Intelligent glass facades

An intelligent glass building facade changes its physical properties in response to sensors detecting the external light and weather conditions, thus reducing the energy consumption necessary to maintain the appropriate internal environment. Therefore intelligent facades have ecological significance in reducing global greenhouse emissions and also in reducing operational building costs to clients and users.

Truly intelligent facades capitalise on the incident solar energy striking the facade of a building, adapt the skin functionality to the appropriate thermal control and solar protection, and in addition may generate electricity through photovoltaic cell systems. Solar control may be provided by switched elec-trochromic glass or by using laminated prismatic or holographic films which deflect the solar radiation according to its angle of incidence. Additionally, intelligent facades respond to air flows or ground heat sources to ensure appropriate and responsive ventilation. This function is usually achieved by the use of a double-skin facade, which acts as a ventilation cavity. During the heating season the double skin can pre-warm the incoming fresh air, and when cooling is required it can remove, by convection, built-up excess heat from the double-glazing unit. Furthermore, excess heat energy can be stored for redistribution when required.

Smart shading systems respond to reduce excess incident solar radiation. Electrically controlled louvres or blinds located between two glass panes open and close according to either a solar detector or to a range of weather sensing devices. Such mechanical systems, including the prototype iris diaphragm shading devices used by Jean Nouvel in the Institute de Monde Arabe in Paris, demand considerable maintenance for continued operation.

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