Adaptive Envelopes for a Changing Climate: Exploring Bistability for Building Envelope Design

Jul 01, 2022

The project aim was to test a large-scale kinetic shading system using bistable carbon fiber laminates, actuated with smart materials. The study set out to develop and test novel designs for bistable adaptive building envelopes.
The researchers conducted a series of prototypes for a bistable building shade device made with two elements: bistable flaps and shape-memory alloys. The accomplishments were fivefold: (1) explorations of different geometric configurations to identify the most appropriate one; (2) building of single units of four flaps and testing test them for actuation; (3) building a working prototype of the selected unit and optimize it for efficiency in terms of kinetic actuation; (4) building a full-scale prototype of a shading screen with several units to collect data on its daylight performance; and (5) building of a shading screen with several working units actuated by column. The full-scale prototype allowed the research team to collect data on the kinetic envelope’s energy performance. The results indicate that the bistable kinetic skin helps control daylight throughout the day.

José Pinto Duarte, PhD (Penn State)
Elena Vazquez (Penn State)
Published & professionally reviewed by: 
The American Institute of Architects (AIA)

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