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Facades to Manage Energy in Buildings

April 13, 2015

New design responds autonomously to changes in thermal energy.

While large glass facades give an elegant look to buildings, they also waste energy due to insufficient glass insulation that causes temperatures to rise in the summer and drop dramatically in the winter. Researchers from Fraunhofer-Gesselschaft have developed a new type of facade material that uses the existing thermal energy to adjust envelope performance for energy savings.

The prototype design uses a matrix of 72 individual fabric components shaped like flowers. Each textile module includes shape-memory actuators integrated into the design, which are thin wires of nickel-titanium alloy that remember their original shape when exposed to heat. When the facade heats up under sunlight, the wires activate and contract to open the textiles, covering the room and blocking sunlight. After the sun disappears, the components close, leaving the facade transparent again.

The researchers expect that the new technology will be easy to retrofit, with a scalable design that can be easily customized for individual facility needs. The next step to commercial viability, according to the scientists, is developing elements that are stable enough to withstand any kind of weather. The system is expected to launched by mid-2017.

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