Numerical Investigation of Capabilities for Dynamic Self-Shading through Shape Changing Building Surface Tiles


  • Robert Joseph Zupan University of Pittsburgh
  • Dale Clifford California Polytechnic State University
  • Richard Beblo University of Dayton Research Institute
  • John Brigham Durham University




Morphing, Building Envelope, Self-Shading, Cactus Tile, Adaptive Structures, Wrinkle, Smart Material


A concept for a smart material morphing building surface tile that would utilize adaptive surface wrinkle patterns to improve solar interaction is explored. The effect of the wrinkle patterns is numerically investigated in the context of an objective to reduce solar irradiance entering buildings by changing the shape of the surface (i.e., surface topography) so that the facade is self-shading, thereby reducing energy costs of the building for temperature control. A generally applicable algorithm was utilized and is presented to quantify the area of an arbitrarily shaped/oriented surface that is in shade for any given date/time and geographic location. Numerical case studies are shown that utilize the surface shading algorithm to evaluate the capabilities of various basic wrinkle patterns, both static and dynamically changing, to self-shade a building surface over the course of a day. The results indicate that a morphing wrinkle pattern can substantially increase the amount and duration of surface area in shade over time in comparison to any of the static (non-morphing) patterns, although it is noted that there is an expected tradeoff in the energy cost to change the surface pattern. Furthermore, it is shown that as the location of the proposed tile on the building facade changes, the optimal wrinkle pattern changes as well.

How to Cite

Zupan, R. J., Clifford, D., Beblo, R., & Brigham, J. (2018). Numerical Investigation of Capabilities for Dynamic Self-Shading through Shape Changing Building Surface Tiles. Journal of Facade Design and Engineering, 6(1), 57–69.




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