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‘Smart building skins’ change shape in the heat

(Credit: NSF)

Researchers are using nature-inspired design and new materials to create smart building skins to make the structures more energy efficient.

A smart skin enables a building to function like elements of some living systems. It allows a building to “breathe,” but without needing centralized control.

“When it’s hot, we want the building skin to be open to absorb air, and when it’s cold, we want it closed, without using external mechanical devices or electrical devices,” says Maryam Mansoori of Texas A&M University.

The research team is exploring the use of smart materials, such as shape memory alloys and stimuli-responsive polymers, in a variety of approaches to produce building systems that function in concert with the environment.

“There’s lots of experimentation right now in materials that are responsive to environmental cues,” says Zofia Rybkowski, associate professor of construction science in the College of Architecture at Texas A&M University. “This is something that is—it’s a new field, it’s very cutting edge, and these materials are being developed on a daily basis.”

Source: National Science Foundation