The requirements of modern buildings towards their provided interior comfort and the reduction of their energy consumption are high.  The building envelope has a significant effect on the fulfillment of these demands. The environmental influences that a building’s envelope is exposed to and the requirements of the building´s use are in a continuous state of flux. Automation technology provides a possible increase of the building envelope´s performance by continuous reactions to the changing conditions. The research on ThinkingSkins is developed in the context of adaptive building envelopes and examines the potential of the interconnectivity of individual automated façade functions.

Schematic representation of intelligently networked façade functions

The research project is based on the assumption that strategies from industrial production can be transferred to adaptive building envelopes. The current 4th industrial revolution is determined by the application of cyber-physical systems. With the goal of a higher productivity and flexibility, production plants are equipped with artificial intelligence and become extensively networked into intelligent technical systems. The façade fulfills in its role of a filter between the exterior and interior a variety of additional functions. They are interdependent and can positively influence or conflict each other. A potential is seen in their intelligent networking towards an overall performance goal.

The aim of the investigation is to discover if adaptive façade functions can be networked to intelligent technical systems and if this implementation contributes to the performance of the building envelope. A sub-goal is the development of a conceptual framework for the application of intelligent technical systems on the façade.

How can cyber-physical systems be applied to façades, in order to enable coordinated adaptations of networked individual façade functions?

The examination is carried out in consecutive steps. First, a criteria databases is developed on the basis of existing literature to break down the performance-relevant façade functions with their superimposed criteria of adaptability. It serves as an organizational structure for a case study analysis, in which current and realized office building façades are examined with regard to their automated-adaptive implementation. The data collected is evaluated to determine dependencies and patterns between individual façade functions. The resulting dependency matrix presents a basis for the conception of networked, adaptive façade functions. The technical feasibility of its application is tested by a prototype.