New Adaptive Building System Prototypes

I haven’t written many updates about my research as of late, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been hard at work. Below you’ll find a couple of time lapse videos of the latest prototypes (some I’ve built, others are Grasshopper models of prototypes that have been temporarily shelved), as well as some low-fi paper prototypes of an iOS Home Automation App that I’ve been working on.

Active Prototype 1

Active Prototype 2

Passive Facade Prototype (Unbuilt)

Hybrid/Heliostat Facade Prototype (Unbuilt)

Active Facade Prototype

Low Fidelity Paper Prototypes of iOS Home Automation App

Third Generation Interactive Facade Prototypes


Energy consumption by buildings has increased to the point that it has overtaken the industrial and transportation sectors.  This research seeks to develop Intelligent Adaptive Building Systems as a means of offsetting energy consumption, as well as improving numerous building performance metrics for all stakeholders.  To achieve this, several existing technologies are married to form a contextually aware agent based network consisting of many semi-autonomous components.  Through this research, two prototypes have been developed.  The first served largely as a learning tool, setting the foundation for subsequent versions by necessitating lessons in physical computing and computer programming.  A second generation prototype was developed which furthered insight into these lessons, and led to discoveries related to the potential of actuators and sensors, device networking, data mining, and agent based networks.  Details about the first two prototypes, their successes, and failures will be presented.  With these lessons in hand, it is now necessary to develop a third generation of prototypes to: further the understanding of adaptive facade capabilities and feasibility, intelligent computer behavior development, building performance metrics, and human interfacing methods.  By developing several, rather than one 3rd generation prototype, the ability to draw comparisons between technologies and components will be vastly improved.  This paper will focus on what form these prototypes should take, and what can be learned from them.

Full Paper PDF

Adaptive Facade Mock-up Update: Initial Deployment

Development of the v2 facade mock-up has reached I point at which it can finally be deployed!  I will be deploying it for approximately 6 hours today on the South porch here at Crown Hall to see how all of the applications and components handle extended use, and capture a working set of data to improve upcoming versions.  I’ll be shooting for a 2pm start time in order to capture data as the sun sets at 6:59pm central time.

I expect that the Nano-muscle (a.k.a. Flexinol Shape Memory Alloy Actuators) to build up a lot of heat as they work to keep the vents and fritted panes moving in the sunlight.  In the past, I’ve experienced problems with the Nano-muscles getting too hot and essentially destroying themselves.  I’ve lowered the pulse width modulation signal going to them and installed heat sinks to compensate, but they still get pretty hot.

v2 ready to be closed up

The live data feed is public.  Please feel free to take a look.

Data taken from the sensors on the Arduino Mega 2650 , then fed to using the Processing app/Pachube library.

Processing, Arduino, and PGAdmin (showing PostgreSQL database tables with recorded information)

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