Photo by Wonderlane
University of California engineer Luke Lee and architect Maria-Paz Gutierrez are developing an advanced “skin” for buildings that would regulate temperature and humidity through the physical properties of the materials used, dramatically reducing the need for electricity. Their project, called Self-Activated Building Envelope Regulation, or SABER, would regulate how much light and temperature enter and the building and how much humidity escapes by way of a membrane made of alternating rows of cells activated by light from the outside or humidity from the inside. Says Gutierrez, “the material has become the system.”
It’s hard not to be a nature lover when you think about all the amazing ways Mother Nature constantly re-calibrates herself: Too much carbon dioxide? I’ll grow these trees faster to suck it up. Green designers are especially keen to emulate these handy tricks.
Inspired by compound eyes found on insects, Gutierrez and Lee’s SABER system is composed of light-sensitive cells composed of micro-lenses and pockets of photosensitive gel. The gel contracts in the light, opening up tubes that, in turn, allow more air to flow into the building in stronger light. The humidity regulation models itself on nature’s water-moving mechanisms. A polymer expands with increased moisture, opening up tiny tubes to increase airflow.
So far, only the lenses have made it to the prototype stage, Gutierrez told Inhabitat. Part of the project’s innovation will be working with companies to get the technology out the door and available.