Design of Intelligent Building Skins: Maximizing Thermal and Visual Comfort while Improving Energy Performance

Ochoa Carlos
Ph.D.Thesis, 2009


Facades are the interface between inside and outside environments. They also account for approximately a third of total building energy consumption in hot climates. Ideally, in order to achieve an energy-efficient building, they should adapt to every situation presented both by exterior weather conditions and by users themselves. The concept of adaptation is also part of what defines intelligence; thus introducing the idea of a “conscious” or “intelligent” building skin that can provide an adequate response and adapt to different challenges.

This study explores elements to design intelligent facades in hot climates, by using the analogy of building envelope as a protective, adaptable skin that uses the least energy possible.
The state of the art in the field of intelligent facade design is presented through five built examples, detailing their resolution of climatic strategies.

A classification system is proposed for elements of an intelligent facade in hot climates. It is based on basic processes fulfilled by intelligent beings, adapted into robotics and artificial intelligence. This is complemented by an explanation of relevant architectural concepts influencing energy behaviour of facades.
Adequate climatic strategies for intelligent facades in hot climates were determined according to the new Israel Standard for energy rating SI 5282. A comparison of different design strategies was made through energy and visual comfort evaluations incorporating responsive behaviours. This helped to determine best design strategies and timing within the architectural design process.

A computerized design assistant tool was developed during the course of this research, called NewFacades. Its value resides in suggesting intelligent facade combinations from early design stages, which is uncommon today. These combinations are evaluated with EnergyPlus, a late-stage energy simulation tool.
The research provides a series of practical guidelines for the implementation of intelligent facades in hot climates for both new and existing projects.