundamentals is all about. Once the reader understands this, Fundamentals briefly introduces other factors such as: Place and Environment, Climate, Principles of Enclosure, Aesthetics Expression and Symbolism, Composition and Proportion, Material and Texture, Typology and Use, Envelope and Construction, Protection, Economy and Process Quality, Ecology and Life Cycle, Refurbishment, Waste and Recycling and Outlook to most recent dynamics related to façade design.

 Each of these subcategories are briefly explained in a 2-4 page layout that cleverly entices and introduces each factor only to make one research more on or go to there constant reference towards the rest of their Scale series, which should be a great tool to have. Each 2-4 pages section includes several architectural references and diagrams that simplify its context, creating a great balance between written content and visual examples. Through this chapter of fundamentals, you get a clear generic view regarding the complexity and many inputs that can affect the design process of the envelope.

The next two chapters focus on two types of envelopes: Should the façade be self-supported or not self-supported? Well, that is the question. Depending on how many functions the envelope has to provide, is how complex the design might be, beginning with one of the most important functions: the structure. In this book, the authors make the distinction of a self-supporting envelope as solid construction, varying from single skin to multi skin. Quickly, the single skin is presented as a passé solution, and rather focuses on the multi skin envelopes that recognize the several functions the envelope needs to perform up to current standards. That is when building physics enter the equation and the weather line should be resolved throughout the whole envelope.

The chapter then focuses on three types of common materials used for solid construction or self-supporting enclosures: Masonry, concrete and timber along with material variety, architectural examples, adding typical wall section and details.

 This chapter expresses the limitation in openings due to structural integrity within masonry, insulation importance in concrete, almost creating a non self supporting envelope to maintain the weather line, and the complex yet traditional layers that occur in timber envelope construction. With the need of more window-to-wall ratio as well as freedom for dressing the building, the second category, Non Self-Supporting Envelopes embodies more variants of subcategories:

  • Mullion Transom Façade
  • Glass and Glazing Elements
  • Element Façade
  • Double Skin Façade
  • Element Façade:
    • Concrete
    • Timber
  • Sandwich Systems
  • Suspended Façade
    • Face Brickwork
    • Brick Panels
    • Natural Stone
    • Metal
    • Fibre-Cement Board
  • Timber Façade
  • Profile Structural Glass and Polycarbonated Panels
  • Membrane façade
  • Composite thermal Insulation System

 The Mullion/ transom façade, also know as the stick system is the typical curtain wall system that is described as being put together on site instead of prefabricated module façade, also known as a unitized system. Apart from describing basic glazing components and elements, double skin facades and closed cavity facades are described as evolved glazing systems based on performance. The rest are opaque wall systems that vary from type of installations, whether they are on site or prefabricated but mostly function as garments that provide a continuous weather line for the building. Whether it be open joint as rain screen or cladding with back ventilation and/or insulation layers, the out-layer materials are endless and can not only contribute to the aesthetics but also to the performance.

This book provides a introductory insight to the complex world of enclosure systems, not leaving behind one of the most important one: the roof, the basic form of protection with its variations and alternatives. Again, introductory descriptions of these categories can best sum up this chapter:

  • From Leaf Thatch to Roof Envelope
  • Structure and Loads
  • Ventilated, Unventilated, Sloping, Flat
  • Material, Construction Style, Roof Shape
  • Pitched Roofs
  • Rafter Roof
  • Purlin Roof
  • Other Structures
  • Ridge, Verge Eaves
  • Roofing Methods
  • Flat Roof
  • Roofing Membranes
  • Green Roof

The design intent of the building should respond to the environment and location. Designing for rain, snow and wind loads can impact the type of roof is implemented.

 And last but not least, Enclose/ Build gives a great appendix with data as well as examples with brief summary, and detailed wall sections than encompass the described systems from the plinth, walls, opening and roof.


The order of the subcategories may be questionable but overall is a great book for architects as well as students to understand the fundamentals and basic complexity in design that the building enclosure embraces. This book fulfills its purpose to cover not only the face of the building as we knew it, but as an enclosure, comprised of walls, roofs as well as the façade, precisely as we are suppose to understand them.

Get it now at any of your favorite book stores online now, worth acquiring. For any additional question email us at

Review copy provision by Birkhäuser, a DeGruyter division. Many thanks to the team of publisher and the authors of this book.

All book images by Edlyn Garcia for INmatteria©

Enclose-Build: Walls, Façade, Roof
Eva Maria Herrmann, Martin Krammer, Jorg Sturm, Susanne Wartzeck

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Bioclimatic Architect and Environmental Façade Consultant researching nature’s genius for the improvement of building skins.

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