Smart Material Systems for High Performance Building Envelopes: Guidelines for Smart Material Implementation in the Design of Climatically Responsive Building Envelopes

Lazarovich Noy
M.Sc. Thesis (Azrieli Fellowship), 2012 M.Sc.

(together w/Silverstein Michael)


For many centuries, architectural design was bound by the limitations of the properties of standard materials. Today’s smart materials are ushering in a new era – enabling greater specificity with changeable properties that are responsive to transient needs. Contemporary architects face a most demanding challenge – to create a sustainably built environment that allows for user comfort and reduced consumption, yet does not compromise on existing architectural quality and aesthetics. In order to cope with the growing challenges of the 21st century, architecture should be seen as an interdisciplinary field. This field can involve concepts from other disciplines, in particular building technologies, and influence other fields. One of the most significant fields for architecture is materials engineering; innovations in this field may lead to new architectural and even theoretical concepts. On the other hand, new architectural concepts may lead to the development of new materials. Today the use of available advanced materials by architects and designers is existent, such as the photovoltaic cells or smart glazing; however it is still limited. One of the major reasons is the difficulty in creating an information stream between the field of material engineering, where the materials are being designed and created, and the users – architects and designers. This research argues that in order to enable architects and designers explore new material technologies that are currently available in the market, there is a need for a common platform and a new classification system. The current architectural classification system for materials is a catalog system that describes the properties of different products listed by name or number. This system reflects the architect’s lack of engineering knowledge. Such knowledge is essential for a proper understanding of new material properties and for an understanding of their potential utilization within structures and in a high-performance building envelope.
A new web-based classification system is proposed for smart materials, which screens the appropriate characters for each profession. This classification considers the performance required from an architectural aspect (such as climatic, acoustic, structural), and the behavior of the materials (such as conductivity, thermal expansion, etc). A case study that implements the use of the proposed classification system was presented, exploring a new kind of responsive shading systems solution for building envelopes based on shape memory materials for the reaction to specific climatic conditions.