ThinkingSkins: Cyber-physical systems as foundation for intelligent adaptive façades


Jens Bãke
TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment


New technologies and automation concepts emerge in the digitalization of our environment. This is, for example, reflected by intelligent production systems in Industry 4.0. A core aspect of such systems is their cyber-physical implementation, which aims to increase productivity and flexibility through embedded computing capacities and the cooperation of decentrally networked production plants. This development stage of automation has not yet been achieved in the current state-of-the-art of façades. Being responsible for the execution of adaptive measures, façade automation is part of hierarchically and centrally organised Building Automation Systems (BAS). The research project ThinkingSkins is guided by the hypothesis that, aiming at an enhanced overall building performance, façades can be implemented as cyber-physical systems. Accordingly, it addresses the research question:

How can cyber-physical systems be applied to façades, in order to enable coordinated adaptations of networked individual façade functions?

The question is approached in four partial investigations. First, a comprehensive understanding of intelligent systems in both application fields, façades and Industry 4.0, is elaborated by a literature review. Subsequently, relevant façade functions are identified by a second literature review in a superposition matrix, which also incorporates characteristics for a detailed assessment of each function’s adaptive capacities. The third investigation focuses on existing conditions in building practice by means of a multiple case study analysis. Finally, the technical feasibility of façades implemented as cyber-physical systems is investigated by developing a prototype. The research project identifies the possibility and promising potential of cyberphysical façades. As result, the doctoral dissertation provides a conceptual framework for the implementation of such systems in building practice and for further research.



June 11, 2020

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