Innovative Indoor Heat Regulator “Sees The Light”

As cityscapes evolve and building designs become more complex, architects are increasingly seeking greener and more efficient systems to regulate temperatures within a structure.

Inefficient central heating systems and shades are still the norm, but architects at New York firm Decker Yeadon, have come up with a different approach.

They call it a "homeostatic facade", designed to enable the building itself to respond to environmental changes automatically in a way that reduces overall power consumption.
Peter Yeadon, a partner at the firm, helped design the system.

[Peter Yeadon, Partner at Architectural Firm Decker Yeadon]:
"You have to think of the homeostatic facade system as a smart solar screen in between two layers of glass. There is an inner layer of glass and an outer layer of glass that is exposed to warm or cold air of the outside, and our system resides in between those two layers - or doubleskins of glass. It simply changes shape to block out the sun from going all the way through to the interior of the building. When its desirable to have the sun come inside it changes shape again to open up some areas in the facade that lets the sun move into the interior of the building."

While the idea of a smart building isn't new, previous designs have relied on digital programming and human intervention.

Decker Yeadon's design is different because is uses a smart material called a dielectric elastomer, which responds automatically to prevailing conditions.

When it's sunny outside, the panel will contract to restrict the amount of light entering the building.

When the light is low, the panel will open to let in as much as possible.

[Peter Yeadon, Partner at Architectural Firm Decker Yeadon]:
"Its fairly simple technology, its basically a polymer core, which is silicone. It has silver electrodes on both faces and when you charge one side positive and one side negative they are attracted to each other and they squeeze the polymer and that causes the polymer to change shape."

The silver component helps reflect and diffuse light while the small electrical charge is distributed across the elastomer.

The system regulates indoor heat while also reducing energy bills.
Decker Yeadon estimates that temperature control accounts for roughly one quarter of the power used in building operations.

But exactly how much energy the facade will save varies between designs.

[Peter Yeadon, Partner at Architectural Firm Decker Yeadon]:
"This depends on the scale of a building that it would be installed in. Conventionally with systems like this that screen out the sun automatically you have a motor that is driven by power...What we're aiming for is a system that could work with less power, perhaps half the power of a conventional motor that is used for a larger fabric screening system."

The team at Decker Yeadon say the concept is suited to contemporary office architecture, where sheets of glass are commonly used, but could also be installed on large glass skylight surfaces.

Yeaden estimates that the facade will be cost effective in eight to ten years, when cheaper materials and manufacturing will allow builders to see the light.