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Adaptive Skin Systems

posted Jan 5, 2011, 1:38 PM by Patricia Martin

The idea of an adaptive building that can change its form or use is not new. However it is now, when sustainability has become a hot topic and high-technology a common mean, that adaptability to the surrounding environment has become a crucial issue. The need for establishing a dialog between the building and the ever-changing natural environment is now more obvious than ever.

Solar control in building is always related to conflicting requirements. On the one hand, maximizing glazing area gives occupants a desirable connection with the exterior. On the other hand, these surfaces entail high energy consumption—the bad thermal performance of glass does not insulate correctly interiors and in some cases big glazing areas cause overheating in the interiors due to an excess of solar radiation.

Last year, Adaptive Building Initiative presented at Harvard GSD a façade system named Adaptive Fritting™ composed by a series of moveable layers that can modulate its transparency to control transmitted light, solar gain, privacy, and views.

“My interest is in the behavior, rather than in the appearance, of natural systems. In the case of Adaptive Fritting I am exploring how small movements lead to macroscopic changes. A shift in relative position between the glass layers causes the panel to go from transparent to opaque. Ultimately, physical transformations in organisms occur through the aggregation of many such small movements” Chuck Hoberman.

YouTube Video

Recently, Decker Yeadon has proposed a new technology called Homeostatic Façade that controls solar radiation in glazing facades when needed and allows exterior views when sun light is not a problem. The system uses an actuator as an artificial muscle consisting of a dielectric elastomer wrapped over a flexible polymer core that expands and contracts to solar control heat gain.