EAGER: Interaction of Smart Materials for Transparent, Self-regulating Building Skins
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In the United States 50 percent of all energy produced is consumed by buildings and 75 percent of all electrical power is used for the operations of buildings. The functions of building skins are traditionally limited to be passive in nature such as serving as thermal and moisture barriers and modulators of sunlight. There is a need for innovative strategies to reduce energy consumption in buildings. The objective of this EArly-concept Grant for Exploratory Research (EAGER) project is to harness the inherent properties of smart materials to explore the interaction of these materials and their potential to be used in active and multifunctional building skins. Smart materials provide the opportunity to imbue building skins with more dynamic capabilities namely, to regulate functionalities such as gas exchange and purification (oxygen, carbon dioxide, and common urban air pollutants), to modulate porosity, to reduce thickness of thermal barriers, and to harvest energy and water from the air. If successful, it will address the resource, energy, and labor intensive infrastructure systems that currently serve a building''s utility functionalities. This exploratory project will engage interdisciplinary student teams during design studios and workshops (a) to investigate the interaction of smart materials within innovative building skins, and (b) to fabricate and test these smart material interactions. A team of material scientists, engineers and architects will pursue this endeavor.This exploratory project fundamentally rethinks the way buildings are designed and operated. It is envisioned that building systems that integrate their functionalities through self-monitoring and adjusting their properties and behaviors according to external environment to attain a desired outcome and drawing inspiration from physiological systems in the natural world. Smart materials, such as shape memory alloys, bi-metallic strips, stimuli-responsive polymers, dendritic or star polymers, and piezoelectric materials, will be explored for self-regulating behavior. The methodology will involve graduate and undergraduate students from the disciplines of Architecture and Materials Science and Engineering including students from underrepresented groups and offering significant benefits to them. The project will pursue research and test active, transparent and multifunctional building skin proto types using smart materials that can interact with and react to their environment.