This paper deals with the experimental assessment of the energy performance of two Advanced Integrated Façade modules (AIF) characterized by two very similar configurations. The two AIF modules were installed on the south-exposed façade of an outdoor test cell facility (a real-scale mockup of an office building) and continuous measurements were carried out for more than one year. Data collected during the experimental campaign were analyzed to evaluate the energy performance and thermo-physical behaviour of the AIF modules. The performances of the two systems were assessed by comparison and by means of conventional and advanced synthetic metrics.

The results of the activity point out the different performances of the two configurations, which only differs on the inner-side glazing (a stratified single clear glass pane vs a stratified low-e double glazed unit). It was demonstrated that just a single additional glass layer can contribute to substantially improve the energy performance of a quite complex façade technology. On average, the façade configuration with the stratified low-e double glazed unit shows the abatement of heat loss and of solar gain of about 30% during the whole year. Moreover, the reliability of some conventional and less conventional metrics in assessing the performance of dynamic façade technologies was also investigated. The results confirm that conventional metrics are not fully reliable when they are used to assess advanced building envelope components with high level of dynamic.

Published in Journal papers

Due to the significant impact of the building sector on greenhouse gas emissions, newer and stricter regulations aimed at reducing total energy use in buildings have appeared in the last few years. In the European context, all the new constructions will thus soon be asked to be nearly Zero Energy Buildings (nZEB).

In order to reach this target, new concepts and technologies capable of further improving buildings’ energy efficiency need to be developed. A very promising strategy to overcome current technology limitations is represented by revisiting the conventional approach that considers the building as a static object and moves towards the vision where the building is a responsive and dynamic system. The main feature of this concept is the possibility of continuously changing the interaction between the building elements and the outdoor/indoor environment in order to reduce the energy demands and enhance the exploitation of “environmental” and low-exergy energies.

In this framework, the building skin is probably that element of the construction which shows the largest potential, especially if its properties can be continuously tuned so that the best response to different dynamic indoor and outdoor boundary conditions can be achieved. Although it is not possible to state that the dynamic building envelope alone could represent the only solution to achieving the nZEB target, great expectations are placed on advanced integrated façade systems.

The aim of this research is therefore to evaluate to what extent dynamic and active building skins can reduce operational energy demand in buildings. In order to find an answer to such a wide (and general) question, the research activity is organized using a multi-level structure. Each segment of the investigation is thus dedicated to assessing the impact of such a vision on different scales: from a whole building skin approach (concept level) to an intermediate scale (system level) and further down to a very detailed and specific class of components (material-technology level).

In the concept level, an ideal dynamic building skin is assumed and modelled. The performance of such a theoretical configuration is then numerically assessed and compared with that of a more conventional reference envelope solution. In the system level, an integrated multifunctional façade module, characterized by a high degree of adaptability and responsiveness, is presented, and its energy and thermo-physical behaviour evaluated by means of an experimental analysis. Finally, in the material-technology level, the implication of glazing systems integrating phase change materials on the energy performance and on thermal comfort are evaluated by means of experimental, numerical and laboratory analyses.

The findings demonstrate that improvements in energy efficiency and comfort performance can be achieved when dynamic concepts, systems and technologies are applied. In every level, the dynamic component often provides a very good performance and, when compared to a conventional solution, advantages are shown. However, it is important that dynamic components are coherently employed in the framework of an integrated building design vision and properly managed. Further, the simple adoption of such systems without a global approach and optimal control strategies is often not enough to reach a significant improvement in energy efficiency and IEQ. The results also show that, sometimes, the advantages achieved by the investigated configurations may be lower than expected, though an optimization of their performance is probably still possible.

Limitations in the analyses and possible solutions for future development of the research activity are also discussed, pointing out that, if from the one hand, considerable efforts are still needed in research and development before a completely adaptable building skin can be effectively employed on a large scale, on the other hand the large potentials that this vision has are worthy of further investigation.

Published in Reports

Façades play an important role in architecture, with deep implications in both the quality of the indoor environment and the appearance of the building. R&D in the field of energy conservation is moving toward advanced integrated façades (AIFs): these are innovative and dynamic façades deeply connected with the building equipment. Their dynamic features allow the energy performance of the façade to be optimized, adapting its behavior to different boundary conditions. The substantial lack of synthetic performance parameters to assess and to characterize the energy performance of AIFs is one of the main limitations to the widespread of these technologies. This inconvenience is due to the fact that conventional synthetic metrics (such as U-value and g-value) cannot be fully applied with these technologies. The research activity presented in the paper is an attempt to investigate new synthetic metrics able to characterize the thermal behavior of an AIF. A multiple linear regression (MLR) approach is adopted to identify synthetic parameters able to replicate the energy performance of the façade as a function of the main boundary conditions, e.g., solar irradiance and thermal gradients.

Published in Journal papers

The building enclosure plays a relevant role in the management of the energy flows in buildings and in the exploitation of solar energy at a building scale. An optimized configuration of the façade can contribute to reduce the total energy demand of the building.

Traditionally, the search for the optimal façade configuration is obtained by analyzing the heating demand and/or the cooling demand only, while the implication of the façade configuration on artificial lighting energy demand is often not addressed.

A comprehensive approach (i.e. including heating, cooling and artificial lighting energy demand) is instead necessary to reduce the total energy need of the building and the optimization of the façade configuration becomes no longer straightforward, because non-linear relationships are often disclosed.

The paper presents a methodology and the results of the search for the optimal transparent percentage in a façade module for low energy office buildings. The investigation is carried out in a temperate oceanic climate, on the four main orientations, on three versions of the office building and with different HVAC system’s efficiency. The results show that, regardless of the orientations and of the façade area of the building, the optimal configuration is achieved when the transparent percentage is between 35% and 45% of the total façade module area. The highest difference between the optimal configuration and the worst one occurs in the north-exposed façade, while the south-exposed façade is the one that shows the smallest difference between the optimal and the worst configuration.

Published in Journal papers

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