Friday, September 25, 2015

Dynamic Façade Research

By Ken Howder

For my research position with Professor McDonald, I have been working with the conceptual idea of dynamic facades that have the potential to adapt to the surrounding environment as well as interior comfort conditions.  From my individual blog, I have decided to share some of the more interesting research that I have come across so far.

This is another example of a facade that adapts to environmental conditions.  In this case, the facade is comprised of thousands of individually mounted translucent discs that are allowed to pivot along their vertical row.  Dependent on the sun’s position and sensors to gather data on the interior of the building regarding humidity and temperature, the discs pivot vertically to allow air to pass through – essentially allowing the facade skin to “breathe.”
The discs are all made of 3/8″ sandblasted glass setting inside a steel frame 3 feet from the building.  The system consists of units of seven discs: The top 3 are fixed and the bottom 4 are operable (they are within the view of the interior).  The dynamic discs are allowed to rotate by actuators from 5 to 80 degrees (gradually, as to not be noticed by people outside).
It should be noted that this building (The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) is located in Australia – hence the dire need for a building that can breathe.  In different climates, such technology might not be suitable.  However, the
This simple, yet effective, technology should also be able to apply as a shading device and as an energy productive facade.  Photovoltaic may be applied to the glass surfaces to help produce energy for the building.  Also, in much smaller units, shading can be accomplished.

Architects Decker Yeadon created a prototype system for building facades that uses a process similar to bi-layered metals for expansion and contraction of the facade elements.  The concept behind this technology mimics the human muscular system that uses electrical signals to contract muscles when they are in use.  This system uses a dielectric elastomer to change the shape of the metal “maze-like” facade.

This system is intuitive due to the fact that it does not need the inhabitant’s (or a computer’s) intervention to operate.  It mimics the natural state of homeostasis (that which many organisms use to preserve their internal temperature) to regulate its own temperature based on that of internal conditions.
This prototype system has the possible advantage of adapting to the local environment based on shading and ventilating needs.  However, without human intervention, an issue of aesthetic and view potential arises.  This system also requires little energy to operate compared to a user-driven responsive system.  A blend of something similar to this with user controls may be more beneficial to real-world applications.

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