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Switching from static to adaptable and dynamic building envelopes: A paradigm shift for the energy efficiency in buildings

Marco Perino, Valentina Serra


The key role of the building envelope in attaining building energy efficiency and satisfactory indoor comfort has long been established. Nevertheless, until recent times, all efforts and attention have mainly been focused on increasing and optimizing the thermal insulation of the envelope components. This strategy was a winning approach for a long time, but its limitations became obvious when users and designers started to consider the overall energy demand of a building and started to aim for Zero Energy Building (ZEB) or nearly ZEB goals. New and more revolutionary concepts and technologies needed to be developed to satisfy such challenging requirements. The potential benefits of this technological development are relevant since the building envelope plays a key role in controlling the energy and mass flows from outdoors to indoors (and vice versa) and, moreover, the facades offer a significant opportunity for solar energy exploitation. Several researches have demonstrated that the limitation of the existing facades could be overcome only by switching from ‘static’ to ‘responsive’ and ‘dynamic’ systems, such as Multifunctional Facade Modules (MFMs) and Responsive Building Elements (RBE). These components are able to continuously and pro-actively react to outdoor and indoor environment conditions and facilitate and enhance the exploitation of renewable and low exergy sources. In order to reduce the energy demand, to maximize the indoor comfort conditions and to produce energy at the site, these almost ‘self-sufficient’, or even ‘positive energy’ building skins frequently incorporate different technologies and are functionally connected to other building services and installations. An overview of the technological evolution of the building envelope that has taken place, ranging from traditional components to the innovative skins, will be given in this paper, while focusing on the different approaches that have characterized this development. Examples of innovative solutions for responsive and dynamic components and the future trends of development will also be described. 


Adaptive building envelope, responsive building envelope, multifunctional facade, Phase ChangeMaterials (PCMs), thermotropic glazing, advanced integrated facades

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JFDE . ISSN 2213-3038