Thesis Abstract Update

The Development and Valuation of Adaptive Facade Systems

An analysis of experimental facade and interface prototypes

Authored by: Kai Hansen

College of Architecture, IIT

Abstract  The unsustainable consumption of immense quantities of energy by large-scale buildings with vast exterior surface area and diverse occupancy requirements has necessitated research into dynamic envelopes for comfortable and energy-efficient buildings that current architectural practice overlooks.  The blending of established technologies such as microcontrollers used to receive sensor data and control responsive actuators, intelligent computer systems capable of learning from experience, autonomous agent based systems, and network communications would provide opportunities to develop a cooperative fabric of building components that can sense and intelligently respond to the environment and occupants while still acting as an effective enclosure.  Incorporating this technological bundle into facades gives designers the potential to develop large or small scale buildings that respond real-time to the shifting needs brought about by building program, occupant-level environmental preferences, and outdoor atmospheric changes.

In addition to the gains in sustainability and comfort, the technologies married within an adaptive facade systems have the inherent ability to interface with the myriad of digital devices that a building’s occupants use on a day-to-day basis.  The potential integration of these devices provides an opportunity to deliver greater individual control and management of small-scale environments.  By using embedded digital interfaces, personal computers, and mobile devices to monitor and manage single or multi-occupant environmental metrics, a more efficient, personalized, and visually engaging experience can be provided.  Benefits include the psychological and physiological well being of the users, as well as gaining the general interest of the public through the display of kinetic design.

This paper will present dynamic real-time control, human-computer interaction, and intelligent network systems as examples of technologies capable of mediating the various performative requirements demanded by occupants, building engineers, developers, and owners via their potential to form a balanced and effective Adaptive Facade System.

Experimental facade mock-ups and human interface prototypes will be presented, along with the field testing, analysis and visualization of experimental data.  Finally, it is suggested that ideal methods and building typologies for the employment of Adaptive Facade and Interface Systems be derived from the resultant data.

PDF Available Here


This year’s ACADIA conference will be held in San Francisco this October 18th-21st.

“The conference will highlight experimental research and projects that explore the reciprocity and synergy between bits and atoms, the digital and the physical, and between digital code and material logic. The conference will bring together designers, researchers and practitioners who engage, question and aspire to stretch these boundaries. Architects, fabricators, engineers, media artists, technologists, hackers and others in related fields of inquiry are invited to participate.” – source:

Can’t wait!


Michael Hansmeyer: Building unimaginable shapes

This is a fascinating project that is able to do, what I feel, most digitally generated objects cannot. That is to create something with the potential to be easily configured/reconfigured and fabricated while displaying an interesting and not overly complex visual stimulus to more than just the digitally indoctrinated.

Hansmeyer explains that this process is still too labor intensive to be practical, but with all things computer related, given enough time and collaborative effort and it will happen.