Active materials for adaptive architectural envelopes based on plant adaptation principles


  • Marlen Lopez aDepartment of Construction and Manufacturing Engineering. University of Oviedo, IDEASCAD Research Group. C/ Pedro Puig Adam. Campus de Viesques, Gijon
  • Ramon Rubio aDepartment of Construction and Manufacturing Engineering. University of Oviedo, IDEASCAD Research Group. C/ Pedro Puig Adam. Campus de Viesques, Gijon
  • Santiago Martın aDepartment of Construction and Manufacturing Engineering. University of Oviedo, IDEASCAD Research Group. C/ Pedro Puig Adam. Campus de Viesques, Gijon
  • Ben Croxford The Bartlett, Faculty of the Built Environment. UCL
  • Richard Jackson Institute of Biomedical Engineering. UCL




Active materials, adaptive architecture, biomimetics, energy efficiency, plants


In this paper, the authors present research into adaptive architectural envelopes that adapt to environmental changes using active materials, as a result of application of biomimetic principles from plants to architecture. Buildings use large amounts of energy in order to maintain their internal comfort, because conventional buildings are designed to provide a static design solution. Most of the current solutions for facades are not designed for optimum adaptation to contextual issues and needs, while biological solutions to adaptation are often complex, multi-functional and highly responsive. We focus on plant adaptations to the environment, as, due to their immobility, they have developed special means of protection against weather changing conditions. Furthermore, recent developments in new technologies are allowing the possibility to transfer these plant adaptation strategies to technical implementation. These technologies include: multi-material 3D printing, advances in materials science and new capabilities in simulation software. Unlike traditional mechanical activation used for dynamic systems in kinetic facades, adaptive architectural envelopes require no complex electronics, sensors, or actuators. The paper proposes a research of the relationship that can be developed between active materials and environmental issues in order to propose innovative and low-tech design strategies to achieve living envelopes according to plant adaptation principles.





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