Creating Tomorrow’s Facades

September 17, 2019

Tomorrow’s Buildings Need Tomorrow’s Facades

Facades account for 20-30% of building costs and are often separated into two parts: passive building material (bricks, windows) and facade elements (air ventilation, shading systems). At PHYSEE we want to not only combine the two but also engineer new facade combinations with different partners along the supply chain, improving the indoor quality of living and working spaces. This is a risky and lengthy process if tested on current building projects, hindering quick feedback loops and iterations. However, through installing, testing and improving new facade solutions at a small scale, risks can be mitigated while progress can be sped up. This is why we built a LivingLab terrace on our office, the emerging epicenter of testing new ideas with facade partners.

The only way disruptive innovation will change industries at a large scale is through combining resources and expertise. This collaboration in our LivingLab is an indication of how large our impact will be, when applied at mass scale.

Rens Ottens, Project Engineer at PHYSEE

LivingLab: Install, Test, Improve, Repeat.

The top floor of our headquarters in Delft is a glass facade pavilion. It’s the man-made testing facility of installing SmartSkin variations with different partners. This working environment reflects the typical complications of an elevated floor with large glass surfaces: impeccable views but elevated temperatures with discomfort, unstable climate control, and daylight glare. This is why it serves as a perfect platform to test new solutions and collect firsthand behavior and climate data. Together with our partners, we test each SmartWindow and 24V grid connection, enabling rapid feedback loops and product improvements. Testing at this pace has enabled the evolution of SmartSkin with many partners, which started out as one PowerWindow only four years ago.

Alkondor sees the future in smart facades integrated with sustainable energy supply, generated with energy from the sun, for smart and automatic functionalities in facades!

– Martijn Veerman, Sustainable Facade Specialist at Alkondor

Latest Installation: SmartWindows with Renson Invisivent

The most recent addition to our LivingLab is the combination of SmartWindows and two Renson air ventilation systems with sun blinds (Invisivent), constructed in collaboration with Kawneer and installed with the help of Alkondor. The connected concept is engineered and built to be powered by the clean energy generated by SmartWindow solar cells, as well as intelligently operating in reaction to the climate data received by their sensors. If the indoor temperature is too high and the air quality too low, ventilation shafts will open and sunblinds will go down. This results in improved indoor air quality, reduced daylight glare and new smart functionality of sustainable energy for users.

Innovation is in Renson’s DNA, so we’re very happy to be able to participate in the Physee LivingLab. This gives us the opportunity to test how far we can go with our products ‘in real life’. For this project, the challenge for us was mainly to integrate our window ventilation and fabric screens in the window frames in such a way that the wind and water tightness as a total solution can be perfectly guaranteed. With ‘smart living’ high on Renson’s priority list, this fits in perfectly with the pursuit of connected technologies, in which smart sun protection and ventilation ‘consult’ based on the resident’s needs in order to be able to offer them the best possible indoor climate.

– Roel Berlaen, Communication at Renson

Creating a “one-stop-shop” for Dynamic Facades

This installation was testing a newly combined supply chain system, creating a ‘one-stop-shop’ of industry experts. Normally, each stakeholder provides a service or a product which they deliver to the next within the supply chain. This time, the installation was one collective project, each company offering its own perspective and expertise. This allowed for a combined SmartSkin facade to be engineered, constructed, installed and connected into the LivingLab. Instead of having a separated energy flow, the locally produced energy can be used to power sun blinds through one set of cables. The reduction of cable clutter and energy flow is just the first of many benefits.

Not only was the end product (SmartWindows with Invisivent) a positive result, but also the supply chain dynamic behind it. Together with these other partners (Renson, KawneerNSG PilkingtonAlkondor), we are bridging separate functions of building a facade and offering one consortium of expertise. Combined, we have shortened the production and installation time, reduced costs and improved the functionality of this innovative end product.

A window is an essential element of the façade with regards to comfort. It offers access to light, temperature and air. PowerWindow adds the functionality of energy generation to the window in an aesthetical way. An interesting development if you look at the energy transition. This is a development that connects to Kawneer’s vision on integrated window systems that bring sustainability, comfort, health and energy performance together. 

– Rob Huvers, Business Developer at Kawneer.

Here is our open invitation to combine more services, products, and expertise with our dynamic facade: SmartSkin. System innovation has no limits, nor does the possibilities of SmartSkin connections. Every new collaboration will make these dynamic facades easier to install and larger in sustainable impact.

Written by: Maike Schwarz and Rens Ottens.