Switching from static to adaptable and dynamic building envelopes: A paradigm shift for the energy efficiency in buildings


  • Marco Perino Department of Energy, Politecnico di Torino
  • Valentina Serra Department of Energy, Politecnico di Torino





Adaptive building envelope, responsive building envelope, multifunctional facade, Phase ChangeMaterials (PCMs), thermotropic glazing, advanced integrated facades


The key role of the building envelope in attaining building energy efficiency and satisfactory indoor comfort has long been established. Nevertheless, until recent times, all efforts and attention have mainly been focused on increasing and optimizing the thermal insulation of the envelope components. This strategy was a winning approach for a long time, but its limitations became obvious when users and designers started to consider the overall energy demand of a building and started to aim for Zero Energy Building (ZEB) or nearly ZEB goals. New and more revolutionary concepts and technologies needed to be developed to satisfy such challenging requirements. The potential benefits of this technological development are relevant since the building envelope plays a key role in controlling the energy and mass flows from outdoors to indoors (and vice versa) and, moreover, the facades offer a significant opportunity for solar energy exploitation. Several researches have demonstrated that the limitation of the existing facades could be overcome only by switching from ‘static’ to ‘responsive’ and ‘dynamic’ systems, such as Multifunctional Facade Modules (MFMs) and Responsive Building Elements (RBE). These components are able to continuously and pro-actively react to outdoor and indoor environment conditions and facilitate and enhance the exploitation of renewable and low exergy sources. In order to reduce the energy demand, to maximize the indoor comfort conditions and to produce energy at the site, these almost ‘self-sufficient’, or even ‘positive energy’ building skins frequently incorporate different technologies and are functionally connected to other building services and installations. An overview of the technological evolution of the building envelope that has taken place, ranging from traditional components to the innovative skins, will be given in this paper, while focusing on the different approaches that have characterized this development. Examples of innovative solutions for responsive and dynamic components and the future trends of development will also be described.

How to Cite

Perino, M., & Serra, V. (2015). Switching from static to adaptable and dynamic building envelopes: A paradigm shift for the energy efficiency in buildings. Journal of Facade Design and Engineering, 3(2), 143–163. https://doi.org/10.7480/jfde.2015.2.1015




ASHRAE (2013). Handbook of Fundamentals, ASHRAE, 1791 Tullie Circle, Atlanta.

European Commission (2010). Directive 2010/31/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 May 2010 on the energy performance of buildings (recast). Official Journal of the European Union 2010; 53:13-35.

UNI – EN 12831 (2006). Method for calculation of the design heat load, CEN and UNI standard.

Bianco, L. (2014). Involucri Trasparenti Innovativi: modellazione e sperimentazione su componenti dinamici e sistemi di facciata attivi. PhD Thesis, Turin, Italy.

Corgnati, S. P., Perino, M., Serra, V. (2007). Experimental assessment of the performance of an Active Transparent Façade during actual operating conditions, Solar Energy, Journal of the International Solar Energy Society, 81(8), 993-1013.

Favoino, F., Goia, F., Perino, M., Serra, V. (2012, May). Energy performance assessment of an advanced responsive multifunctional facade module: first results of an experimental campaign, Proceedings of the 5th International Building Physics Conference (IBPC 2012) (pp. 28-31). Kyoto, Japan.

Favoino, F., Goia, F., Perino, M., Serra, V. (2014a). Experimental assessment of the energy performance of an advanced responsive multifunctional façade module. Energy and Buildings, 68 (Part B), 647-659.

Favoino, F., Jin, Q., Overend, M. (2014b). Towards an Ideal Adaptive Glazed Façade for Office Building. Energy Procedia, 62, 289-298.

Favoino, F., Overend, M., Jin, Q. (2015). The optimal thermo-optical properties and energy saving potential of adaptive glazing technologies. Applied Energy, 156, 1-15.

Goia, F. (2013). Dynamic building envelope components and nearly zero energy buildings - theoretical and experimental analysis of concepts, systems and technologies for an adaptive building skin. PhD Thesis, Trondheim, Norway. Available in http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:no:ntnu:diva-23867

Goia, F., Perino, M., Serra, V., Zanghirella, F. (2010). Towards an Active, Responsive and Solar Building Envelope. Journal of Green Building, College Publishing, 5(4), 121-136.

Goia, F., Haase, M., Perino, M. (2013). Optimizing the configuration of a façade module for office buildings by means of integrated thermal and lighting simulations in a total energy perspective. Applied Energy, 108.

Goia, F., Bianco, L., Cascone Y., Perino, M., Serra, V. (2014). Experimental Analysis of an Advanced Dynamic Glazing Prototype Integrating PCM and Thermotropic Layers. Energy Procedia, 48, 1272-1281.

Goia, F., Perino, M., Serra, V. (2014). Experimental analysis of the energy performance of a full-scale PCM glazing prototype. Solar Energy, 100, 217-233.

Goia, F., Zinzi, M., Carnielo, E., Serra, V. (2015). Spectral and angular solar properties of a PCM-filled double glazing unit. Energy and Buildings, 87(1), 302-312.

Hottel, H. C. (1989). Fifty years of solar energy research supported by Cabot fund. Solar Energy, 43, 107-128.

Kasinalis, C., Loonen, R. C. G. M., Costola D., Hensen J. L. M. (2014). Framework for assessing the performance potential of seasonally adaptable facades using multi-objective optimization. Energy and Buildings, 79, 106-113.

Khunz, T. (1970). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, The University of Chicago, Second Edition, enlarged, USA.

Loonen, R. C. G. M., Singaravel S., Trčka, M., Cóstola D., Hensen J. L. M. (2014). Simulation-based support for product development of innovative building envelope components. Automation in Construction, 45, 86-95.

Perino, M., Serra, V. (2011). L’innovazione dell’involucro trasparente: oltre il concetto di isolamento termico, 48° Congresso Internazionale AICARR – ‘Il Recupero Energetico degli Edifici Esistenti: Quali Soluzioni per un Sistema Integrato, l’Involucro, gli Impianti e la Regolazione’, Atti 48° Convegno Internazionale AICARR (pp. 61-79).

Quesada, G., Rousse, D., Dutil, Y., Badache, M., Hallé, S. (2012a). A comprehensive review of solar facades. Opaque solar facades. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 16, 2820-2832.

Quesada, G., Rousse, D., Dutil, Y., Badache, M., Hallé, S. (2012b). A comprehensive review of solar facades. Transparent and translucent solar facades. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 16, 2643-2651.

Saadatian, O., Sopian, K., Lim, C. H., Asim, N., Sulaiman, M. Y. (2012). Trombe walls: A review of opportunities and challenges in research and development. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 16, 6340-6351.

Shepard, R. W. (1974). The law of diminishing returns. Lecture notes in economics and mathematical systems, 99, 287-318.

Samuelson, P. A., Nordhaus, W. D. (2001). Microeconomics (17th ed.). McGraw-Hill.

Serra, V., Zanghirella, F., Perino, M. (2010). Experimental evaluation of a climate façade: energy efficiency and thermal comfort performance. Energy and Buildings, 42, 50-62.

Torcellini, P., Pless, S. D., Judkoff, R., Crawley, D. (2007). Solar technologies and the building envelope. ASHRAE Journal, 14-22

Van der Aa, A, Heiselberg, P., Perino, M. (2011). Annex 44 – Final report - Designing with Responsive Building Elements. Aalborg: Aalborg University.

Xu, X., Dessel, V. (2008). Evaluation of a prototype active building envelope window-system. Energy and buildings, 40, 168-174