Developing Intelligent and Adaptive Building Systems for a Digital Ecology


Our world is being changed by a dynamic digital presence. The marriage of virtual and physical represents an ecology which has become intertwined with the lives of nearly everyone, fundamentally altering how our society functions. While we have evolved in this sense, the built environment has become outmoded and strains to meet emerging occupant requirements. To correct this, it has become necessary to develop environments that are capable of intelligently responding to shifting requirements. As curators of the built environment, architects are responsible for seeking out and engaging new mechanisms to achieve spaces that occupants find desirable. An experiential summary of the architectural-digital-hacking process will be given. A more traditional research method was followed when possible while engaged in this learning process. This research focuses on utilizing readily available digital tools that are capable of simultaneously mitigating issues associated with occupant requirements and energy consumption. It will also address shortcomings related to occupant comfort and energy consumption observed in our buildings by producing a series of working prototypes that will be tested and analyzed. Results will be presented, and will consist of components used and how they were used to serve as a reference for future development.

Full Paper PDF

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

Personal Energy Orb Arduino project knows you haven’t been exercising, cripples your computer

This funny, yet slightly cruel hack keeps you pedaling by using the Energy Orb ambiant information device mounted on a bike to inform the user when they have or have not been exercising enough by changing from green to red.  Exercising adds value to some metric, changing the orb green.  Not exercising depletes the value, and the orb eventually turns red.   At this point the controlling application sends a message to your personal computer to slows down the mouse tracking speed, making it more difficult to use and more likely that you’ll go outside and pick up your bike again.

Original Story from engaget.

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)

“Smart Paint” Conductive Material

Bare Conductive is working on a new “smart paint” that is skin safe.  This type of conductive paint material is not new, but being non-toxic is.

My understanding of the typical conductive paint’s make up is that it contains graphite to carry current through paths laid down with brush, maker,etc.  It can be used to pick up an individuals elctro-magnetic field, which can be converted to low-voltage signals and then received by a development board like Arduino.  I’ve seen this material in action at the SmartGeometry 2012 Conference Micro Synergies Cluster display, and can attest to it’s performance.

Bare Conductive claims that their Smart Paint can be used to track 3D proximity and occupancy of a space by applying it to the wall surfaces.  I imagine that it requires a panel matrix and a triangulation function to do this.  Anybody else care to weigh in on the potential programming/placement for this application?

SG2012 Micro Synergies Module uses smart paint to pick-up your electro-magnetic field. The Arduino processes the resultant signal, and sends a response to the Flexinol Shape Memory Alloy causing the “pedals” to contract.