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Chapter 1.

Responsive Building Envelopes:

Characteristics and Evolving Paradigms
k at h y v e l i k o v and geoffrey thn

ABSTRACT: A new generation of high-performance envelopes have contributed to the

emergence of sophisticated assemblies combining real-time environmental response,
advanced materials, dynamic automation with embedded microprocessors, wireless
sensors and actuators, and design-for-manufacture techniques. This practice has
fundamentally transformed the way in which architects approach building design with
a shift in emphasis from form to performance, from structure to envelope. In the realm
of high-performance buildings, the envelope has become the primary site of innovative
research and development.1 Borrowing a set of terms from the discipline of biology now
commonplace in architectural design, this chapter articulates a conceptual paradigm and
working vocabulary for the development of high-performance building skins that are smart,
intelligent, interactive and responsive.

1.0 Redefining the responsive environment

An expanded understanding of building performance acknowledges that all

forces acting on buildings (climate, energies, information, human agents) are
not static and fixed, but rather mutable and transient. This has serious conse-
quences for the building envelope whose design must transcend its role as
mere protective wrapper separating inside from outside.2 Building faades are
increasingly developed as complex systems of material assemblies attuned to
climate and energy optimization. With ever greater frequency, they are equipped
with new performative materials, sensors, actuators and computerized intel-
ligence that support automated dynamic operations and functionalities, such
as regulating a buildings light, air and sound transmission, thermal transfer,
and interior air quality. This faade-based equipment assists and even at times
replaces functionalities otherwise performed by traditional building systems. As
the building component most directly exposed to sun and wind, the envelope

CHAPTER 1.3: Responsive Building Envelopes ~ Kathy Velikov and Geoffrey Thn 75
is also the most effective site for innovations in energy savings and alternative 1.3.1 given rise to a near crisis in the definition of their respective roles, responsibilities
energy generation. Contextual timeline of and professional accountability.4 Even within the discipline of architecture, terms
responsive building envelope
The evolution of the building envelope as a focus of design innovation in such as smart, intelligent, interactive, adaptive or responsive have
the twentieth century parallels advancements in envelope engineering and build- been used loosely and interchangeably, creating confusion as to their specific
ing science, as well as developments in computer engineering, cybernetics and meaning and their conceptual relationship to building performance and design. In
artificial intelligence (Figure 1.3.1). Additionally, new technologies, smart materi- response, this chapter frames a provisional lexicon of descriptive, behavioral and
als and distributed systems have spurred the introduction of biological models for methodological terms to assist designers in navigating the field of high-perfor-
understanding the behavior and design of building systems and their controls. A mance skins that incorporate materially innovative and feedback-based systems.
descriptive lexicon has emerged that employs decidedly biological terminology It offers a brief overview of current advances in this nascent and rapidly evolving
in conceptualizing architectural design. For example, we frequently encounter field and articulates a broader conceptual territory for the term responsive; one
the term building skin in reference to the buildings exterior envelope. Michael that empowers an operational definition of building ecology and that functions
Wigginton and Jude Harris, in their book Intelligent Skins, argue that the use of through the combined and co-evolutionary agency of building, technology, inhabit-
the term skin is more than merely a metaphor; the buildings envelope can be ant and environment.
considered quite literally as a complex membrane capable of energy, material and
information exchanges. It can be designed to operate as part of a holistic build-
ing metabolism and morphology, and will often be connected to other parts of 2.0 Smart
the building, including sensors, actuators and command wires from the building
management system.3 Within the design disciplines, the term smart has most frequently been used
This contemporary understanding of the building skin has fundamentally in reference to materials and surfaces.5 Addington and Schodek identify smart
changed the way in which architects approach building design, having shifted materials as systems possessing embedded technological functions that
questions of performance away from the traditional formal and physical proper- involve specific environmental responses, operating either through internal physi-
ties of building envelopes to reposition the discourse within a more expansive cal property changes or through external energy exchanges.6 They define the
definition of how they behave. These new parameters have resulted in increased characteristics of smart materials as: immediacy (real-time response), tran-
architectural collaboration with the disciplines of mechanical and electrical engi- siency (responsive to more than one environmental state), self-actuation
neering, computing and the physical and social sciences. However, as argued by (internal intelligence), selectivity (a response is discrete and predictable) and
Michelle Addington and Daniel Schodek in their seminal book Smart Materials and directness (a response is local to the activating events).7 Smart surfaces and
Technologies for the Architecture and Design Professions, relative to the afore- materials can play a significant role in intelligent, adaptive and responsive enve-
mentioned disciplines, architecture has evolved without a common language, lopes because of these intrinsic properties. Examples of smart materials used
problem solving methodology or common basis of knowledge, and this often in high-performance building skins include: aerogel the synthetic low-density
hampers the design process. The blurring of boundaries between disciplines has translucent material used in window glazing, phase changing materials such as

76 PART 1 : Building Envelopes, Renewable Energies and Integrated Practice CHAPTER 1.3: Responsive Building Envelopes ~ Kathy Velikov and Geoffrey Thn 77
ShapeShift prototype,
consisting of 36 individual
EAP elements, as exhibited at
the Gallery StarkArt in Zurich,
September 2010

micro-encapsulated wax, salt hydrates, thermochromic polymer films, and build- 1.3.2
ing integrated photovoltaics. Smart Thermobimetal Self-
Ventilating Skin: installation of
One of the most significant characteristics of smart materials is that
prototype and details of skin
they have the ability to transform their physical properties and/or shape, or to performance under different
exchange energy without requiring an external source of power. Hence, they are temperatures, 2010
extremely attractive to building designers who aim to increase functionality and
performance while at the same time reducing energy use. Doris Sung, principle
of DO|SU Studio Architecture and faculty member at the University of Southern
California, is experimenting with the use of thermobimetals for creating self-sup-
porting building skins that are able to open their pores to self-ventilate without the
use of external energy sources (Figure 1.3.2).8 Laminated metals with differential
thermal coefficients deform unevenly when exposed to temperature set points,
inducing tension and causing movement in the thermobimetal. When the heat
source is removed, the bimetal returns to its original shape.
The use of electro active polymers for kinetic skins is also at the forefront
of research in the field, given their speed of response, large potential for active
deformation and resilience. Manuel Kretzer and students from the ETH in Zur-
ich have developed a prototype dynamic skin called Shape Shift; a layered,
self-supporting unit made of elastomeric films which deforms when electrically 1.3.4
charged (Figure 1.3.3).9 Moreover, architects Soo-in Yang and David Benjamin Smart envelope comprised of
ETFE encased solar-activated
are developing a new smart material called Living Glass which is comprised of
lamella shades developed
arrays of polymer gills interfaced with sensors. The system opens and closes for the Media-TIC building in
as a function of both human presence and carbon dioxide levels and is designed Barcelona, Cloud 9 Architects,
to control the air quality of a room.10 2011

78 PART 1 : Building Envelopes, Renewable Energies and Integrated Practice CHAPTER 1.3: Responsive Building Envelopes ~ Kathy Velikov and Geoffrey Thn 79
While many of these systems are still in the research and development buildings. This mechanically regulated environment released the building enve-
phase, a recent example of a smart skin installed in a completed building is that of lope from its primary role as thermal barrier, calling into question its very necessity
the Media-TIC building, constructed in Barcelona in 2011 and designed by Cloud an observation eloquently developed by Reyner Banham and Francois Dellagret
9 Architects and envelope specialists Vector Foiltec Ltd. The envelope features in their 1969 article A Home is Not a House.14 The use of mechanical systems
a pillow cladding system made of the polymer ETFE with encased lamella fins for interior climate regulation resulted in buildings designed with ever increasing
whose pneumatic mechanisms are automatically activated by light sensors that amounts of glass, which in turn necessitated variable shading and ventilation as
respond to the presence of solar energy (Figure 1.3.4). an integral part of the envelope.
While smart materials offer many advantages for high-performance building As buildings often follow on the heels of advancements in the automotive
envelopes, their performance is often tightly bracketed within a specific range and household appliance industries, the rise of automation was another factor
of climatic conditions and predictable reactions. However, in a high-performance which led to the development of intelligent building envelopes.15 One of the first
building skin that is required to be intelligent or responsive, it is often necessary automated climate-adaptive envelopes was Buckminster Fullers faade for the
to accommodate much broader variation in conditions and performance criteria. United States pavilion built for the 1967 Montreal Expo (Figure 1.3.5). The skin
The skin may be required to facilitate more complex building system commu- of this geodesic dome was made of a transparent cladding of acrylic panels, with
nications, to respond to occupant requests, and to adapt and learn over time. interior canvas sunshades controlled by a computer program that would adjust
As such, smart materials are often incorporated in complex building skins with their position relative to the movement of the sun.16
sophisticated thermal management systems a pairing that would render them The ability for a building envelope to change and adapt its configuration rela-
intelligent. tive to the sun (either by blocking its rays to prevent overheating and/or glare, or
by allowing them to penetrate for passive heat gain and/or daylighting), has been
a primary source of formal and technological innovations in intelligent building
3.0 Intelligent skins. The Terrence Donnelley Centre for Cellular and Bimolecular Research at
the University of Toronto, completed in 2006 by ArchitectsAlliance and Behnisch
The term intelligent has been used extensively in the construction industry Architekten, has a south facing double skin faade with intelligently controlled
since building automation and telecommunications became more pervasive in internal blinds and ventilation louvers that together manage light, heat gain and
the 1960s and 1970s, gaining widespread currency in the 1980s when it referred natural ventilation in this energy efficient, all-glass building (Figure 1.3.6).
to the programmable zones of a buildings heating, ventilating and air-conditioning So pervasive is the field, engineering firm Buro Happold, in collaboration
(HVAC) systems. Many countries have intelligent building (IB) institutes, each of with deployable structures innovator Chuck Hoberman, have established an intel-
which contributes a slightly different approach to defining the characteristics of ligent surfaces unit called the Adaptive Buildings Initiative (ABI). This design unit
IBs.11 Relative to building skins, the term intelligent implies a higher order of has developed a number of kinetic shading and cladding systems, including the
organization and performance than smart. In the broadest sense, the goal of Strata System, which consists of automated modular kinetic units that can
an intelligent building skin is to optimize the buildings systems relative to cli- retract into a slender profile (Figure 1.3.7). The Strata system was the basis
mate, energy balance and human comfort, typically based on predictive models. for the Helio Trace Faade, developed in collaboration with SOM and the Per-
This is often accomplished through building automation and physically adaptive masteelisa Group, that improves envelope performance relative to daylight and
elements such as louvers, sunshades, operable vents or smart material assem- glare while reducing solar heat gain by as much as 81 percent.17
blies. Brian Atkin, in his book Intelligent Buildings, defines intelligent buildings Although a significant amount of research and development in intelligent
as those that know what the environmental conditions are both outside and building envelopes occurs in the commercial building sector, where building auto-
inside, that decide how to provide a convenient and comfortable environment mation and advanced technologies have had faster and more widespread adop-
for occupants, and that respond promptly to occupant requests.12 This is typi- tion, residential buildings have also engaged the question of intelligent building
cally achieved using a variety of sensing apparatus that communicate with build- skins. An early home featuring automated curtains and controllable windows,
ing control systems to optimize interior conditions, including computational pro- which opened and closed as a function of data received from internal and exter-
tocols (for both the envelope and HVAC equipment) capable of re-balancing the nal climate conditions, was the TRON-Concept Intelligent House. The prototype
system based on occupant adjustments. For their part, Addington and Schodek developed by Professor Ken Sakamura from the University of Tokyo, operated
describe the term intelligent using these three characterizations: environmen- as a living lab for research in domestic automated environments from 1989 to
tal characterizations (surrounding environments, use environments), cognition 1993.18 More recently, the home built by Technische Universitt Darmstadt for
1.3.5 (overleaf)
characterizations (information systems, expert systems, artificial intelligence) and the 2007 US Solar Decathlon Competition incorporated an exterior building skin
Buckminster Fullers 1967
implementation characterizations (methods of operation and control).13 Montreal Expo Dome,
comprised of computer controlled wooden louvers with integrated photovoltaic
The widespread availability and use of mechanical conditioning equipment illustrating canvas sunshades panels that generated power while shielding the interior of the house from the
during the postwar era was certainly a factor in the development of intelligent in variable positions sun (Figure 1.3.8).

80 PART 1 : Building Envelopes, Renewable Energies and Integrated Practice CHAPTER 1.3: Responsive Building Envelopes ~ Kathy Velikov and Geoffrey Thn 81
82 PART 1 : Building Envelopes, Renewable Energies and Integrated Practice CHAPTER 1.3: Responsive Building Envelopes ~ Kathy Velikov and Geoffrey Thn 83
1.3.6 1.3.7 The biggest difference, therefore, between terms smart and intelli-
Intelligent double-skin (top) ABI Strata System gent is that in the case of the former functionality results from intrinsic mate-
faade system with integral demonstrated in the
rial properties, whereas in the latter performance is primarily controlled through
automated shading for the continually transforming
Terrence Donnelley Centre Emergent Surface exhibition computation and automation. The performance profile of intelligent envelopes is
for Cellular and Bimolecular at MoMA, 2008 (Courtesy of typically more variable than that of smart skins; the operation of smart skins is
Research at the University of ABI); (bottom) The award- typically binary and more limited in control, while intelligent envelopes typically
Toronto, architectsAlliance/ winning HelioTrace Adaptive
require external power to achieve their goals. Hence, when committed to overall
Behnish Architekten, 2006 Faade system by SOM/ABI/
Permasteelisa, 2010
building energy reductions, intelligent envelopes should ideally be developed with
smart materials that are self-powering and self-actuating.

84 CHAPTER 1.3: Responsive Building Envelopes ~ Kathy Velikov and Geoffrey Thn 85
1.3.8 1.3.9 discussions were focused on regulatory feedback-based systems, or first-order
Intelligent faade of automated Michael Mozers ACHE cybernetics, while the development of second-order cybernetic systems (i.e.
wood louvers with building- computer architecture for the
machine-based learning or conversing systems) was the goal of contemporary
integrated photovoltaics Adaptive House
create a continuous faade designers working in the field.23 According to Usman Haque, in second order
for TU Darmstadts 2007 Solar cybernetics, input and output criteria are actively and iteratively constructed
Decathlon House by other participants of the project, and a more productive relationship ensues
between human and environment, informing future operations of the system.24
So stated, a number of projects that have more commonly fallen under the
rubric of intelligent, might be more appropriately identified as interactive.
This includes the Adaptive House Project, by Michael C. Mozer at the Uni-
4.0 Interactive versity of Colorado at Boulder which, equipped with sensors and an automated
building management system, is programmed to optimize energy conservation
The term interactive is used less frequently with regard to building envelopes while at the same time ensure the comfort of its inhabitants.25 The home control
than in reference to computer-enabled artworks, installations and other such envi- computer architecture called ACHE (Adaptive Control of Human Environments)
ronments encouraging active public participation. The past twenty years have is implemented using networks that emulate neural functions, with sensors posi-
witnessed an explosive rise in the number and range of interactive devices used tioned to not only monitor interior climate, but also to track and record informa-
to this end; in part due to the increasing miniaturization of technology, render- tion on inhabitant actions under changing scenarios.26 As a result, the computer
ing ubiquitous and inexpensive the sensing, computational and micro processing algorithm learns over time and begins to anticipate inhabitant preferences (Figure
components necessary for their widespread adoption.19 However, for the pur- 1.3.9). In addition to the computerized observation of human behavior, of particu-
poses of this text, the most significant characterization of the term is that of an lar interest are advancements that have been made in the capacity to interpret
interactive system that fundamentally requires human input to initiate response. gestures and actions. As opposed to more familiar human input interfaces that
The history of ideas on human-machine systems and the concepts of feed- are keyboards and touchscreens, inhabitant preferences are understood via an
back and circular causality can be traced to the Macy Conferences of The Cyber- advanced recognition based interface. This not only foregrounds the human factor
netics Group held between 1946 and 1953. These events included the participa- in the building-energy-environment equation, but also engages deeper questions
tion of individuals seminal in the development of the field of Systems Theory such of bodily and psychological importance when designing interactive environments
as, Gregory Bateson, Norbert Weiner, Warren McCulloch, John von Neumann, and their material components.
Ross Ashby and Margaret Mead.20 One of the earliest attempts to develop an
interactive architectural system was Cedric Price and Joan Littlewoods Fun Pal-
ace, a project developed in 1961, in collaboration with well-known cybernetician 5.0 Responsive
Gordon Pask.21
During this early phase, limited computer processing capability constrained The term responsive is often used interchangeably with interactive and
the possibility for interactive systems to become widespread in buildings. And adaptive, but most simply it is used to describe, how natural and artificial
yet, a great deal of the conceptual and process-related groundwork in the field systems can interact and adapt.27 In 1975, Nicholas Negroponte proposed
took place during the 1960s and 1970s via the work of Warren Brodey, Charles the following definition of responsive architecture in his text Soft Architecture
Eastman, Gordon Pask and MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte.22 Early Machines:

86 PART 1 : Building Envelopes, Renewable Energies and Integrated Practice CHAPTER 1.3: Responsive Building Envelopes ~ Kathy Velikov and Geoffrey Thn 87
The manipulative environment is a passive one, one that is moved
as opposed to one that moves. In contrast, responsive means the
environment is taking an active role, initiating to a greater or lesser
degree changes as a result and function of complex or simple com-
putations maybe a house is not a home until it can learn to laugh
at your jokes.28

In a responsive milieu, one that operates under the principles of second-order

cybernetics, both user and system are capable of shaping an unlimited set of
performance outcomes. Rather than the designer predetermining appropriate
responses to user inputs, the system measures reactions to its outputs and con-
tinually modifies its actions according to these responses. In an extreme case,
buildings and environments could co-evolve and transform according to cognitive
and biological models.
A responsive building skin includes functionalities and performance charac-
teristics similar to those of an intelligent building skin including real-time sensing,
kinetic climate-adaptive elements, smart materials, automation and the ability for
user override. But it also includes interactive characteristics, such as computational
algorithms that allow the building system to self-adjust and learn over time, as well
as the ability for inhabitants to physically manipulate elements of the building enve-
lope to control environmental conditions.29 Learning takes place in accordance with
changing environmental conditions and inhabitant preferences, such that the algo- Responsive building envelope
rithm anticipates desirable configurations. A truly responsive building envelope, characteristics include both
therefore, not only includes mechanisms for inhabitant sensing and feedback, but response input interfaces
as well as learning through
is also committed to educating both the building and its occupants. Information is
mechanisms that use
provided to the buildings inhabitants so they too can learn over time and modify adaptive computation based
their actions relative to climate and energy use. In this way, both building and occu- on continual sensing and
pant are engaged in a continuous and evolving conversation (Figure 1.3.10). information feedback

1.3.11 One such home is the North House prototype, described in detail in the
North House Exterior Shade Chapter 4.3. It was built using a responsive envelope with computer-automated
operation response logistics
exterior shading louvers capable of continually adjusting their configuration. The
and occupant control interface
logic energy balance of the mechanical system based on real-time interior and exte-
rior climate sensing and user manipulation was continually optimized for mini-
mum energy use. Although a building-learning algorithm for occupant preferences
was not developed for this prototype, interactivity researchers at Simon Fraser
University developed a human-learning environment that was a computerized
interface system, called ALIS (Adaptive Living Interface System). It provided real-
time energy and resource use feedback in both numerical and ambient formats,
alerted users when occupant actions (such as opening the blinds on a sunny
day) would compromise energy optimization, and supported a matrix of online
community and social networking applications to promote energy saving lifestyle
patterns (Figure 1.3.11).

88 PART 1 : Building Envelopes, Renewable Energies and Integrated Practice CHAPTER 1.3: Responsive Building Envelopes ~ Kathy Velikov and Geoffrey Thn 89
6.0 The human factor in building performance Acknowledgments

A responsive building skin is one that facilitates co-evolutionary interaction The authors thank Franca Trubiano and Malcolm McCullough for content and edi-
between the building, the inhabitant and the environment in a meaningful way. torial feedback; Lauren Barhydt, Julie Janiski and Zain AbuSeir for research and
One of the primary performance mandates for high-performance envelopes has drawing assistance.
been energy optimization and reduction in the use of resources. Yet research has
shown that while approximately half of the energy used in the home depends on
its physical characteristics and equipment, the behavior of its residents accounts Notes
for the balance.30 Dr. Ray Cole, co-founder of the Green Building Challenge, has
proposed to add inhabitant intelligence to existing concepts of building intel- 1 Witness the recent societies and research initiatives related to high-performance faades,
such as The Society of Faade Engineering (, the
ligence, challenging the assumption that inhabitants understand building control
advanced work in adaptive facades by The Adaptive Buildings Initiative (Buro Happold
options, and that they will make appropriate and intelligent choices.31 Social sci- with Hoberman and Associates,, The Center for Architecture
entists have long recognized that motivations to consume or conserve energy are Science and Ecology (CASE) (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with SOM
socially dependent32 and the social, political, and personal dimensions of a build- edu) and the work of consultants, Front Inc (, among others.
ings energy consumption and resource management are as critical to address 2 B. Kolarevic and A. M. Malkawi eds., Performative Architecture: Beyond Instrumentality,
New York: Spon Press, 2005, pp. 203212.
as the technical ones.33 Differences in individual behavior have been shown to
3 M. Wigginton and J. Harris, Intelligent Skins, Oxford: Elsevier Architectural Press, 2006
produce large variations in energy consumption in some cases as much as 300 [2002], p. 3.
percent even when accounting for differences in housing types, appliances, 4 M. Addington and D. Schodek, Smart Materials and Technologies for the Architecture and
HVAC systems, and family size.34 Moreover, in a study including extended moni- Design Professions, Oxford: Elsevier Architectural Press, 2007 [2005], p. 12.
toring of energy use patterns in a community of Zero Energy Houses in California, 5 For the two most comprehensive publications on the matter, see Addington and Schodek,
Smart Materials as well as T. Klooster, Smart Surfaces and their Application in Architecture
results showed that while the energy efficient and energy producing features of
and Design, Berlin: Birkhauser, 2009.
the buildings were effective at reducing the energy consumption, the patterns of 6 Addington and Schodek, op. cit., p. 9.
energy use by inhabitants remained identical to those of neighbors in non-Zero 7 Addington and Schodek, op. cit., p. 10.
energy houses. In spite of living in high-performance sustainable buildings, resi- 8 D. K. Sung, Skin Deep: Making Building Skins Breathe with Smart Thermobimetals,
dents did not change their consumption habits in any significant way.35 Where Do You Stand?: Proceedings of the 2011 ACSA National Conference, A. Prez-
Gmez, A. Cormier, and A. Pedret eds., Washington, DC: ACSA Press, 2010, pp. 145152.
Motivations for saving energy may vary. However, availability of informa-
9 ShapeShift is a collaboration between the Chair for Computer Aided Architectural Design
tion and feedback loops are effective means for encouraging building occupants (ETHZ) and the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA).
to develop more energy-conscious lifestyles and building use patterns.36 In a The team includes M. Kretzer, D. Rossi, S. Georgakopoulou, E. Augustynowicz and S. Sixt.
responsive design paradigm, where building, inhabitant and environment are all See
agents, the positive and negative feedback loops that individuals have with their 10 The Living New York (2010) Living Glass, Available at:
htm (accessed 30 January 2011).
built environment, the active co-evolution that they necessarily share with it, as
11 A summary can be found in S. W. Wang, Intelligent Buildings and Building Automation,
well as the agency of both buildings and their inhabitants, are all potentially pow- New York: Spon Press, pp. 13.
erful tools for promoting social change. They not only increase the intelligence of 12 B. Atkin, Intelligent Buildings, Worcester: Billings & Sons, 1988, p. 1.
building systems, but the intelligence of their inhabitants as well. 13 Addington and Schodek, op. cit., pp. 204205.
Given residential buildings in the United States account for nearly 57 per- 14 R. Banham, A Home is Not a House, Art in America, 1965 April, vol. 53, pp. 7079.
15 See S. Giedion, Mechanization Takes Command: A Contribution to Anonymous History,
cent of building energy use,37 and that the home is a central site of habit form-
New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1948 and R. Banham, Theory and Design of the First
ing behavior, residential buildings may prove to be an ideal place for advancing Machine Age, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1980 [1960].
developments in responsive envelope systems. With emphasis on adaptability, 16 M. J. Gorman, Buckminster Fuller: Designing for Mobility, Milan: Skira, 2006, p. 134.
the high-performance skin has the capacity to learn over time and in so doing can Unfortunately the shades seized up in a random position the first time they system was in
form ongoing and emergent relationships with its inhabitants. In this way, respon- use, and then the entire skin burned in an accidental fire in 1976.
17 Hoberman Associates and B. Happold (2010) Adaptive Building Initiative, Available at: www.
sive envelopes can significantly impact the definition of building performance by (accessed 18 February 2011).
forging a new cognitive framework for buildings, their inhabitants and the larger 18 Wigginton and Harris, op. cit., pp. 155158.
environment. 19 For comprehensive references to contemporary interactive design see: M. Fox and M.
Kemp, Interactive Architecture, Princeton Architectural Press, 2009; Klooster, Smart
Surfaces; and L. Bullivant, Responsive Environments: architecture, art and design, V&A
Contemporary, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 2006.
20 S. Heims, Constructing a Social Science for Postwar America: The Cybernetics Group,
19461953, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1993.

90 PART 1 : Building Envelopes, Renewable Energies and Integrated Practice CHAPTER 1.3: Responsive Building Envelopes ~ Kathy Velikov and Geoffrey Thn 91
21 M. L. Lobsinger, Cybernetic Theory and the Architecture of Performance: Cedric Prices
Fun Palace, in Anxious Modernisms: Experimentation in Post-war Architectural Culture, Chapter 1.4
ed. S. W. Goldhagen and R. Legault, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000.
22 For early writings on interactive architecture see: W. Brodey, The design of intelligent
environments: Soft architecture. Landscape, Autumn 1967, 812; G. Pask, Architectural
Relevance of Cybernetics, Architectural Design, September 1969, 494496; A. Rabeneck, Nanomaterial +
Super Insulator = Aerogel
Cybermation: A Useful Dream, Architectural Design, September 1969, 497500; C.
Eastman, Adaptive-Conditional Architecture, in Design Participation, Proceedings of the
Design Research Societys Conference Manchester, September 1971, Ed. N. Cross, pp.
5157. London: Academy Editions, 1972; and N. Negroponte, The Architecture Machine,
Cambridge: MIT Press, 1973, and Soft Architecture Machines, Cambridge: MIT Press,
1975. franca trubiano
23 H. Dubberly, U. Haque, and P. Pangaro, What is interaction? Are there different types?,
Interactions, Volume 16 Issue 1, January/February, 2009.
24 U. Haque, Distinguishing Concepts. Lexicons of Interactive Art and Architecture,
4dsocial: Interactive Design Environments, Architectural Design, Volume 77, no 4, 2007, pp.
25 M. Mozer, Lessons from an Adaptive House, D. Cook and D. Das eds., Smart
Environments: Technology, Protocols and Applications, Hoboken, NJ, USA: John Wiley &
Sons, Incorporated, 2004, pp. 273310. ABSTRACT: This chapter discusses the adoption of nanotech materials in the development
26 Ibid., p. 283. of high-performance building envelopes and the opportunity for innovation this affords
27 P. Beesley, S. Hirosue, and J. Ruxton, Responsive Architectures. Subtle Technologies 06,
Cambridge: Riverside Architectural Press, 2006, p. 3.
the design of residential buildings. During the past decade, advances in bio-engineering,
28 Negroponte, op. cit., pp. 132133. medicine and the material sciences have altered the landscape of chemical and organic
29 The sense of control that inhabitants have over building systems has been shown to be synthesis. A result of which has been increased availability of its techniques and technologies
a significant factor in occupant satisfaction and the ability to have more perceived control
over interior environments has been shown to increase inhabitants tolerance for less- for invention in the building industry. The material properties of aerogel, a translucent
than-ideal conditions. See N. Baker, The Irritable Occupant: recent developments in insulation material with multifunctional capacities, are discussed in detail, as are the design
thermal comfort theory, Architectural Research Quarterly, 2, Winter 1996; R. Cole and
Z. Brown, Reconciling human and automated intelligence in the provision of occupant
implications of using this nanotech material in high performance homes.
comfort, Intelligent buildings international 1, 2009, pp. 3955; and A. Leaman and B.
Bordass, Assessing building performance in use 4: the Probe occupant surveys and their
implications, Building Research & Information, 29(2), 2001, pp. 129143.
30 K. B. Janda, Buildings Dont Use Energy: People Do, in Architecture, Energy and the
Occupants Perspective Proceedings of the 26th conference on Passive and Low Energy
in Architecture (PLEA), C. Demers and A. Potvin eds., Quebec, Canada: Les Presses de
1.0 Material engineering at the nano scale
lUniversite Laval, 2009, pp. 914.
31 R. J. Cole and Z. Brown, Human and Automated Intelligence in Comfort Provisioning, in
Architecture, Energy and the Occupants Perspective Proceedings of the 26th conference In the field of material science, the term nano identifies the scale of morpho-
on Passive and Low Energy in Architecture (PLEA), C. Demers and A. Potvin eds., Quebec, logical transformations that occur at the measure of one billionth of a meter.
Canada: Les Presses de lUniversite Laval, 2009, pp. 1821. A nanometer (nm) is excessively diminutive and impossible to register by the
32 L. Schipper et al., Linking Life-Styles and Energy Use: A Matter of Time? Annual Review naked eye. And yet, every year, dozens of materials are invented and manu-
of Energy 14 (1989), pp. 273320 and P. C. Stern and E. Aronson eds., Energy Use: The
factured with properties engineered at this tiniest of dimensions. In the field of
Human Dimension, New York: W.H. Freeman and Company, 1984.
33 Janda, op. cit., pp. 914. nanotechnology it is the material itself that is being designed and engineered
34 Janda, op. cit., p. 11. rather than the architecture which contains it. Nanotech materials are synthe-
35 M. Keesee, Setting a new standard the zero energy home experience in California, sized and calibrated to perform at the highest degree of specificity. Yet most
Proceedings of Solar World Congress, International Solar Energy Society: Orlando, FL, building products that have undergone morphological changes at the nanometer
2005; and Janda, op. cit., p. 10.
scale typically do not occasion a significant change in their form; notwithstand-
36 See M. Chetty, D. Tran and R. E. Grinter, Getting to Green: Understanding Resource
Consumption in the Home, Proceedings of UbiComp 08, pp. 242251; and S. Darby, ing possible changes in appearance when using smart surfaces, thermochromic,
The Effectiveness of Feedback on Energy Consumption, Oxford: Environmental Change photochromic and other shape-changing materials. Hence, it will be argued that
Institute, University of Oxford, 2006. See rather than having a significant effect on the visual and formal design of archi-
smart-metering-report.pdf (accessed 2 May 2010). tecture, design at the nanometer scale has a substantial effect on the thermal
37 US Department of Energy (2009) 2009 Buildings Energy Data Book, Table 1.2.3, pp. 112,
dimension of architecture.
Available at: (accessed 24 January

92 PART 1 : Building Envelopes, Renewable Energies and Integrated Practice CHAPTER 1.4: Nanomaterial + Super Insulator = Aerogel ~ Franca Trubiano 93