Reductions in building energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions are two of the most important challenges facing the building industry. These must be addressed in a cost effective manner and without compromising occupant comfort and well-being.
Approximately one third of all end-user energy in Europe is consumed by space heating / cooling, ventilation and lighting of buildings, which is governed by the efficiency of the building envelope. Energy demand in buildings may be reduced by up to 13 % by 2020 and up to 71% by 2050 by improving existing and future building envelopes (BPIE 2011). However, the performance of the building envelope cannot be measured in terms of energy reduction alone. In fact, the envelope has a direct influence on Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ), and safety/security of buildings and their occupants. It is therefore evident that building envelopes are of paramount importance and can play a key role in achieving the EU climate change and energy sustainability targets for 2020 whilst enhancing the wellbeing of citizens.

Current state of knowledge

Modern building envelopes are high-tech components that must meet several requirements and constraints with regards to architecture / planning, structural performance, energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality, buildability and ultimately, value. As a result, building envelope design itself has become a specialist discipline, where the building envelope engineer (aka façade engineer) collaborates with the other members of the design team to devise a façade that meets the various requirements and constraints. This is compounded further by the emergence of Adaptive Facades. This next generation of facades (or building envelopes) consists of multifunctional and highly adaptive systems, where the physical separator between the interior and exterior environment (i.e. the building envelope) is able to change its functions features or behaviour over time in response to transient performance requirements and boundary conditions with the aim of  improving the overall building performance.
In this sense, an operable window in a façade or a manually operated curtain behind the façade constitute an adaptive façade. But the degree / range of adaptiveness in these cases is relatively low / narrow. On the other hand, a façade is considered to be fully adaptive if it can respond to all the transient conditions in such a way that it maintains occupant satisfaction without imposing additional loads on the building services. This Action will deal with façades with a high
degree/range of adaptiveness that can be achieved by means of self-adaptation (smart materials), or active control (intelligent systems).
It is important to note that the timescales of the transient conditions to which an Adaptive Façade responds (i.e. the dynamic frequency) may vary from: a few minutes or hours (e.g. cloud cover or transient lighting requirements in a room); to diurnal and seasonal (e.g. air temperature and radiation cycles); through to several years (e.g. climate change and change of use of building). This Action will deal with all of these timescales.
Highly adaptive facades offer unprecedented opportunities to reduce energy demand and improve indoor environmental quality and they are therefore crucial to the 2020 Net Zero Energy/Emission Building target and beyond. They are particularly complex as they often involve novel materials / systems and they interact dynamically with the external environment, the internal environment and the occupants. At present there is a lack of standardized procedures to evaluate and test the performance of adaptive building envelope components and this is a barrier to their widespread adoption.

Therefore the three principal needs are to:

  1. Map out existing and future technologies that can be deployed in adaptive façades and provide a quantitative overview of the performance of each technology.
  2. Develop experimental procedures and performance metrics for assessing the dynamic performance of these facades systems.
  3. Evaluate the integration of adaptive technologies into the building and their interaction with the internal and external environment and occupants during the lifecycle of the façade.

Reasons for the Action

Despite the investments in many EU countries on building envelope-related research the research programs across EU states are disjointed. This together with the international nature of the supply chain leads to a relatively low transfer of knowledge transfer between academic institutions and industry. This Action aims to pool together the knowledge, technologies and research from across European countries and beyond. At the same time it will create a strong link between stakeholders such as scientists and companies who are involved in the design, development and evaluation of adaptive facades. The Action framework is the ideal platform to build up this multidisciplinary collaborative network.
The Action will foster existing and initiate new research projects, and trigger innovative solutions and technologies. This will result in a significant social and economic impact as it will strengthen Europe’s scientific and industrial position on energy efficient buildings.
This Action will initiate and contribute to the development of regulations for building envelopes in the EU. A collection of existing technologies, research and evaluation methods will provide essential input for the creation of uniform and  harmonized design rules and product standards. In particular, it will facilitate the adoption of adaptive and dynamic facades.
The Action will be an ideal incubator and platform for Early Stage Researchers to identify relevant research fields and to create a strong network with the relevant experienced researchers and industrial partners.
The next generation of façade engineers and the façade industry in the EU will benefit from the educational pack developed during the course of this Action. This which allow them to increase their knowledge and competitiveness on the international market.