Robotic shading and smart facade materials that breathe could cool buildings by up to 5°C and reduce the need for airconditioning by 25 per cent, according to the Spain’s Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC).
The research centre has developed five new technologies based on “bioclimatic architecture” that it says could be the future of passive cooling and ventilation.
The early-stage technologies, created by students of the Digital Matter Intelligent Constructions studio, are based on new materials that mimic organic processes, as well as adaptive structures or robotic systems that can help to regulate indoor temperatures.
The first of three “second skin” facade systems is Hydroceramics, a facade system made of clay panels, fabric and hydrogel, which has the potential to cool a building space by up to 5°C.
The hydrogel capsules can absorb up to 500 their own volume in water – leading to a building “skin” that can “breathe” through evaporation and perspiration.
“Having in mind that the composite material has very low cost production and the clay natural resources is still abundant, the system can easily be applied to architecture in remote area.”
The Breathing Skin system is based on materials composed by thin membranes and intelligent fabrics, which can self-regulate humidity and indoor and outdoor climates.
Sodium polyacrylate is the major material for the skin system, which can absorb water up to 300 times its volume in a short timespan, and is encapsulated with elastic fabrics.
“Water-driven Breathing Skin is developed to be a semi-passive material system for outdoor spaces in hot climates where public space is less welcomed due to the summer heat. With the material system, ventilation and evaporative cooling are made possible semi-passively in a tensile-structured form where the Breathing Skin could take in multiple uses and forms. Not only is it cost-effective in construction and maintenance, energy-efficient for areas in water shortage but also tensile and pliable for urban spaces.”
Developed for hot and humid conditions, the hydromembrane is a humidity sensitive composite system consisting of six layers and merging three materials with significantly different physical and chemical features.
“The Hydromembrane reacts to moisture as the input and responds with aperture deformations as a primer output. A secondary cooling effect appears due to the Hydromorph’s property of water absorption and evaporation … The Hydromembrane is highly shape adaptive due to its flexibility and thinness. It can be applied as a second skin to existing buildings or as a smart textile.”
The next two technologies involve structures and applied robotics to control the quantity of light and heat entering indoor spaces.
Soft Robotics is a lightweight passive shading device developed to control sunlight, ventilation and temperature, and to provide humidity.
“This robotic prototype adopts several sizes and shapes to mimic artificial ‘sunflowers; that are able to activate the shading technology at the time the liquid integrated in the device is evaporated by the sun’s heat.”
Morphluid is is also based on the transition of a liquid to gas, which modulates a roof to provide shading.
“Morphluid integrates two water tanks integrated into a mobile structure (a roof slope or a window) that tips when the water of one of the tanks evaporates, thus allowing shade to project and cool the environment.”